For a team or a business to succeed, there must be a great leader who has the necessary leadership qualities to address well the internal and external needs and challenges.
For a leader to be great, he must be more than just a manager. A major difference between a leader and a manager lies in that people follow a leader, not because of his authority but his qualities with trust and confidence.
Some academics believed that leadership is something innate. For example, the Great Man Theory proposed by Thomas Carlyle and the subsequent trait theories of leadership are premised on that leaders are born to lead and that leadership cannot be developed through learning.
However, as you will see and agree, the most compelling leadership qualities can be developed through learning and training.
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The 6 most compelling leadership qualities
We previously briefly covered what leadership means in Three Key Elements to Nurturing Leadership and identified that it cannot get away with the word “influence”. We mainly focused on how you can stand out to be the leader in a team.
This article is an extension to Three Key Elements to Nurturing Leadership and covers the 6 most compelling leadership qualities (among many different leadership qualities) that you need to develop to be a great leader.
- Priority management
- Humility and Integrity
- Emotional Intelligence
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Communication is the key to any successful relationship. It is the real work of leadership, as Nitin Nohria, the current dean of Harvard Business School said. It is through which people usually get their first impression. Therefore, leaders should communicate with confidence and clarity, while listening carefully to the implications and being empathetic.
A great leader communicates with confidence and makes people believe in what he says. This should start with the leader believing in his ideas and ability. Confidence in communication can make team members comfortable and enthusiastic about working towards their goals.
Check out Leadership Communication – Speak like a Leader for more leadership communication skills.
Communicate with clarity
A great leader delivers his thoughts and directions with clarity so that everyone can work on the same page and know what they are exactly doing.
“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said” (Peter Drucker). Listening is an important element of communication. A good leader goes beyond the words to know what members of the team and also his competitors are thinking.
Empathy means to understand and appreciate others’ needs, motivations and concerns. This is crucial to closer connect with and attract followers and create harmony. Being a good listener is the first step to show empathy.
The next step is to ask the right question. For example, if a team member leaves 15 minutes early every day, instead of telling him off, a good leader will first ask for the reason behind and try to see if he can offer any help.
Being empathetic is all about learning about others’ thoughts.
2. Priority Management
Priority management is the prelude to self-management, time management and team management.
Throughout the day, there can be numerous things for us and our team to handle. As always, a lot of things looks like to be a top priority. If we must deal with everything at the same time, there is no way that we can turn in quality work.
Prioritise according to the team’s goal
First, we must ask ourselves why we need to do something. To answer this, we will have to assess constantly how well our work aligns with the team goal. A great leader always considers the team first.
Consolidate a to-do list
It is important to record the priorities systematically. Building a helpful to-do list is one way. It helps us remember what our priorities are and avoids omitting some lower-priority tasks.
A great leader should not just work out the to-do list for himself. Instead, he should assist the team to develop this practice.
As a reminder, there should be only one to-do list (no matter how long it is). If we have multiple to-do lists, we will just mess things up.
A good leader does not just lead a team but also holds himself fully accountable to his decisions and the team’s work. In other words, a good leader takes full ownership of the team and full responsibility for any outcome.
For example, if a product made by the team is flawed and the team did not know about it, a good leader will hold himself ultimately accountable. This is because as the team leader, it was his responsibility to make sure everything was done properly.
4. Humility and Integrity
A great leader is humble. Humility binds your team together and earns admiration and respect from others. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.
Being humble is to admit human limitations. No one is perfect. There is always someone doing better than me in some aspects. Instead of bragging about themselves, great leaders:
- value everyone in the team and appreciate everyone’s time.
- encourage others to do better and acknowledge and promote others’ work.
- accept constructive feedback.
- appreciate the support rendered by each team member.
- admit and apologise for their own mistakes, instead of blaming others, and learn from mistakes.
- accept others’ making mistakes. Knowing humans are prone to mistakes, a great leader should accept team members who make mistakes and learn from mistakes.
Leading is more about management, as opposed to completing every single task alone. A leader has to know why he is a leader and admits that he cannot do everything himself.
Delegating the work to the right people is essential for all leaders. In delegation, the role of leaders is to empower his teammates, provide the directions, explain clearly what needs to be done and support them with the necessary resources.
Once this is done, a great leader should let the teamwork work out their way and shine. In effect, leaders are training their team members, transferring ownership and developing their sense of belonging.
A great leader avoids over-managing or micro-managing the delegates. Over-management or micro-management will stifle their development and their room for learning new skills. It will also create distrusts.
6. Emotional Intelligence
A leader is a dealer in hope. -Napoleon Bonaparte
This quote speaks of how important emotional intelligence is for a leader. A good leader avoids making decisions influenced by his own emotions.
He has to understand his followers’ emotions and manage them.
When the bad times come, people would turn to the leader for comforts and solutions. Instead of complaining about the problems like what others do, a good leader needs to handle his emotions well, stay positive and be resilient and mature in the face of crisis, and lead the team out of crisis.