The 7 Must-have qualities of a Leader

The bar of job qualifications is constantly being raised higher. As an executive, you want to enhance your leadership traits and industry know-how to continue to shine above all others in your field. This article will tell you what are the qualities to become a great leader which are the most sought-after by businesses in today’s volatile and multifaceted business environment.

1. Concentrate on the goal (Use Racehorse Blinkers)

Competition amongst businesses today is like a horse race. A good leader, like a racehorse, must have their blinkers on to run with laser-like focus towards the goal. There will always be distractions and personal dilemmas that leaders face. Brian Dumaine said in his online article “The Kings of Concentration” that a CEO receives up to 300 e-mails a day. Add to this the meetings and phone calls, there clearly are not enough hours in a day to tackle everything.
In order to be effective at managing organizations amidst all the hectic activity, you need to have a laser-like focus. Effective leadership is knowing how to prioritize the most important tasks.

Practical Tips:

Tip 1. Set Up The Night Before.

Prepare for the tasks you need to accomplish at work the next day. Take a mental note of your priorities and most important tasks. At the end of the day, review how your day went against your plan and personally celebrate your accomplishments.

Tip 2. Stick To Your Plan But Prepare To Be Flexible.

Create a checklist you can use as a guide throughout the workday, tick off tasks you’ve completed according to your plan. If something urgent comes up that needs your attention, be flexible in adjusting your checklist. Once you’ve tackled the unexpected items, go back to your list and move according to plan.

Tip 3. Prioritize.

Bigger projects may involve several small tasks. Prioritize working on the items that can be completed quickly so you get good momentum. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment when you see your tasks being completed in relation to the big project.

Tip 4. Stay Energized.

Take short breaks to recharge yourself mentally and physically in order to stay focused. When your brain gets overworked, you tend to be less productive. Sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health either. So do some stretching, stand up and move around to reenergize your mind and body.

Tip 5. Change Your Environment.

Just having a fresh view may help you focus better and allow you to finish your projects faster. Your usual work space may present a lot of distractions so move to a quiet place or change your work space orientation to have fewer distractions.

 

2. Confidence (Trust Your Capabilities)

A confident leader gives the organization the confidence that the business is in good hands. Leaders make tough decisions day in and day out and there is always room for self-doubt. When you have to juggle so many things at once, you have to trust yourself that you are in that position because you are capable of the responsibilities that position comes with.

The May 2014 issue of The Atlantic entitled “The Confidence Gap” says that confidence matters as much as competence in leaders. The article shares that women have the ability and competence to hold positions in leadership but lack the confidence to apply for the position. Confidence is a critical trait for success.

Practical Tips:

Tip 1. Be An Intellectual Risk Taker.

You have to rid yourself of the fear of failure and start taking intelligent risks. Just be sure you assess all possible outcomes and take into consideration all the lessons you have already learnt. Don’t be paralyzed by making the decision because you have over-thought the process.

Tip 2. Be Around Positive Supporters.

Pick out colleagues, superiors and team mentors who share the same goals and ideas. Brainstorm with these individuals to learn valuable lessons that you can use in your work life. This group of individuals can serve as your support system at work.

Tip 3. Practice Makes Perfect.

Most of the practices and styles in management can sound ideal in theory but unless you put them to the test, you will not know which one works best or what needs to be tweaked to work best in your case. So never stop learning and always practice what you learn.

 

3.Clear Vision (Know Your Purpose)

Clear vision is a leadership trait that should go along with laser-like focus: it should even be its precedent. In order for a leader to have laser-like focus on a goal, they need to have a clear vision of it. Clear vision means you understand what you want to achieve, its purpose, you know the facts and you understand its impact.

A leader with clarity of vision can also formulate clear plans and will be able to give clear directions, feedback and corrections if and when necessary. When their team members see that their leader is clear about what they want to achieve, it will be easier for them to grasp the vision knowing that their leader can offer clarification.
Practical Tips:

Tip 1. What’s Your Career Story?

Identify your strengths and motivators —what are the drivers that get you excited to work and what skills do you possess that get the best results? Ask yourself the following:

  • What are you most passionate about? What makes you want to get up in the morning?
  • What are two of the most challenging things you’ve encountered? How did those experiences mold you?
  • What do you enjoy about your job? What tasks do not feel like work because you love doing them?

Tip 2. Find A Career Coach.

Have a mentor – perhaps a superior or a more senior colleague. Work with that person to identify your leadership goals. If you cannot find one in the workplace, you may want to hire a career coach to work with.

Tip 3. Write Down A Statement Of Purpose.

After the first two steps, try to write down your leadership purpose. Answer the questions (1) Why am I in this leadership role? (2) What are the things, and who are the people I am able to influence? Make a clear and actionable leadership motto, one that you will live by and call your own.

