10 Essential Leadership Qualities

“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”  — Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa

The best definition of leadership is the act of motivating other people toward a common goal. Good leaders should build a vision, set clear goals and directions, and map a dynamic path forward for their team or group. Leaders showcase a strong personality, and maintain strong interpersonal skills. This allows them to efficiently inspire others to follow their desired path.

Great leaders are able to make people believe that they are part of a higher purpose, an unified purpose. Whether it is a ‘magic skill’ or ‘brilliant flair,’ whatever it is, the secret sauce of inspired leadership is hard to deconstruct. And, to that end, here are 10 time tested leadership qualities –

1. Integrity

It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity you will never be one.” – Zig Ziglar

The importance of integrity can never be over-emphasized, regardless of one’s designation. However, it becomes even more important in the case of top-executives who chart the course of any organisation, and are responsible for numerous strategic decisions. Thus, leaders who wish to inspire their team for a higher purpose, need to establish integrity as a non-negotiable.

2. Delegation

 “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.“-George S Patton.

Leaders often struggle with delegating effectively. However, delegation remains an important leadership skill to master. The aim of delegation, contrary to what you might think isn’t just to free yourself up. But, rather it also allows space for those in your care to grow. It also facilitates teamwork, provide autonomy, and leads to better decision-making. It remains imperative toward establishing trust with your employees.

3. Communication

Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”— Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp

Effective leaders know when to talk and, more importantly, when to listen. Good communication allows you to share information, while also effectively setting expectations. While, active listening shows that you care by making space for your employees’ opinions, ideas, and feed-forward. The way to go about it is to engage people in conversation, stay attentive, pose questions, invite them to elaborate, and take notes whenever possible.

In addition, you must learn to efficiently handle the rapid information flow within, and from outside the organisation. Be it among customers, partners, employees, or the wide range of external vendors and remote based teams. The quality of your communication directly affects the outcome of your business strategy. 

4. Self-awareness and humility

Humility is not about having a low self-image or poor self-esteem. Humility is about self-awareness.” – Erwin McManus

Good leaders are always aware of their emotional state and use this awareness as a tool to to inspire, motivate, and challenge followers. The better a leader is able to recognise his own strengths and weaknesses, the more effective he gets. A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity.

Recognising the areas you excel at, as well as the areas you struggle in, is vital to self-awareness and practising humility. Understanding your own identity helps you shape your interactions with others. As a leader, you need to be careful not to build a wall around that prevents people from reaching out, when and if they need to.

5. Gratitude 

The deepest need in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. “– William James

Gratitude is an underrated life skill. It allows you to show appreciation for the people behind your organisation’s success. Acknowledging the contribution your team members make can help inspire them to do even better. Good leaders are often remembered for the success of their teams, and not just personal achievements. 

6. Influence

The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”– Ken Blanchard

A good leader should have the ability to persuade and convince people through logical, emotional, or cooperative appeals. You may have an idea to sell, a process to endorse, a change to implement, or an opportunity to pursue. Skillful influencing can align the efforts of others towards your objective, build commitment to the work, and enable enhanced agility and productivity.

7. Learning agility/Strategic thinking

Learning agility is the willingness and ability to learn, de-learn, and relearn. Limitations on learning are barriers invented by humans.” – Pearl Zhu

Learning agility is the ability of a leader to know what best to do in unforeseen or unexpected circumstances. Having steady nerves in a crisis cannot be underestimated, but can be learned. In a rapidly changing world, where businesses and even entire industries are routinely disrupted and upended, learning-agile high potentials with resilience are the need of the hour. Leaders should be quick to face these challenges, because adaptiveness and creative problem-solving are critical leadership skills they need for the future.

8. Empathy

Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey

Being empathetic allows leaders to build and develop relationships with those they lead and help struggling employees improve and excel. Effective empathy and inclusion can increase the willingness of the employees to invest more effort and energy in the workplace by bringing about a sense of belonging and loyalty. 

9. Courage

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”-Winston Churchill

A courageous leader guides and steers his employees without suppressing creativity. They lead by example, and they stand at the helm of the company, giving everyone behind them confidence to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Rather than avoiding problems or allowing conflicts to escalate, courage enables leaders to step up and move things in the right direction.

10. Respect

Respect is the key determinant of high-performance leadership. How much people respect you determines how well they perform. – Brian Tracy

Respect and leadership go hand in hand. Recognizing the inherent worth and value of the other person, and honoring that inherent worthiness in our words, actions and behaviors is one of the most important things that a leader can do. Treating people with respect on a daily basis will ease tensions and conflict, create trust, and improve effectiveness.

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