By Christina Manfre, Christina ManfreBusiness Advisory Partner
13 January 2021
One of the greatest leaders I’ve come across still to this day has had no formal leadership training, emigrated to a foreign country in which she didn’t speak the language, left school at the age of fourteen and gave up paid work early on to take on more traditional duties. My Mother.
My Mum taught me to always stand up for what I believe in, respect myself and others, but most importantly, she taught me empowerment and personal sovereignty at a very young age.
You do not need to be a partner in a big accounting firm to possess the characteristics of a great leader. You can possess these at any stage in your life and career.
All leaders are different, and there are many characteristics that make up a great leader. Working out your own style and what type of leader you would like to be can help take your skills to the next level. Many people believe that if they are not displaying what are perceived as the ‘stereotypical’ leadership traits, such as being outspoken, they will never possess excellent leadership qualities. This could not be further from the truth.
The best way to become a great leader is by recognising that your leadership style is unique to your set of skills and strengths, and then working to cultivate your leadership qualities.
So, what are the qualities of a great leader? A dictionary definition of leadership refers to “a person who guides or directs a group”. In the context of running a business, that means you must develop ‘people skills’. Effective leaders are able to consistently interact with their staff, colleagues, and clients. Great leaders do not force collaboration – they invite it. To quote Steve Jobs:
“leadership is about inspiring people to accomplish what they thought they couldn’t do, whereas management is about persuading people to do what they never wanted to do”.
Vital Leadership Traits
1. Communicating powerfully
The most powerful form of communication is by closing your mouth and opening your ears. Listening is a key step in fully absorbing what someone is saying and developing rapport with them. Making someone feel truly heard can encourage them to speak more openly and honestly.
Empathy is essential for strong leadership. Empathy allows you to see things from another person’s perspective. Cultivating empathy is the precursor to almost every other ‘soft skill’ required for leadership, from self-awareness to critical thinking.
3. Leading by example
I like to (metaphorically) get my hands dirty. Great leaders remind themselves regularly that actions speak louder than words. They do not simply lead by telling others what to do. They lead by showing others what to do, by setting a good example themselves.
Acting honestly and with integrity is the only real way to build strong, meaningful connections with others. Whether you are leading your business or your family, every single person you interact with looks to your own honesty and code of ethics to set their own bar.
All those in a leadership role need to make difficult decisions at times. How these decisions are handled is one of the most important leadership qualities. An effective leader is one who makes the decision that is right, not the one that is easy.
Those who know me well, know that I am a big fan of organisation and being prepared. Being clear with your intentions, vision and goals gives you a clear direction and clarity as to how you focus your time.
Being aware of the energy you bring into a room is a key leadership quality of a truly great leader. A positive attitude energizes everyone around you and allows you to see opportunities out of challenging situations. Great leaders choose empowering beliefs to drive them and their teams forward over negative thought patterns which weigh you down. Creating an environment where everyone around you has the opportunity to thrive inspires others to be the best version of themselves.
Everyone makes mistakes, including leaders. How you deal with these mistakes is what sets you apart from the rest. It is important to not only handle them with positivity and a growth mindset, but you must also take responsibility for those mistakes. Great leaders take more than their share of blame and less than their share of credit, which creates an organisational culture of trust and humility.
No matter where you are in your career, everyone can possess leadership qualities on a daily basis. These qualities often transcend your career and trickle down to other areas of your life. This guarantees not only success in your career, but success in all areas of your life.