What does it take to be an effective leader? What characteristics must one possess in order to positively influence, inspire, and guide others? Volumes have been written about this topic, but here are seven qualities that form the foundation of all great leaders.
1. Humility Regardless of education and experience, no one person will have all the answers. A leader who practices humility creates an environment where others feel included and can contribute their ideas without fear of ridicule. A humble leaders knows the key is to be a problem-solver, and will work with others to create solutions. A genuine leader will then share the credit with everyone involved.
2. Self-aware An effective leader will be cognizant of their abilities, as well as their limitations. They will be keenly aware of their skills and areas where they need growth. This quality is crucial for the leader who must hire a team to help them accomplish a specific goal. By having clarity about their own skills and traits, they will know exactly what to look for when hiring new team members.
3. Vision Great leaders have a crystal clear idea of the direction they are headed and what they want to accomplish. They are passionate and relentless in their pursuit of their goal, yet understand they will require the help of others. Additionally, they are able to articulate their vision to others and inspire them to embrace it.
4. Decisive An effective leader knows they will have to make tough decisions and will not shrink from doing so. They understand that decisions made without hesitation, and made at the right time, are necessary in order to accomplish anything. A wise leader will also know to be open to the counsel of others. They will still be the one to make the decision, but after having acquired as much information as possible.
5. Empathy The best leaders are able to understand the feelings of others. They know that the decisions they make have an impact on other people. That does not mean they will hesitate to take action when needed, but they will do everything possible to ensure the impact is as positive as possible for all concerned. An empathetic leader will always praise in public, correct in private, and seek to find solutions rather than placing blame.
6. Optimism The most influential leaders are a consistent source of positive energy. They exude hope and confidence about the future and do so openly and often. They communicate well with others, and do not allow negativity to gain a foothold.
7. Laser Focus The ability to stay on task and not allow distractions to hinder progress is something the effective leaders understands well. They will recognize when their team is beginning to take their eyes off the prize and will remind them (in a positive fashion) to stay the course. The focused leader knows they plan ahead, be organized, and lead by example.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many qualities that make up a truly great leader. However, these seven qualities are a solid foundation that all leaders can build upon so that they can lead themselves, and others, to greatness.
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