As Jim Collins, best-selling author of Good to Great says, “Good is the enemy of great.” For business owners and executives, focusing on becoming a great leader is the first step helping the company and its people reach their full potential. While many talented individuals fulfill leadership roles in unique ways, there are five common leadership characteristics all great leaders possess and consistently refine throughout their careers.
Find out how to successfully guide your organization and team to new heights by learning what these top five leadership characteristics are, plus the actions needed to work on them.
Make Education a Core Value
Above all, great leaders never stop learning. The quest for knowledge is one of the best leadership characteristics because leadership abilities develop and strengthen with time and dedication. More importantly, it isn’t a role people step into successfully without building upon the insight provided by others. For instance, relying on one’s natural abilities for managing or directing isn’t the same as actively working on becoming a better leader.
Ideas for Leadership Education:
- Taking continuing education courses.
- Signing up for a mentorship program.
- Attending workshops and business conferences.
- Reading biographies.
- Listening to podcast interviews.
Get a Mentor
Working one-on-one with an experienced purpose-driven leader greatly increases personal and professional growth. Mentorship helps expand ways of thinking while considering other perspectives and approaches to guiding an organization and its people. Through the wisdom and advice of others, mentors help executive leaders optimize their company’s potential.
Great leaders model great leaders. For this reason, finding a mentor deeply affects a person’s leadership qualities. Additionally, it helps business owners and executives participate in a leadership cycle of multiplying leaders.
Ways of Finding a Mentor Might Include:
- Reaching out to a respected colleague.
- Joining a mastermind group.
- Meeting up with local entrepreneurs.
Tips for Working with a Mentor:
- Find a person who provides helpful business advice, but also holds you accountable.
- Show a willingness to be coachable.
- Ask for feedback when meeting.
- Work on instructed places for improvement.
- Demonstrate and discuss growth.
Let Mission Guide
Great leaders effectively articulate the ways in which their businesses bring about positive change and contribute to society. When mission guides the company, employees and customers can confidently share the business’s vision with others, thus maximizing potential impact.
With millennials now dominating the workforce, this point is particularly important. Recently, a study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed just how mission-driven millennials are: 94% “want to use their skills to benefit a cause.”
Yet, statistics show bad leadership characteristics revolving around unclear company mission get in the way of most people feeling like they serve a higher purpose. For example, a study done by PwC showed, “less than half of employees know what their organization stands for and what makes it different.”
Find the Company’s Heart
The business’s mission is the guiding force of great leaders. Regularly revisiting the organization’s mission statement, especially during the decision-making process, ensures leaders develop a purpose-driven company.
Try answering the questions below with the goal of writing a simple statement that articulates the business’s mission. As a result, this exercise produces a focused, collective company purpose.
- Why does the business exist?
- How does it benefit the world?
- How does the organization provide value in employees’ lives?
- What problem does the company solve for people?
- How can leaders create realistic, yet challenging team goals toward solving these problems?
- What effect does achieving these objectives have on the future of society?
Set the Pace, Tone and Energy
Great leaders demonstrate expectations by serving as an example for their team members. In doing so, they set the bar for those working at the company. Scientifically speaking this is important because humans learn how to act in social situations by mimicking others. For instance, when leaders exhibit negative or low energy, those they lead naturally follow suit. Furthermore, bad leadership characteristics such as lack of accountability ultimately affect the overall health of the organization, including profitability.
Set Baseline Performance Standards By:
- Showing up to work excited and on-time.
- Having a positive mindset, even in the face of challenges.
- Taking ownership for duties and responsibilities.
- Admitting failures when they occur.
- Communicating places for improvement.
- Creating an energetically infectious environment.
- Performing at a high level.
- Building team culture.
One of the most important leadership characteristics is empathy. Without this facet of emotional intelligence (EI), people cannot connect with their employees as they work toward the organization’s mission. In essence, being empathetic means asking people, “How can I support or help you?”
As a result, through self-awareness and social awareness, great leaders create positive outcomes through their words and actions. In turn, this leads to greater transparency and honesty among teams. Additionally, this type of recognition builds bonds of trust.
For example, empathic people:
- Actively listen during conversations.
- Gain more perspective through discussion.
- Look for signs of sadness, unhappiness, frustration or stress.
- Put themselves in others’ shoes.
- Validate feelings and emotions.
- Volunteer for just causes.
Becoming a Great Leader is an Infinite Journey
The world needs great leaders right now. For example, people who dedicate their lives to growing their leadership abilities as they experience the journey of serving others. While it’s just a start, developing the skills on this leadership characteristics list begins equipping ambitious professionals with the knowledge a leader needs to be effective. In doing so, people have the power to create businesses that do good in the world on a large-scale. Additionally, these types of leaders develop organizations that provide a sense of meaning and fulfillment that extends far beyond themselves.
To hone in on refining the leadership characteristics mentioned above, check out these three books: