It is amazing how many people hope to be incredible leaders, but don't take the time to develop the characteristics of an incredible leader. For over 20 years, I have been pouring into people to release the potential they have for leading others. I have seen six common characteristics in the best of the best. Read through these and let me know which ones you feel that you possess in your leadership life.
1. Grow yourself continuously. It seems counterintuitive to talk about self-investment before being other centered, but it is the foundation of having anything to offer another person. Without building your own skill set, you will not have the requisite tools to build the potential of others. Attend training programs. Get a coach. Watch TED talks. Do something each and every month to enhance what you have to offer others. By doing this, you are demonstrating the behaviors you wish to receive from others. When you assume that you are as good as you need to be, you send the message that others should not try to grow. Keep a solid focus on growth.
2. See the potential in the people who work for and with you. If you are incapable of seeing the potential and only see the shortcomings of others, you will find them demonstrating the area you are focused on. What we focus on expands, whether in our own life or in the lives of others. Practice waking up each day and being thankful for the people on your team. Be thankful they have chosen to work for you. Be thankful for their talent. Be thankful you have the chance to lead them. This has nothing to do with NOT pushing them to perform. It will set you and the entire team up for the next characteristic though. When we are grateful for our team, we focus on the greatness in our team.
3. Raise your standards. People have a tendency to live into the standards set for the company and demonstrated by leadership. The standards you use in approaching your life are what determine what you will accept from yourself and others. High standards yield high performance. Just be sure to set standards for your own leadership and connection to others that would be equivalent or greater to those you are asking for from the team.
4. Build the culture. The culture of the company is a direct reflection of the values of the leaders. It is the top leader that is the catalyst for everything that happens in an organization. I cannot stress enough how incredibly important having the right leader is to the success of any organization of any size. Your culture is the personality that the team will either love being around or hate with a passion. The culture demonstrates both the values (viewpoint of the company) and the personality (portrayal of values of the company). Be intentional about the way people should feel when working for you.
5. Make communication a top priority. Harvard indicates that over 80% of all problems in business are the result of poor or improper communication. Within communication, there are 3 keys to keep in mind. You must be intentionally consistent in your communication. You must set clear expectations, covering what you want, when you want it, and how you will measure it. Finally, you must listen actively to others by focusing on them, responding nonverbally, asking good questions, and feeding back what you heard but putting it in your own words.
6. Make strategies clear, understandable, logical, and possible. I have seen far too many people in charge setting strategies that were not clear, not logical, and not possible. That makes them impossible to understand! Map out a strategy that your teams can and will buy into, then work with the teams to create processes and systems that make sense. Do NOT set people up to fail just to avoid paying bonuses! It leads to people simply not wanting to be there anymore. Your strategies should begin with people, move into managing implementation, and round out with ensuring cashflow so you can keep living into your mission.
These are the six key characteristics of a great leader. If you are striving to be the best, step back from yourself and be honest about where you are at right now. Don't deceive yourself by not admitting your weaknesses. Take stock of how you are doing in each area, then map out one thing you can do to improve each day in at least one of the areas per day. You've got this!
Lead Yourself First!