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What it Takes to be a Great Leader

It takes a lot to be a great leader.  You need to inspire your employees.  You need to have vision and guidance.  And most importantly, you need to be focused at all times. There are a plethora of articles online and in academia which focus on leadership and what it takes to become a successful leader.  It’s honestly a question as old as time and one that doesn’t have a definitive, scientific answer.

What we can do, though, is utilize previous experiences and anecdotes which great leaders have passed down.  Simply reading this advice obviously won’t be enough to fulfill your pursuit of becoming a great leader, but the very fact that you’re researching it is a good step in-of-itself.

Before we dive into what it takes to be a great leader, we should focus on what leadership is.  Leadership, for our purposes, is the ability of an individual to guide a group of people or organization to their chosen goal successfully and collaboratively.

What I mean by this, is that not only does a great leader get their team to the goal, but they do so in a collaborative, inclusive environment, with no individual left behind. A leader is only as successful as the team or organization that they lead.  And a team in disarray, fragmented by internal and external disputes, can never be truly successful.

I would also recommend taking a look at this article which discusses the best leadership books.

Trust

A leader must have the trust and support of their team and organization.  They must earn that trust though.

Passion

Passion, and the energy one exudes, must be felt throughout the entire organization.  Your team and organization should feel your passion through-and-through and be willing to match yours. 

“When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.” – Howard Schultz 

Commitment

The ability to commit to a goal and avoid distractions is crucial.  Being committed to the end-goal will help to avoid unnecessary detours.

Patience

A true leader is patient with both their team and reaching their goal successfully.  Being able to withstand and deftly maneuver obstacles will take great patience, which will pay dividends later on.

Confidence

Being confident and self-assured in your own choice will have a trickle-down effect on your team. 

Decisive

A leader is able to take in all available inputs regarding a situation and act quickly and decisively.

Ready for Change

While being decisive is an absolute must, a true leader understands that change can occur at any moment.  Being ready for these changes allows for a leader to quickly act on the new information and ensure that the course set-out is the best path forward.

Focus

Avoiding distractions, a leader is deadest on their goal and the success of their mission.  Everything else is a distraction and must be removed from view.

“I don’t focus on what I’m up against.  I focus on my goals and ignore the test.” – Venus Williams

Removal of Arrogance

Arrogance is a cancer within an organization and can kill the morale, drive, and focus of the team.  Real leaders understand this and remove arrogance from themselves and amongst their ranks.

Drive

No-one works harder than the leader of an organization.  The first one in and the last one out, a true leader leads by example and is not afraid of getting into the weeds and getting their hands dirty.

Praise

Providing credit where credit is due and re-affirming their team’s commitment is central to building up morale.  Individuals crave praise from their leadership team, and you should not be stingy in providing.

Support

Understanding that working towards a common goal is not all rainbows and sunshine, a leader must be able to support their team through the thick-and-thin. 

Never leave your team feeling isolated, alone, and stranded, you should always be there for support and reassurance.

Responsible

Be responsible.  Responsible not only for tasks that fall directly on your plate, but also for your team and organization. 

You should have a deep understanding of the inner workings and mechanics occurring within your team and be able to take responsibility for any issues that may occur.

Honesty

A leader is honest with their team and with themselves.  Do not over or under inflate the truth and be willing to provide an authentic view on current events.

Voracious

An odd one from the rest, but having a voracious and insatiable attitude, towards success can be a catalyst towards achieving it.  Your team will follow in your lead when they see just how badly you want it.

Listen

Calvin Coolidge once stated that, “It takes a great man to be a good listener.”  Don’t just do all of the talking and believe that you understand every nuance within the system. Listen to your team and take their feedback as actionable items.

Be Fair

You should not expect more from your team then you do from yourself.  Be fair with your team, practice understanding, and place yourself in their position to truly understand where they are coming from.

Be Empathetic

Similarly, a leader should display certain levels of empathy towards their team.  These are individuals whom have entrusted you to lead them to a common goal.  You should be both caring and empathetic towards their feelings.

Be Wise in Your Words

When leading a team, every word you utter has the ability to transform into a life of its own.  A simple slip of the tongue or joke can be taken the wrong way.

You should state the facts and be careful in your speech to not cause alarm amongst your team and organization.    

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