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4. Humility (You Cannot Learn Without It)

Humility is one of the leadership qualities that cannot be faked. The statement “humility makes an effective leader” is the truest of maxims. This leadership trait should be a prerequisite to being given a position in leadership. Lazlo Black, a Senior Vice President for Google says he looks for not just humility but intellectual humility in people he hires. He further points out that you cannot learn without humility.

Humble leadership is really about focusing on people and letting them know that you are there to support them in reaching their goals. Also known as servant leadership, this leadership style helps team members think for themselves and contribute their own ideas, because you are teaching them stewardship and independence. Humility does not mean being weak and voiceless, it actually means you have enough confidence in your leadership that you uplift your team members so they can grow.

Practical Tip:

Request 360 Feedback.

Check if your human resources department can set up 360 feedback from your team, colleagues and superiors. Make it anonymous so it will be as honest as possible. Have an open mind and take the feedback seriously - especially if there are suggested areas for improvement. See how you can plan a course of action to work on the identified improvement areas.

 

5. Strong Communication Skills (A Quality Which Can Be Learned)

Strong communication skills may be one of the leadership qualities that can benefit most from a leadership development program. Some leaders are “made” and not “born”, and strong communication skills can definitely be learned. In a study performed by APPrise mobile in the US, about 23% of employees working for a company with a size of 500+ workers were not sure who their CEO was.

Traditional office communication has come a long way from office memos, organizational charts and bulletin boards for employees to peruse. With almost everything communicated digitally, executives need to reach out to their employees in a way that will speak to the new generation of workers. E-mails, tweets, social media and e-chat are some of these digital communication tools suitable for employees from the new generation.

The way communication changes with technological advances, leaders must continually learn new ways to connect with their employees. Once a leader develops strong communication skills, it will be a leadership trait that will benefit them in so many ways in and out of the workplace.

Practical Tip:

Be Sure To Have Strong Opening And Closing Points.

To be a good communicator, your audience needs to understand the purpose and the desired end result of a meeting, a conversation, or a training session. State your purpose clearly and be concise. Before ending the meeting, check if your audience understood what their roles are in achieving the desired outcome. Reviewing with them the purpose, the timeline and what they need to do.

 

6. Team Player (Be One Yourself)

In order to encourage your employees to be great team players, you have to be a team player yourself. This leadership trait is essential in every organization. Some organizations are very strict about their leaders socializing with other employees, because they believe that familiarity may blur the line of the supervisor-subordinate relationship. 
Leaders who believe that they have to alienate themselves from their teams are actually the ones creating this blur. It could be described as a gap between themselves and their team members. This gap could be the reason that their team cannot work cohesively. We have previously mentioned the servant leadership style as a leadership trait every leader should have. Being a team player is closely related to being a humble leader. Leaders who are team players are not afraid to show themselves as part of the team. This behavior is respected by employees.

Practical Tip:

Conduct Regular Huddles.

Start your workday or workweek with a short huddle to discuss any important updates and urgent issues. You can assign a different team member to lead the team huddle each time to empower your team members.

 

7. Honesty & Transparency (Be Trustworthy)

In an executive position, there is certain information that should be treated confidentially. However, you need to be honest and transparent to your subordinates about the level of information you are allowed to divulge. For certain information you need to find the right time, place and manner to deliver messages honestly.

What honesty and transparency as a leadership trait means is that you are perceived as reliable. To be an effective leader, you need to appear reliable to your employees. They will trust you more when you follow through with your promises. Delivering difficult messages to your subordinates is part of a leader’s responsibility. You must give feedback honestly, clearly, constructively and in a professional manner. It is important not to sugarcoat these messages because they may become misconstrued and cause confusion.

Practical Tip:

Aspire To Honesty In All Cases.

Be prepared to answer questions from your employees. Anticipate the possible questions and prepare your answers so you are certain that you are being as honest as you can be and still remain within the remit of what you are allowed to divulge. If you are uncertain of the answer, get more information on that matter and make sure you follow through.

Leadership Qualities & What They Mean For Your Business

Even if you believe that leaders are born and not made, it is still necessary for born leaders to develop their leadership traits to be better at what they do and stand out from the competition. You will need to be aware of the leadership qualities you need to enhance.

Without a doubt, leadership development programs can help make you a better leader. Joel Garfinkle, in his article “3 Reasons to Invest in Leadership Development”, shared that a study by The Hay Group showed up to 40% of fortune 500 companies consult with executive coaches.

This proves how important it is for leaders to keep on learning from experts and educators to be at the top of their game. Find the leadership development program that’s right for you and be the best you can be. Enroll in a course at IMD to develop the traits above, and step into your full potential.

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