Around the world, companies spend a collective $365 billion on employee training initiatives. Yet, for the most part, they fail to see the same return on that investment.
It takes more than a few weeks in front of a slideshow to transform someone into a high performer. There are inherent leadership qualities that exist within those who succeed in this realm.
The good news? Some traits you’re born with, some you can learn, and all you can sharpen. Today, we’re discussing the top 15 characteristics that define a great leader, so you can focus your efforts on the kind of internal improvement that leads to external recognition and reward.
Ready to learn more? Pick up that pencil and let’s take some notes.
1. Authentic Passion
For a leader to be effective at motivating a team, he or she must display genuine passion and enthusiasm for it. There must be a drive to perform better, improve quality and deliver on client expectations at every turn.
If that enthusiasm isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how hard the leader tries to feign it. It will be obvious, especially to those working at a lower level. The result is a lacklustre effort that could be even more detrimental to a company than no effort at all.
This is one of the most critical leadership traits, chiefly because company growth occurs when leaders look for pain points and address them. If a leader cares about a mission and the people behind it, he will actively seek opportunities to make things better. If he doesn’t, he won’t.
2. Excellent Communication Skills
This trait is commonly listed as one of the top characteristics of a leader, and for good reason. A leader is responsible for delegating, directing and clarifying, among other roles.
To perform these tasks effectively, communication is key. Today, that challenge extends past having a clear telephone voice. Now, leaders are also expected to be able to craft emails, send group messages, and conduct video conferences with ease.
3. Unshakable Confidence
The old adage is true: If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s difficult to make others believe in you. A successful leader is one who is sure-footed with a clarity of mind.
Someone who goes back and forth second-guessing decisions is afraid to speak up, and blushes at the idea of assertiveness will only get so far. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that over-confidence is necessary. There’s a fine line between self-assurance and haughtiness, and shrewd leaders know how to walk it.
4. Team Loyalty
A list of the top qualities of a leader should also include loyalty. A loyal leader keeps the best interests of team members top of mind and ensures they have access to all the resources they need.
They do so because they understand that true loyalty often delivers in dividends. When you stick close to your employees and champion for them, they’ll repay you with the same level of respect.
5. Decision-Making Skills
Everyone knows someone who spends 15 minutes looking over the menu at a fast-food restaurant. If a simple decision over what to eat is this gruelling, how will that person respond in a time-sensitive conflict resolution? What about other deadlines and deliverables?
One of the qualities of a good leader is the ability to think quickly, yet rationally. Anyone can rattle off an answer if the pressure surmounts enough, but coming up with a rational, timely response is a trait best honed over time.
A leader who constantly looks to others to make decisions for him should seek to sharpen his on-the-spot critical thinking skills. Not every business move should be made in a matter of minutes, but some important ones might need to be, and a leader should be ready to act appropriately.
6. Administrative and Managerial Capabilities
Someone can be excellent at his or her role within an organization, yet fall behind when placed into a leadership capacity. This isn’t to say that the person isn’t competent, creative, intelligent and a hard worker. It simply means the necessary team management skills aren’t there.
Some leadership strengths are developed over time, while others are more innate. An employee might know the company inside and out, be great at customer service and follow all regulations and procedures to a “T.” Yet, can they inspire and motivate others to do the same? If not, they may be better suited in a different department that allows them to thrive.
The best leaders are those that demonstrate integrity in every step they take.
Sometimes, this means making sure an employee receives credit for a job well done. Or, it may require stepping in to mediate a conflict or make a difficult decision for the sake of the team.
In every instance, a leader will take an honest and conscientious approach. He will look at the situation from every angle, analyze the relevant data and make an informed decision that isn’t swayed by emotional appeal.
A focus on the facts and a steadfast commitment to the truth are leadership mainstays. Someone who is only looking to further his career and is willing to step on toes, hurt feelings and bend the truth to get there isn’t ready for such responsibility.
8. A Cool, Level Head
Remember that scene in Office Space where everyone takes turns smashing the printer to bits in the field? Now, there are entire rooms where people can go and release their frustration and pent-up stresses against defenceless inanimate objects.
A leader might feel like acting out on occasion, but his team never knows it. An ability to handle even the most heightened, taxing problem without breaking a sweat is one of the characteristics of a good leader that isn’t easy to find.
Yet, it’s critical to possess. A cool-headed leader can help mitigate and descale emotional circumstances whereas someone who yells at the drop of the hat will only exacerbate it.
