What Are The Qualities Of A Leader? Can Anybody Lead? And How Do You Become A Great Leader? These are questions many people ask once they get into their first leadership position.
I’ve been in leadership positions my entire life, I’ve failed many times doing it, and also learned how to succeed. When you’re looking at the qualities of a leader. The first thing you need is to stop looking at yourself.
What Is Leadership? John Maxwell describes leadership influence. Nothing more, and nothing less. I would add that the main qualities of a leader involve motivating and focusing a group of people towards a common goal.
Keep in mind, leadership is neither positive nor negative, that’s why some leaders are evil and lead people to do horrible things. It’s the actions that we need to separate from the leading.
Qualities Of A Leader Vs. Qualities Of A Manager
Contrary to popular belief, leadership isn’t about being in charge. If you’re a team member, you can still be a leader. Wherever you go there’s an influence that you wield, try to utilize that for the betterment of the team. When you have the general qualities of a leader, you’ll be able to lead in whatever situation you’re in.
Leadership Is about finding the skills and abilities you excel at, then utilizing them for the betterment of others. People will begin to see that in you, and it will influence them. In turn, they begin to respect and follow your lead. Especially in your area of expertise. When you’re looking at the qualities of a leader, ask yourself if these traits are something you are proficient in.
Management Is about using metrics and efficiency to achieve a goal that was created. It’s not people-focused. While management skills are good to have, without proper leadership skills this soon devolves into a metric-minded focus. When you forget about the people around you. Metrics will suffer.
I believe good leaders know what management skills they’ll need to utilize for the situation at hand. Really great leaders will do it without thinking. When you have a bad leader, it’s usually because they’re focused too much on management and not on leading. They forget about the people under them. This is also how micromanagement comes into play. Recently I wrote a blog post about the dangers of micromanagement. Click on the link to read it.
Qualities Of A Leader Traits To Strive For:
Qualities Of A Leader; Keep in mind these Traits Are NOT About Personality
For example, I’ve known a few people that are extremely introverted and by society standards, they’d never become great leaders. However, these introverts have made huge impacts in the lives of their peers just by encouraging and helping them redirect some projects.
No more excuses, you’re here for a reason. Lead On.
Qualities Of A Leader; True Leadership Knows Their Skill Level
In 2006 I came home from college and I had no idea what to do with my life. So I returned to my High School job at the local Sams Club. They were in need of a Produce Team Lead and I had been a lead before. However there was one problem, in the past, I’d never worked in produce. I was a little self-conscious about it, and I didn’t think I’d survive in it.
The hiring manager assured me everything would be fine, and said they’d train me. He wanted somebody in there with previous leadership experience so I fit the bill.
I walked in the first day and met the guy I was replacing. As he was giving me a tour of the department he pointed out one particular associate. He told me that I needed to fire that associate sometime today.
“Why, what has he done?” I asked.
He responded vaguely and said nothing substantial but he repeated that I’d have to fire him. It concerned me, and I wondered about the morale of the team.
Bad Leadership Stifles Creativity
I got mad and told him. “If he needs to be fired, you take care of it. Whatever he did was on your watch, and I’m not your clean-up crew. As far as I’m concerned, we all start with clean slates.” (Bad Leadership Kills Morale)
The tour ended shortly after that, and I went to my office so I could work on some things. An hour later the associate came up to my office.
He walked in nervously and said, “So I guess you’re going to fire me now?”
My response was simple, “NO. I don’t know what was going on before, but if you do your job, and show up on time, we’ll get along great. I don’t run things by giving threats.”
My associate smiled and said thank you. We talked for a little while and then he went back out to the floor.
As we got to know each other, he eventually became my best worker. No matter what was needed, he’d be the first to jump in. I should add that I’d do the same for him, and he knew it.
Qualities Of A leader; Get Input From The Team:
A common misconception about leadership is that we have to know what are doing. Full disclosure, most of us have no idea what’s going on. However, when you’re flying blind like that, it’s better to spend time getting to know your team. Then you can listen to their ideas, and fly with them. It’s pretty fun.
I don’t recommend admitting it to the team and doing nothing. That makes you look lazy. Most of the time I’ll gather my team together, admit the situation and say what I know. I’ll also add any ideas that have come to my mind. Then I open it up to suggestions.
We continue on and make a plan together. Then we run with it. This shows my team that I respect them, and it gives them all something to be invested in. You’ll have fewer people failing and forgetting their work when they’ve helped set it all up. Trust is the name of the game.
As a produce manager, I didn’t know much about produce. Mostly the difference between an apple and a cucumber. The rest of my knowledge came from my team, and I told them from the start that I’d be relying heavily on their knowledge in the first few weeks.
Qualities Of A Leader: Diffuse Tension.
After the first week, I had a major issue. One of my crew members became insubordinate and started yelling at me. He had expected the promotion into my position. But he didn’t receive it because of some attitude issues he had, and I had slightly better qualifications. This caused a lot of resentment from him towards me. I’ll admit his feelings were valid and understandable, but his reaction completely disrespectful. So I had to deal with it.
