If you asked a dozen people to describe what makes a great leader, you’d probably get 12 distinct answers. Just as every organization has its own unique culture, the leaders that drive those organizations have specific skill sets and assets that make them the best fit to take that particular helm. What’s working for the leader of Company A, may not necessarily translate as-is to Company B. That’s not to say, however, that there aren’t common leadership traits that transcend brand and company personas. In fact, some of the best leaders have a few key traits in common.
They Facilitate, Not Dictate
Great leaders know their team was assembled for a reason. You’ve built this team for their skills and expertise. Your role isn’t to provide all the answers and deliver marching orders. Your roll is to support and encourage the experts you’ve assembled to do their thing.
They Communicate Clearly
Let’s just cut to the chase: Uncertainty breeds stress and stress can negatively impact work performance. Keeping the lines of communication open is therefore a core component of good leadership. Communicate expectations clearly. Keep your team in the loop. Recognize that effective communication is a two-way street. You need to be prepared to listen as much (if not more!) than you’re speaking.
They Walk the Talk
“Do as I say, not as I do,” has never been an effective leadership (nor parenting) philosophy. The adage “actions speak louder than words” on the other hand, is one not to forget. Set the example by living it. If you want team players willing to step outside of the confines of their job description to do the little things that make a big difference, roll up your sleeves and help get that last-minute marketing mailer assembled so your team can meet their fast-approaching deadline.
They Encourage and Support
Your team members are going to be challenged by some of their tasks. Sometimes, even when it’s a task they’ve completed a hundred times before with precision, they’re going to mess up. Successful teams know that their leaders have their backs in both scenarios. Leaders who believe in their team’s abilities and convey that confidence, inspire their teams to stretch and excel. Leaders who support their team members when they falter create a culture that’s willing to take calculated risks. By the way, those organizations are the successful ones. That’s not say you should overlook mistakes or failed attempts. Great leaders don’t ignore these things. They view these moments as an opportunity to evaluate what went wrong and identify how to move forward more successfully. They seek solutions, not blame.
Your team has worked hard on this latest project. By all indication, this endeavor is going to be a blockbuster success for the business. You may be the team lead, but you’re not the only player. Great leaders give credit where credit is due. They recognize the contributions of individuals and the team.
What other leadership traits stand out to you? I’d love to hear what you think!