Often when attempting to recognise or identify leaders there’s a desire to rely on classifications, job titles that contain manager, president, chief or director, or social roles that contain the word leader. The question is what comes first - the leader or the leadership skills and qualities? Are people put into leadership roles and then left to develop as leaders, or do they show leadership qualities and earn those roles?
What are the qualities that leaders have?
A good leader is someone who builds trust. It comes before almost anything else that we’ll discuss below. As with our personal lives, trust is a factor that must be earned.
Trust is earned through honesty. Speaking honestly with those above and below, in following up on what is said or agreed. Honesty in maintaining the confidentiality of the company and of those they interact with. Honest in attributing credit for success and accepting responsibility for mistakes or shortcomings.
Trust is also built through physical interaction. By being present and available leaders reduce the barriers that come from distance. The ability to hold eye contact and communicate through good body language puts others at their ease and enables the trust to develop between a leader and those they lead.
Leaders take us places, literally and conceptually; we won’t follow if we don’t trust them.
A leader is someone who communicates well. In the most literal sense, this is the ability to speak clearly on a topic or about an idea. They aim to understand and then be understood, to inform and to inspire, with the speech they use. They convey interest and intelligence by asking good questions, and they encourage speech in others. They speak openly, never sugar-coating bad news or over-inflating success.
They also communicate non-verbally. Actions, particularly consistent actions, help to build the trust and respect that underpins the leadership relationship. Their speech is important, and so is their ability to listen and be engaged in what they’re listening to.
A leader is an expert in their field. They have a comprehensive understanding of the processes, products or services that they oversee and they use as a core of what they do. They utilise their expertise to not only develop the work of a company, through refinement, advancement and new ideas, but also to inform and inspire others around them. Expertise, appropriately used in these ways, attracts followers.
Expertise is also a product of experience. Nobody is born with an innate sense for operational refinement or product development, these things come from expertise that’s derived from the experience. Of knowing something intimately and comprehensively and its place within an entire structure.
A leader seeks to develop leadership qualities in themselves and in others. None of the attributes laid out here are particularly special or unobtainable. We all have the capacity to speak honestly, to develop trust with those around us, to communicate clearly and to be experts at what we do.
A true leader does not fear competition from developing leadership traits in others. They recognise that the components for leadership are present in all of us, that with the proper support, be it coaching, mentorship or development time, we can all be leaders.
Leaders don’t seek to dominate, they seek to empower, and the more people they empower to be leaders, the better that is for the whole system, whether that be in a business setting, or the wider world.
If you’d like to know more please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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