When we picture the great leaders of our time or in times past, we all tend to come up with the same people. If not the same people, then generally people who seem similar in some way.
They may be from different eras or industries; business, politics, sports or the arts – but certain traits and capabilities tend to make them stand out.
They practice leadership behaviors that go well beyond what we typically expect from our managers and administrators, but why?
Wouldn’t the workplace improve if we all tried to incorporate the traits of these great people?
Let’s take a look at the traits all great leaders possess, so that we may all attempt to incorporate them into our own lives and particularly, our work environments.
A great leader’s actions are grounded in ethics and integrity.
These are hallmarks of the most successful leaders – people who are committed to doing the right things for the right reasons.
We want to follow people when they make the moral choice even when it’s the more difficult or unpopular option.
This highlights the importance of adhering to high principles and professional standards, and doing so with consistency.
It’s easy to ruin an ethical reputation with just one decision that lacks integrity.
Making decisions, at a surface level, feels like it shouldn’t be that difficult.
We make decisions all day long and anybody can do it.
But it takes a great leader to face the hard decisions with authority and confidence.
Successful decision making comes from balancing emotion with reason.
You need to enlist input from others to ensure the move you make is well-informed yet act with authority when the time comes.
Even when decisions may be unpopular, a leader who honestly communicates the rationale behind them is in a better position for long-term success.
One of the best definitions of leadership is to encourage others to do great things.
Encouraging, rather than discouraging, is a trait of most great leaders.
They bring out the best in others and push those around them to accomplish things they did not think themselves capable of doing.
Perhaps more importantly in today’s business world, is for a leader to specifically encourage innovation from their employees.
Organizations who give their people the space to aim high and fail are the ones who end up on top.
The leaders who encourage thinking about the possibilities and not about the failures are the ones who people want to follow.
By looking at issues from different perspectives, and sharing how such practices have worked for them, successful leaders surround themselves with people who dream big and continue to persevere beyond failures.
Great leadership is about sacrifice and giving things up for the people around you.
Truly great leaders are willing to give up their own recognition for others and pass accolades on to their teams.
Rewards can be monetary of course but they can also be as simple as public recognition or spending time with the people you wish to lead.
No one likes to see their hard work and accomplishments go unrecognized, so it’s incredibly important to reward achievement.
The best leaders make a habit of calling out people who make contributions to the organization, and they do it in both a timely and appropriate manner.
It is a function of a leader who not only sets and shares specific expectations, but shows what happens when individuals meet them.
Most importantly, the best leaders deliver what they promise when that happens.
Above all, truly successful leaders have a vision that motivates people to follow. But it’s not just the vision itself – for whatever future or goal or purpose – that inspires.
It’s expressing it with passion and energy, and backing it with strong beliefs and values that count.
A great leader has big visions and inclusive goals that encourage others to feel inspired to work together. They can persuade others to look beyond themselves and strive for a goal larger than any of them.
Being a leader is not the same as being a manager or executive.
A job title does not designate true leadership. Anyone who works hard to embody the above character traits will become regarded as a leader in their workplace and beyond.