Leadership is defined as the action of leading a group of people or an organisation; or the state or position of being a leader. But, what characteristics define a good leader and what differentiates a leader from a boss?
For International Leadership Week, we highlight the qualities and skills we believe a good leader should possess.
One of the most important traits of an effective leader, is the ability to listen and to listen well.
Communication is vital to any organisation but it is a two-way street. People like to know they have a voice and that their voice will be heard. If, as a leader, you refuse or fail to listen, a breakdown in communication is inevitable, and that can bring with it various problems and difficulties.
Your role as a leader is to help, guide and manage, and as part of this role, you need to be able to respectfully listen to others whilst maintaining the utmost integrity and of course in some cases, confidentiality.
By demonstrating an ability to listen carefully, a leader can show empathy, something often overlooked yet much needed by those you are leading.
As leader, you should be energetic. Positive energy elevates individuals, is life-giving, and encourages vitality.
You should exude passion and genuine interest in what you do. To appear like you don’t enjoy or appreciate what you do, is likely to de-motivate others instead of motivating them.
Being a high-energy leader creates numerous opportunities in the workplace and makes for an engaged, committed team. The best leaders are able to energize their teams and businesses.
Accountability is the act of holding yourself accountable to others.
In leadership this is important as it shows others that you are able to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and decisions, as well as those of the people you lead.
Demonstrating accountability and ensuring it in others involves sharing information and knowledge, which in turn can build trust and instil confidence among your team, as they feel safe in the knowledge that you will take responsibility for your decisions.
Individuals learn by watching others and practicing desired behaviours. With the help of leaders who model desired behaviours and leadership development that teaches accountability, employees see the difference between effort and results, and learn to deliver both.
One of the differences between a leader and a boss, is their ability to delegate, and to do so appropriately but fairly. Poor delegation can often result in de-motivated and/or stressed team members.
Delegation is a skill that is essential for successful leaders – it not only encourages a positive working environment it can allow you to leverage all of the strengths of your team, can mitigate work overload, help boost the professional development of team members and if done effectively, can reveal a lot about your team’s capabilities and talents. You should still offer support and training to your team as necessary, but allow them a degree of autonomy and ownership if you really want to benefit.
Empathy is the ability to understand the needs of others by having awareness of other people’s feelings. When it comes to being a successful leader, empathy is vital.
Being able to walk in the shoes of your team and to understand their feelings and motivations is important to be able to lead them effectively. By taking a genuine interest in those around you and trying to understand their point of view and what inspires and motivates them, it allows you to strengthen your relationship with them and build trust.
An empathetic leadership style can promote workplace engagement, it encourages better listening, creates loyal employees, promotes happiness and encourages healthier collaborations.
As the saying goes “respect is not a given, its earnt”. This is true for leadership. A good leader is respectful of others and should treat others with the same level of respect they want to be given. Mutual respect underpins good relationships.
Respect is the foundation of humane and ethical behaviour and without it, you will drive people away and there will be a lack of trust.
Show respect to your team by welcoming their opinions, ideas and feedback. To show respect to demonstrates honesty, engagement, cooperation and integrity. Show them that they are respected for who they are, their opinions whether or not different to you and yours.
Self-awareness and reflection in is important in leadership as it allows you to understand what is important and to focus on what can be done differently.
A humbling yet powerful characteristic, self-reflection is critical for leadership development as it requires you to consider your strengths, weaknesses, behaviours, skills and influence over others and to consider how these may need to change to improve your performance and subsequently that of your team.
At its core, leadership is about helping others.
A good leader looks to help and support the growth of other people and seeks opportunities to empower them to succeed. To help others improves social interaction, distracts people from their own problems, and improves self-esteem and competence. Investing in the success of others is an investment in your own success.
Get to know your people, and provide them with the resources and tools they need, and try to remove obstacles like excessive bureaucracy, interpersonal conflict or toxic cultures.
A good leader recognises the importance of investing precious time and energy in supporting the growth of other people, to help them be the best they can be. When people know you are interested in their success, they show up in a more engaged way in their day-to-day work, which ultimately comes back to your success as a leader.
A good leader is someone who others often look up to and in some cases aspire to be.
As a leader, you should look to inspire action by creating an environment in which they feel they can thrive.
If done effectively, inspirational leadership can increase creativity and innovation and inspire others to follow their passion and move towards more ambitious goals. It is about finding ways in which you can enhance the potential of those you lead in a way that works for them.
Inspirational leaders often have a unique ability to foster positive change in their team members as well as the wider organisation.
“Being positive in a negative situation, is not naïve, its Leadership.” Ralph Marston.
Positive leadership focuses heavily on teamwork, vision, employee participation, trust and respect; working together to achieve mutually beneficial goals. It is about driving a positive culture, creating and sharing a positive vision, leading with optimism, removing negativity, building relationships and creating a connected and united team.
Positive leaders create positive relationships and teams. A positive attitude is vital when it comes to motivating people. Positive teams who enjoy their work are generally more productive and engaged – it’s where jobs become careers.