9. Enduring Patience
Teaching and training others is an integral part of a leadership position. That said, a leader has to be willing to grant a learning curve, especially to new employees. Expecting perfection right off the bat, then at every curve, is setting up even the most well-intended team for failure.
This doesn’t mean loosening expectations and allowing personnel to slack off. Rather, it means looking for reasons that someone may be falling behind, then working diligently to get that employee back on track. It means fielding questions, adjusting expectations when appropriate and explaining processes in thorough detail.
10. An Ability to Empower
Leaders don’t build thrones for themselves. Instead, they build ladders that help everyone climb up to the top. They aren’t afraid to share their expertise and allow others to shine.
Someone with the team’s best interest in mind seeks out opportunities to empower other personnel. This might mean sending them to professional training, encouraging them to pursue personal interests or helping them to seek advanced positions within the organization.
They’re not looking to rule in solitude, but rather in solidarity. They’re eager to use their platform to help others get to the same space.
11. Personal Responsibility
Managing others requires holding them responsible for their actions and keeping them accountable. It also means doing the same to yourself. A strong leader is able to bring to light any inefficiencies and help employees overcome them by taking a one-on-one problem-solving approach.
In the same vein, a leader can reward outstanding behaviour and use it as a benchmark to gauge other successes. If no one is monitoring performance at this level, both setbacks and achievements can be missed. This is unfortunate, as both allow opportunities for growth.
12. A Creative Approach
There are myriad industries in the world, but the businesses that comprise them are all trying to achieve the same aim: to create a product or service that people want.
A leader is someone that takes this age-old challenge and uses it as an impetus to find new discoveries and take uncharted approaches. He isn’t afraid to get creative, to reconsider an existing approach and to break new ground.
In short, he is innovative and future-focused, always looking for ways to improve and expand rather than staying content with the status quo.
Another thing? He isn’t afraid to fail. He remembers that it took Thomas Edison 10,000 attempts to create the lightbulb, and uses setbacks as setups for success.
How can a leader guide others if he does not share in both their struggles and their wins? Empathy isn’t just a nice-to-have quality. It defines the way a leader interacts with subordinates.
It establishes an environment of trust and confidentiality, where employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns and airing their grievances to someone they know won’t mock or shame them, but rather actively listen to them.
An empathetic leader brings teammates together and helps them work through challenges. He’s not there to judge or place unnecessary blame. Rather, he’s most interested in listening intently and making an informed decision. There is no room for excess scrutiny, nor is there time.
14. A Willingness to Have Hard Conversations
No one likes having to let someone go. No one enjoys bringing two conflicting parties together to seek a mutual resolution. No one likes to be right in the thick of drama, seeking any sort of silver lining available.
Yet, a leader has these hard conversations and makes these difficult decisions when they are necessary. He doesn’t shy away from situations that would make others run and is willing to step up to the plate.
Research shows that 69% of leaders are afraid to speak to their employees, especially on topics that aren’t a walk in the park. They fear reproach, a negative personal perception, and poor feedback. Put simply, it’s uncomfortable.
A reputable leader is someone who pushes through this discomfort and addresses an issue with grace and level-headedness.
In short, a leader doesn’t flee when tensions mount. He is committed to the company cause and to those who look to him for guidance.
Sure, statistics show that the average person changes jobs 12 times within the span of a career. This can still hold true, even for a committed leader. There should always be opportunities for someone to change their job path, pursue other interests and find roles that both challenge and fulfil them.
Yet, a leader is fully committed during his time at a company. He works for its best interest, keeps team members in the loop and looks for ways to improve when they’re presented.
Will this keep great leaders from finding great new opportunities? No. But, it will ensure that as they seek to grow and expand, they’re not doing at the expense of their current employer. They’re dedicated to the cause to which they’re at the helm.
Cultivating These Leadership Qualities in Your Team
Not everyone is born with all of these traits. Some may possess a few leadership qualities, others may have most and others might have next to none.
That’s where we come in.
We’re a qualified soft skills training provider, focusing on helping those within the UK grocery industry hone the kinds of traits required to succeed in this competitive realm.
From communication and conflict management skills to presentation and negotiation abilities, if there is an area you’d like your teams to sharpen, we can build a People Development Programme around it.
Take the time to learn more about what we do, browse our course listing and check out our e-learning offerings. Then, contact us to get started. Successful companies are built from within, so let us help you fortify your foundation.