I never write people up during my first few weeks of leading, mainly because I’m trying to bring everyone together. So instead I called him to my office, and we sat down to talk.
I told him what I saw, and that I understood his frustration. He agreed and said he couldn’t work for me. Then asked for a transfer to a different department.
My response was simple. I told him that I’ve seen his work, and it’s been exemplary. Then I said that I’d hope he’d reconsider and stay. This department was in dire need of his experience, but if he really wanted a transfer, I’d sign the papers. In addition to that, I said that I’d write him a great recommendation letter.
Once I said that weight fell off his shoulders, and he smiled. In the future, he’d become one of my best produce trainers and a trustworthy friend.
To Lead, You Need To Respect Others
Qualities Of A Leader: They Communicate Effectively With Their Team
I’ve already mentioned this, but it needs its own section. Great leaders will seek the input of their team. They weigh what is said, and make a decision.
Building a team atmosphere is the most important skill when you’re running teams. I like to have regular meetings. The name of the meeting is irrelevant, touch base, scrum, morning meeting. Whatever the name, make sure it’s quick, informative, and then make a decision.
MAKE IT SHORT. NOBODY LIKES A LONG MEETING. Trim the fat from the meetings, make them informative, but be careful of getting into the weeds.
Qualities Of A Leader: They Pay Attention To Time
I don’t mean that you should rush through the meeting, make sure you’re covering the bases. However how many 3 hour meetings have you attended that could’ve been done in half an hour? They are mind-numbing.
If you’re running a meeting, run the meeting. Trim the fat and make it worth it. Keep the time to a minimum, see the time and hold everyone to it. This will keep your employees engaged and excited for the next meeting. Especially if you share what they’ve accomplished, or how close to a goal they are.
If there is overflow usually it’s an issue the associate has. Ask them if they have time to talk after the meeting to fix their issue. That way everyone else can get back to work.
Qualities Of A Leader: Make Sure Everyone Understands
I hate boring meetings, they are such a huge waste of time. Make sure the meetings are quick and go over what needs to be discussed. Shut any person down that keeps talking and rehashing the same points (do it nicely and you know who I’m talking about). If a conversation has been tabled, stop that one person from bringing it back up at the end of the call. (it happens a lot)
Shut Them Down. (Sorry that’s a pet peeve of mine.)
Qualities Of A Leader: They Are Decisive
This is for leaders who are also responsible for the outcome (notice I didn’t say in management). When you hold responsibility, you also have the power to make decisions. Don’t be paralyzed by fear and make a decision. Then when everything is happening, make sure you own the decision.
As a leader, the glory belongs to the team, and any failure is yours. Own It, that’s the essence of being a leader.
Also, it should go without saying, but don’t be a micromanager. They are the worst, you can’t do it all, and you’ll annoy the people who are trying to do the work.
How You Can Learn To Lead?
The answer to this question is subjective. Up until now, I’ve given you a lot of stories from my own personal life, and I hope they’ve helped you. However, if you look at the general theme, you might notice a few patterns that you can use for your life.
Look At Your Life Experiences. Where Do You Lead?
This is a good place to start, have you lead anything else in your life. Maybe you were a sports captain in High School, or you led a small group at church. Anything, where you have led in the past, is viable. Write all of these instances down. It’ll help you a lot in the next step.
Look At Your Skill Set? How Do You Lead?
Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or both? Do you communicate well with others? Do you have trouble taking criticism? These are all things you should look at. Write these down and compare them to the other list. What things have you done and enjoyed that cover both lists? These are areas you can focus on to become a leader.
This is a simple way I organize myself, but it isn’t the only way. If you’ve got a better way, please utilize it. You can also take a strengths finder test. When you take this test it’ll give you the top 5 areas you can grow in leadership. Click Here to take the test. I’m unable to post the price here because I’ve seen it change and I’d rather not steer you wrong.
The strengths finder can help focus you into leadership roles you might’ve otherwise passed up. I’ve taken the test a couple of times, and every time it’s given me great direction.
Qualities Of A Leader: Focus On Team Health
Remember Leadership Should Come Naturally, so the best way for you to lead. Is to find areas where you excel. For example, a few years ago I wanted to give back to my community. So I became a snowboard instructor teaching elementary students how to shred. It was an awesome experience and I’ll do it again next year.
When you lead in an area you excel, it takes some of the pressure off. This is because you already know what you’re doing. This makes you more comfortable and it’s easier for others to relate to you.
Leadership Is Never About Being Right.
I can’t stress this enough, but leadership is never about being right. When you lead you need to focus on the people around you, and the problems you’re facing. I’m not saying don’t worry about the metrics, but when a team is focused and motivated. Those things take care of themselves. I posted above and I’ll probably post this again:
As a leader, the glory belongs to the team, and any failure is yours. Own It.Elijah Sterling
Being right is a focus of managers, and micromanaging. If you remember managers don’t focus on their people, and that causes them problems. When this happens, you have lost your ability to lead, and you lose the respect of your team. You might still be the ‘leader’, but that’ll be only in name. Many managers stay in this spot, never moving forward or going deeper. It’s a major reason that people hate working on teams.
