Everyone wants to know the characteristics of a good leader. Well, maybe not. Maybe it is better stated that everyone has an opinion on what it takes to be a good leader. A leader will never please everyone on his or her team – that is just a fact. What a good leader does, however, is find the balance between objectivity and subjectivity, apply rules fairly and strive to earn the respect of his or her teammates and peers. It is not about being likeable, it is about being respectable.
Here are the top six qualities a good leader should have and display. They are in no particular order as they carry equal importance.
Character. A leader has to show great character. This is shown by “walking the walk”. In general, do not ask anyone to do anything you have not already shown that you have done or would do if necessary. Decisions are made fairly, and rules with any accompanying discipline are administered equally. There are no favorites, only ones you can trust to get the job done. Be plentiful with your praise and kind with your counsel to improve performance. Actions should speaker louder than words, and character will shine through.
Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is drive with a great attitude. It is passion, gusto or zeal. When you are upbeat, positive and passionate about attaining the milestones, goals or vision of the company, it will be reflected in performance and productivity of your team and subordinates. It is said that the best leaders get others to do what they want, not because the team members are told to do it, but because the leader makes every individual want to do it for themselves. That starts with infectious enthusiasm.
Confident. The confidence of a leader is demonstrated by giving others the power too. Too often, top performers lack the confidence to let others learn their job, or to teach teammates the tricks and short cuts that make them successful. They start to get “territorial” and think that if it is shared, they become replaceable. A good leader knows that he or she needs to replaceable – they need to grow the talent and skill set of the people they work with. Not only will goals be met, but they are more promotable because they can be replaced – with someone just as capable.
Empowerment. A good leader knows that he or she cannot do everything themselves. They need to build the skill sets of their team members and trust them with tasks. Ensure your staff brings you not only the problems, but their solutions. Value their contributions by not doing everything your way all the time, but trying their methods and ideas. By giving subordinates the opportunity to impress you, and the tools with which to do so, you empower others to succeed both personally and professionally. Empowerment makes others around you confident in their ability, and drives productivity and promotability – for them and for you.
Tolerant. A tolerant leader lets the people around them learn from mistakes while still holding them accountable for his or her performance. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their perspective. Errors become experience, and experience pays off in the long run. Yet if you see someone making the same mistake over and over again, that is where accountability plays a factor. Being tolerant does not mean being a pushover. Expectations should be clear, and when they are not met, that should be clear as well.
Analytical. A good leader analyzes all the information available before making a decision. This can apply to a new product line, employee issues and customer service. Do not be guided by emotion alone. It can play a part in empathy and tolerance, which is important, but the facts are the facts. Pursue the truth, leave out the fluff, and analyze what is left. This lets you lead fairly and impartially, while making good decisions that earn the respect of your team.
These are not the only characteristics of a good leader. Yet they are the most important, and most other traits you may list could fall under any of the above broad descriptions. If you see yourself in the portrayals above, then you may be a good leader. If you see things you can work on, then you are on your way to being a great one.
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