There is an age long debate about leaders – whether they are born or made. While a school of thought believes one can learn how to lead, another opines that leaders are born, that they are just that way. The first thing to understand is what makes for great leadership, what exactly is great leadership. Simon Sinek puts it in simple words when he says, great leaders inspire action by communicating the why of what they’re doing. Simple sentence, deep meaning.
Using Simon’s definition as a compass, let’s x-ray ten(10) qualities anyone aspiring to be a great leader should have.
All great leaders in history have been known to possess a certain charisma with which they have ‘charmed’ followers into sharing their dreams and believing that their idea is worth the push. From Martin Luther King Jr. to Steve Jobs, the ability to share the energy and the drive, makes others want to support you. This is the first hallmark of a great leader.
Great leaders understand they can’t do it all alone, so they channel their energy to finding the best people to do what they need done. Although anyone can delegate, great leaders attach purpose to each job and make it worth doing.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years long years in prison to actualise his long walk to freedom. Leadership is not for the fainthearted. Every great leader understands how to stick it through, even when it gets too hard.
The best businesses thrive on one resource: feedback. People need to clearly know what is expected of them, when they are on the right path and when they are not. This is a point when great leaders excel. Due to their clarity of purpose, they understand how to communicate what they need done to who needs to get it done.
Anyone who wishes to come close to being a good leader must never give followers or anyone at all, a reason to doubt them or feel they are holding something back. Great leaders make people feel safe by being as open, and honest as possible.
Great leaders are dreamers. Being able to imagined worlds yet in-existent is an often undermined trait; one which great leaders possess in abundance. To be a great leader, you have to be a problem solver and a change-maker. You must have an eye to identify what doesn’t work and how to fix it.
Nothing improves excellence more than the habit of never blaming others. Great leaders can’t expect people to be accountable if they themselves aren’t; so they strive to make no excuses and focus more on fixing problems or correcting mistakes.
The ability to trust your intuition even when tested is an important quality that makes great leaders. A leader loses relevance if found to be too flexible with decisions. People will follow more when they know that a person believes in his own mission and is willing to bet on it. The likes of Elon Musk have shown this trait –
time and again, with the projects they have taken on and their trust in themselves to deliver such projects.
The understanding of great leaders is this: my attitude reflects on my people, so if I have doubts, they will have doubts too. This is why a positive attitude is crucial for a leader to excel. Be happy; that’s what great leaders do.
Every great leader is a lifelong learner. They understand that growth happens through learning, so they are willing to be beginners every day. They embrace their mistakes and learn from it. To them, failure is just an opportunity to start again, better.
While we won’t pick sides in this age long debate, we are certain that if a person can acquire these skills, he or she will make a great leader.