What do you think of when I say the word ‘leader’? What impression do you have in your mind? You may have many misconceptions about what leadership is about, after all it’s more than a person’s rank or seniority. It’s about the qualities and skills they have in their locker to lead a team.
In essence, just because you’ve got the title manager or have achieved a promotion doesn’t make you a leader. Good leadership is about building and refining specific skills. Great leaders are role models and come in all shapes and sizes and can be found in the home, at school, or in the workplace.
Here are some of the traits of effective leaders.
- A ‘Can Do’ Attitude
Great leaders know that their attitude is mirrored by their team. If they exhibit positivity and a ‘can do’ mentality then their team will do the same. This can be achieved by being positive when things go wrong and creating a happy and motivated atmosphere in the workplace.
Taking care of your team, helping them to see the way forward and making them feel appreciated has the added bonus of creating team members that work harder and do extra hours when needed. Even in challenging circumstances, a great leader stays positive and works out ways to empower their team to overcome what is in front of them.
The key is to break down huge challenges into bite-sized tasks and work through them one at a time.
All great leaders have to demonstrate self-belief if they’re going to succeed. This shouldn’t be confused with arrogance. Effective leaders have people looking to them for inspiration and confidence.
Self-belief is essential because people will be looking to model your behaviour, particularly if things are going wrong. If you remain calm under pressure, your colleagues will too. The outputs of this will be high morale and productivity and more effective problem-solving. If you are downcast or throw in the towel your people will follow your lead.
Self-belief is a learned trait and something you can work on as you grow in experience, knowledge and confidence.
- A Sense of Humour
All those in leadership need to have a sense of humour, particularly when things aren’t going their way.
If the situation is challenging, your team will be looking to you for how to react. Your reaction to your environment will be key to how they respond. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.
You should create a culture of humour and encourage personal discussions in the workplace so that it’s seen as ‘the way we do things here’.
By accepting your foibles and learning to laugh at yourself, your team will trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences. In addition, take note and learn from the jokes others make.
- Accept Failure Will Happen
Mistakes happen and failure occurs no matter how hard you try to stop them, the key is how you deal with them.
Great leaders stay calm and put together a considered plan of action. What they don’t do is fall apart and don’t divulge to their team how concerned they are. Effective leaders take control and lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.
They identify what caused the problem and the most appropriate solution to get over it. They also identify the root cause so they can avoid repeating the same errors in the future.
- Good Communication Skills
Being a good communicator is an essential skill for any great leader. The best leaders need to be able to communicate effectively with their team and other stakeholders within and outside the business. They also need to understand the people around them and hear what they are saying without emotion.
To be the best leader you need to encourage positive communication between your people and provide an open-door policy for the team to approach you with their challenges.
- Know Their Key Results Areas (KRAs)
The best leaders know that they can’t do everything. They are fully aware of the tasks that they have responsibility for and are effective delegators. Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which engenders loyalty, team self-belief and helps your people to feel appreciated and trusted.
To know who and what to delegate to your team, you have to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities, as well as what tasks and roles they are interested in.
- Growth Mindset
Great leaders look to bring other people onside – developing their skills and talents and nurturing and developing them. Not only will this make work easier as they improve and grow, but it will also build morale. In addition, they may develop some complementary skills that you don’t have that will benefit the whole team.
Great leaders share their knowledge, mentor their people and give them the opportunity to grow and develop. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty. They provide constructive feedback and challenge their reports to reach their full potential.
- Make No Excuses
Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, workplace or whatever situation they’re in, they need to hold themselves accountable and take personal responsibility.
Effective leaders know the buck stops with them; they stand up to be counted and then work out how to solve/overcome the problem as soon as possible. This demonstrates that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.
Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Think about what you can do better to prevent this from recurring again.
- Are Perpetual Students
No-one knows everything and great leaders recognise this. They recognise that education and learning doesn’t stop with school or university.
Great leaders know that there’s always something to be gleaned from everything they have experienced previously and from those around them. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.
To improve your leadership skills, you need to consistently upgrade your training, learn from those around you, attend courses, listen into webinars and read self-development and business books to increase your understanding and knowledge.
To summarise, great leadership traits can be taught. With practice, dedication and repetition, you can be a great and respected leader of your team.