Qualities Of A Leader: Have Foresight
A few years back a friend of mine asked me to help her move on a Saturday. That is never my first choice for things to do on a Saturday. Some friends and I showed up the morning of the move and discovered she hadn’t even begun to pack.
She led us to believe everything was boxed up, or maybe I’d assumed. She didn’t have any boxes. We just stood there in her entryway. Our heads on a swivel. I’m pretty sure we looked worried as we wondered how long this was going to take.
Qualities Of A Leader: Get Their Team Whatever They Need To Succeed.
If you’re in leadership, the people on your team expect you to do your job well. Especially if it slows them down or affects them negatively. So leaders have to be people who look ahead. Try to visualize what problems could arise and have a plan or option to remedy them.
When I was in college, I became a valet to earn money. I ran the busiest days at my hotel and did it with fewer valets than anybody. Because of this, my team earned more money, and they all wanted to work with me.
How did I accomplish this?
- I looked ahead and adjusted for every scenario. After doing it for 2 years, I’d pretty much-seen everything that could happen.
- I cross-trained my entire crew. They could even do my job without me. Essentially I trained myself out of a job.
- I only allowed the best and most motivated to work the busy shifts with me. Those spots had to be earned.
My valet team had some of the best people I’ve ever worked with, including one of my best friends. We were like family and knew what each other needed without speaking. It helped that we worked together every Sunday for 3 years.
Epic Leadership Retains Workers
In every position of leadership that I’ve held, there’s always been an issue with retention. At least when I first take over. I make that the first problem to solve. Strong leaders will inspire the people around and below them, and that will give them a reason to stay.
People run from bad leadership, in the past, I’ve done the same thing.
Qualities Of A Leader: Build Respect
Something I have to keep in mind when I lead is to be humble. Realize you’re not God’s gift to this company, organization, and team. Other people can do your job, and some of them can probably do it better.
When you get put in charge and you walk into the room to meet your team. Make sure you do it with humility. You have no idea what the last Project lead was like to them, and you don’t know what’s going on in their lives. Relax, and get to know them.
Then after time goes on, you’ll be able to develop a rapport with them.
Qualities Of A Leader: They Hold People Accountable
Until now I’ve been going over the feel-good items of leadership. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to it as well. Sometimes as a leader you’ll have to hold people accountable, and how you do it will affect the way your team views you. There are a couple of different ways I’ve held people accountable. Here are the three I’ve noticed.
The Weak Leader:
This is the leader who is too scared of their place to do anything. One of their workers keeps showing up late, and the entire crew notices. Instead of confronting the issue, they have a “talk” with them, but never bring up the issue.
When a leader won’t discipline their subordinates, it causes a breakdown in discipline and respect. I’ve been here before, it isn’t pretty.
The Overly Strong Leader:
This is the leader who has something to prove. Maybe they were weak at one time and decided to swing the pendulum the other way. I don’t know, but they tend to discipline for any and every infraction.
We’ve all worked for leaders with characteristics like this, and it makes going to work a pain, and it makes projects difficult to finish. this is because you don’t know if it’s up to par with the manager.
Don’t be this manager. When you’re intense, it stifles creativity, and you are pushing your team out the door. I’ve had experience doing this type too. I had to quell a mutiny once by apologizing for being a dick.
The Quality Leader Who Gets It:
This is the leader who understands that life happens, but at the same time, He/She won’t be taken advantage of. This is a balance of the previous two types and the leadership style you should be striving for. Yes, people should be held accountable, but sometimes things happen, and you should be understanding of that.
Then there are those people who always have a story, make sure you listen to the story before disciplining them. It’s always a good yarn.
The Negative Side Of Leadership Is Manipulation
Earlier in this post, I told you that leadership is neither positive nor negative. However, when leadership turns into manipulation it becomes negative. At that point, it is no longer leadership.
Spotting manipulation can be difficult, mainly because it’s defined by intent. The intent of another person can be masked, so it’s harder to identify.
I used to struggle with this because I was prideful. Now I’ll notice a few things in my behavior when I’m going down that road.
- I stop caring for what my team needs.
- My team will be exhausted, and they’re usually ornery at me. (mainly because I don’t encourage or help as much.)
- Team building time goes way down, and I focus on other things, like metrics (I hate that word).
These are warning signs that I use, but they could be for you as well. Maybe you’ve noticed other things in your life that you use as road signs. Comment below if you’d like to add anything.
To Sum Up This Post On The Qualities Of A Leader
- Managers are assigned, but leaders are grown.
- Your personality doesn’t matter as much as you think, but use it when you lead.
- Have a good idea of your skill level. Use your team to balance you.
- Great Leaders Always Communicate With Their Teams
- It’s Never About Being Right
- You Should Always Plan Ahead, And For Every Contingency, You Can Think Of.
- Leaders Hold Their People Accountable
I hope you liked this post. Comment below if I missed anything or if there’s a topic you’d like me to cover. I’ll be posting more on this topic in the future.
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