If someone was to say to you, ‘Name a great leader’, your mind will go straight to the well-known influencers of all time. Go on, try it – say a name out loud.
Who did you mention? Nelson Mandala, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Oprah, Bill Gates?
It’s natural for us to think of domineering, take charge, strong, extraverted or famous, powerful individuals who’ve stood out in history and created massive changes within our society. And when you start listing people like those above, there’s no denying they’ve been great leaders.
Let’s flip the page for a minute. If I was to ask you if you thought of yourself as a leader, how would you respond?
If you’re not in a management, influencer type role, you’d probably be giggling right now and thinking, ‘No way Lisa, I’m not a leader’.
But what if I was to tell you that leadership has nothing to do with your title or your position?
Many people have the attributes of a leader without even realising it.
We can break down the qualities of leaders in different ways. Do you see any of your traits here?
- COLLABORATOR: empathetic, team-building, talent-spotting, coaching oriented
- ENERGISER: charismatic, inspiring, connects emotionally, provides meaning
- PILOT: strategic, visionary, adroit at managing complexity, open to input, team-oriented
- PROVIDER: action-oriented, confident in own path or methodology, loyal to colleagues, driven to provide for others
- HARMONISER: reliable, quality-driven, execution-focused, create positive and stable environments, inspires loyalty
- FORECASTER: learning-oriented, deeply knowledgeable, visionary, cautious in decision making
- PRODUCER: task-focused, results-oriented, linear thinker, loyal to tradition
- COMPOSERS: independent, creative, problem-solving, decisive, self-reliant
Or maybe you’ve got a particular leadership style you didn’t know you had! Here are the top 4 common types:
- PRAGMATISTS are driven, competitive, and they value hitting their goals above all else.
- IDEALISTS want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same.
- STEWARDS are dependable, loyal and helpful, and they provide a stabilising and calming force for their team members.
- DIPLOMATS are the affiliative force that keeps groups together and typically build deep personal bonds with their employees.
Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.
Here are my 5 top attributes of what constitutes a great leader.
1. Leads by example
A great leader shows leadership through their words and actions.
No one will listen to a leader if they say one thing and do another – it’s hypocritical. It’s not enough to simply tell others what to do.
I’ll share my quick sewing story with you: I organised a craft stall at the kids’ school for 3 years, taking it from a $700 event to earning over 6 figures! Cool hey? But I couldn’t do it alone (seriously, I don’t even sew – shhh).
But I knew my strength lay in organisation and creativity and that as a parent collective, we all had the same vision – to raise money. So, I made the most of everyone’s skill set and led by example, preparing before our craft sessions to make sure each parent would have useful tasks to do. We didn’t waste time, and we had loads of fun. And the result was lots of money raised for our children’s school which made us all happy.
2. Communicates clearly
A great leader communicates expectations, goals, and plans with others in a clear, concise and thoughtful manner.
Think back to all the great leaders in history. The images you see are usually up on a stage with a captivated audience listening to their every word. That’s the skill of a leader. They know how to portray their message. And people listen.
This doesn’t mean you have to get up on a soapbox and preach. You also don’t have to be a lover of public speaking. Whether it’s a 1:1 situation, or a small or large group setting, it doesn’t matter your audience’s size, but how you communicate your message.
3. Keeps an open mind
Leaders are open to new ideas and act without bias. They will listen to others, value every team member’s opinions, and be flexible on the pathway to the final goal.
Leaders who refuse to see any side but their own are often highly unpopular. It’s detrimental to reaching their goal as they’ll find no one wants to help them achieve it. Everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated.
A great leader will be open to listening to others. They don’t always have to agree, but they need to listen. And actively listen. They need to show their team they value their opinion and will at least considerate it.
Successful leaders know they don’t always have all the answers, and if they’ve built a team with the same values, they will trust in their opinions.
4. Remains optimistic
Great leaders lead with passion and care about what they do.
Your attitude is a choice. Whether you have a positive or negative attitude is up to you. But great leaders are optimistic. Being optimistic gives them the ability to focus on the beneficial side of situations and expect positive outcomes.
The attitude of a leader is what will create opportunities to overcome obstacles and adversity in a team. If people are struggling for solutions, and the leader has a negative, ‘nope nothing will work’ attitude, it will be a miserable place to work.
But a great leader will always see the positive in situations. They will lead by example with a can-do attitude, and people will want to be around them.
5. Demonstrates Integrity
A leader demonstrates personal integrity by acknowledging and giving credit to others. Honesty and ethical choices are what makes great leaders.
Ethical leaders build strong teams. It’s their integrity that builds the trust within a team. And when team members trust each other, they will always work towards achieving team goals.
A great leader will naturally show integrity when they’re displaying the above attributes. Being open and honest, communicating clearly and having a positive attitude shows integrity. People want to be comfortable within a team. They want to feel valued. And they want to know they can trust the people around them.
Leaders will naturally create a collaborative team, leading by example, listening to others and giving credit where it’s due
Let me ask you – who are you leading?
Leaders happen at all levels of a business – from entry-level through to the CEOs. And as I’ve mentioned, you may not realise the point where you’ve stepped up into a leadership role.
For example, you start a new job. You’ve come in with fresh eyes, and you suggest changes to processes or improves in systems. At the time, you may feel like you’re only trying to make your life easier! But others will gravitate towards your knowledge, and you may find yourself becoming a go-to person for fresh ideas. You’ve become the leader in technology!
And this goes with your life too, especially if you have children. You’ll adjust your leadership styles for the goals you’re trying to achieve, but you’ll always need to be the leader. My kids sometimes think I’m Hitler, but I like to think I’m more Mary Poppins – kind but firm!
So, if you’ve realised you are a leader, who are you leading and what are you going to do to embrace this? Drop your ideas in the comments below.