Last week, I discussed five qualities of exceptional leaders I have observed over the years. Here are five more to consider. Incorporate these ten attributes into your leadership style and YOU will become unstoppable!
6. Great Leaders are Great People.
Exceptional leaders are not only effective at accomplishing organizational objectives but along the way, they develop the noblest of human qualities and character. They genuinely care about their employees and customers, and gain loyalty by following the Bible admonition, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).
Great leaders are accessible, kind, fair, good listeners and communicators, and generous with others. They live the Golden Rule, treating people as they would like to be treated. They have impeccable integrity, good judgment, and act upon principles.
Effective leaders are also disciplined and persistent in their search for excellence. Their demeanor is upbeat, confident, and occasionally inspiring. They remain calm in the face of adversity. They finish what they start. They lead by example.
Great leaders know that mistakes are a part of learning, and they readily admit their own. They praise people in public and correct them in private. They attribute success to factors other than themselves. However, when things go poorly, they look inward and take full responsibility. In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins describes the best leaders as having “a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will.” Exceptional leaders always put the organization ahead of their individual agenda.
7. Great Leaders Empower Others.
Successful leaders surround themselves with the right people, sometimes more skilled or talented than themselves. They ensure people are a good fit for the organization’s culture and to their specific work assignment. Effective leaders “get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus” (Jim Collins). They empower coworkers by giving them ownership of tasks, frequent feedback on performance, a moment to celebrate victories, and appropriate recognition or rewards.
Great leaders are highly visible and often mix with their people to listen and learn. They counsel with managers, staff, and even customers to gather “intelligence” and to share ideas and viewpoints. Employees and customers are treated like partners in an environment of trust and accountability. By giving power to others, great leaders empower themselves.
8. Great Leaders Develop Other Great Leaders.
Leaders are primarily teachers with an important responsibility to develop other leaders through instruction, mentoring, and example. They honor and lift others—and reduce their own workload—by delegating responsibilities to the lowest level of authority that can perform the task. They meet with people regularly to receive progress reports, offer feedback and encouragement, and promote continuous improvement. While effective leaders may often delegate, they never abdicate their responsibility for achieving expected results.
Only a leader can develop and empower another leader. The strength of the people around a leader determines his or her potential; the best leaders have a strong inner circle. Their lasting value and legacy come by creating a leadership culture, preparing the organization for change, and planning for a smooth succession. An organization’s success accelerates when it focuses on developing its leaders.
9. Great Leaders are Always Learning and Renewing.
While some people have natural leadership talents, most become leaders through daily toil, experience, and self-education. The best leaders have an insatiable appetite for knowledge—the true source of power. They spend time reading what other leaders and experts have to say. They seek all truth that can deepen their understanding and broaden their vision.
Great leaders also spend quiet time in study, meditation, and creatively “working on the business and not just in the business” (Michael Gerber, “E-Myth Revisited”). They are unrelenting in their search for ways to improve the organization. They “understand that the only competitive advantage the company of the future will have is its managers’ ability to learn faster than their competitors” (Arie De Gues, “Royal Dutch Shell,” 163).
Exceptional leaders make time to plan, improve skills, and generally “sharpen the saw.” They gain renewal from frequent periods of rest, reflection, and recreation. Oswald Sanders said, “If a leader is wise, he will seize every legitimate opportunity for recuperation and recreation, or he will limit his own usefulness and ministry.” Great leaders are often ordinary people who invest in themselves daily.
10. Great Leaders have “That Something Special.”
In addition to the above virtues, there is one more quality all great leaders have—that something special that sets them apart. It is different for each. It may be their contagious enthusiasm, their charismatic charm, or their quiet inner strength. Perhaps they possess one of the three great business talents: an uncanny ability to innovate successful new products or services, a talent for cultivating valuable relationships, or the ability to execute a business plan with high-performance systems and processes. Maybe the leader’s gift is to touch people’s hearts or to give them a new vision. Bob Galvin, former CEO of Motorola said, “The leader’s ultimate job is to spread hope.”
Consider this: “When someone else’s candle is lit, it doesn’t cause yours to go out. It just adds more light to the room. So, when you allow someone to shine, it doesn’t diminish you, it just makes the whole room brighter” (Author Unknown).
Maybe that is the special quality: great leaders realize that it’s not about how they shine; it’s about helping everyone else to shine and thereby making the whole company brighter.
Ten Qualities of Exceptional Leaders! (Part 1)