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Leadership. – Characteristics of an effective leader

Leadership can be defined as the ability to assess the business needs, lead resources qualified for the job, and make the best decision based on the available information. An effective Leader knows the capabilities of each team member; its strength and its weaknesses, and knows when/how to adjust assignments based on business needs. When facing outcomes different than expected, a great Leader, will calibrate strategies, communicate updated instructions, and lead the team to execute the plan. 

The Leader designation is more than a job title received after being selected to fulfill a job vacancy or by becoming a member of a team with associates less experienced than you are. Efficient Leadership is a lifestyle that needs constant work and refinement. Leaders take into consideration changes in the business and have an open mind to understand that it is possible to change directions. A great Leader should know what it takes to do the job and/or have a high-level overview of the process but does not need to know 100% of the business being managed. 

Making mistakes is part of leadership because great Leaders are successful innovators, and failure is a step on the road to success. What defines a great leader is not how many times she or he falls, but what he/she does after getting back up. 

If we look around, we can find examples of Leaders across industries and throughout history. Some of these individuals left a legacy worth reviewing; 

Martin Luther King Jr. (The Civil Rights Visionary Leader) said: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Leadership is about actions and self-involvement. Great Leaders have always been on the front line of the business, knows his/her teams, and become part of the solutions to the challenges being faced. 

John F. Kennedy (Former USA President) said: “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Many (confused) Leaders truly believe they know everything there is to know about the business. As a result, they lead teams with the illusion they have infinite wisdom. Leadership requires constant learning from all levels of the organization. That is why Leaders need to interact with his/her business, his/her teams, and his/her clients. 

Steve Jobs (Co-founder of Apple Computers) stated this “Management is about persuading people to do things they don’t want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.” Many people confuse the term managers with leaders. Part of Steve’s success in his business was attributed to his ability to spread his business vision/possibilities to those around him. 

Key characteristics of True Leadership

A great Leader possess several key characteristics that make them stand out from the rest of the team. The following are just a few of the qualities that make a great Leader; 

Inspires. – A great Leader knows every action matters.  Inspiring action transmits a feeling of encouragement and desire to emulate what our Leaders are doing to achieve the business objectives.  Inspiring Leaders convert average employees into passionate resources willing to go the extra mile to meet the objectives. Staying late at the office or working through the weekend to meet a deadline becomes effortless.  Discouraging management will not make great Leaders. 

Communicates. – An effective Leader communicates the companies’ business objectives and ensures the message is distributed across the rest of the organizations. It is not enough to share the message with direct reports. Leader’s direct reports should be held accountable for making sure they share the Leader’s message with their employees, and so on. Some of the effective ways to do this will be via monthly, quarterly, or annual status update videos discussing the internal business, what is known about competitors, or share high-level insights into future upcoming products/services or improvements to enhance the customer experience. Silent/Quiet Leaders will be bad for business. 

Trains and Supports. – An effective Leader ensures all of his/her resources receive adequate training and constructive criticism.  A great leader creates an environment of problem-solving and sees mistakes as opportunities. Unsupportive Leaders chase-away valuable resources. 

Trusts. – An effective leader is trusted by the organization he/she leads. Trust needs to be earned with actions. It is not inherited by taking the executive role. Trust will require honesty and upfront communication from the leader to the teams. There is a difference between sharing limited information and hiding general knowledge information. Deception is not a quality of a Great Leader. 

Teaches. – An effective leader turns a conflict into a learning opportunity. Since conflicts will always be part of any business cycle, the Leader would have had a lot of experience in dealing with conflicts from prior roles. As such, he/she should take the lessons learned from (previous incidents) to assess the current situation, formulate recommendations, assign responsibilities, and guide the team through execution. A conflict is just an experience waiting to be learned. Teach others what you know and hope they learn more than you ever could. Vague Leaders manage under-performing teams. 

Helps Grow. – One of the key responsibilities of a Great Leader is to unlock the team’s potential. Employees look up to Leaders hoping to receive guidance. A Leader makes it his/her responsibility to coach, train, and develop his/her resources to drive them out of their comfort zone and into a new world of possibilities. Leaders show his/her staff how to meet and exceed expectations.  Limiting management style prevents business growth. 

Leadership takes the best of individualism and successfully turns them into a cohesive team working together to achieve a common goal/objective. 

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