Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and people can certainly be highly productive and successful without many leadership qualities. But if you have them and you don’t use them, you should start, because otherwise you’re wasting a human resource that’s in terribly short supply.
On the other hand, if you don’t have them (or enough of them) and you’d like to be more of a leader, you’ll be glad to know you can improve on your existing leadership qualities. While it’s true that many leaders are born, quite a few others are made through self-examination, study, and effort.
If you care at all about leadership, you’ll be interested in the leadership characteristics sketched out below:
Pleasure in Working with Others
Leaders are very often interested in and energized by their work with others. For example, people who are seen as leaders tend to take positive pleasure in helping others accomplish their work. They do this sometimes by offerings ideas, suggestions, and plans, and sometimes by offering assessments of what’s going right and wrong for the other person. If you don’t care much about others and their progress toward their goals, you’re probably not all that strong as a leader.
This is why a good leader general enjoys helping others feel good about themselves, their work, and their progress toward their goals. This assistance may take the form of anything from a simple compliment to an in-depth exchange in which you help another person gain their own insights and reach their own conclusions about their situation and their best way forward.
Rather than focus solely on one’s own direct efforts to produce whatever output is required, leaders frequently get involved in the work that others are doing. They tend to willingly share in others’ problems, exert energy toward helping them find solutions, and in various ways strive to build other people’s motivation to reach the desired goal.
Another signpost of a good leader is a greater concern for the team and the project than for one’s own reputation or track record. Well-regarded leaders usually operate fairly close to the notion that “we can accomplish remarkable things if we don’t care who gets the credit.”
That’s a big reason why leaders tend to find pleasure in recognizing and celebrating the good work that others do.
Good leaders also seek to meld the various individuals working toward a common goal into a close-knit, highly effective team. They do this not only by demonstrating and advocating for their general notions about teamwork and shared responsibility, but also by getting to know the individuals with whom they are working. Leaders regularly try to ease any rough edges that may be increasing interpersonal friction, eliminate any misunderstandings, and stimulate a higher level of professional bonding. Overall, they encourage the various individuals to begin thinking of themselves as a more unified group.
That’s why you’ll often find good leaders engaged not only with the actual work that directly needs to be done, but also with the people charged with doing it. They’ll try to recognize and utilize each person’s strengths, and sometimes even coach a person to change in ways that benefit not only the project, but the individual.
What’s more, they routinely take it upon themselves to help resolve any conflicts between people, encouraging everyone to see the best – and the best intentions – in each other.
A Broader Vision
Everyone involved in a project is probably working hard toward the desired goal. But most people do this by keeping their head down and focusing on immediate tasks. A leader more often keeps his or her head up, striving to see the big picture – the forest, not just the trees.
In many cases, this allows the leader to spot connections and opportunities that others don’t see. A good leader is adept at offering other people a broader perspective, fresh ideas, and surprising juxtapositions that can shine new light on roadblocks and bottlenecks that are holding back progress.
While specialization in a particular field, discipline, or industry is helpful to leaders, a broad and diverse background of experience and knowledge is also helpful. This breadth of understanding allows an effective leader to “step back” from mastery of day-to-day detail so as to recognize the strategic situation and the best way forward.
Even more important, a good leader possesses a portfolio of ways to get others to accept his or her ideas, suggestions, and decisions – often through analysis of the facts as well as through inspiring, persuasive talk.