“Good Leaders Are Made, Not Born,” said Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state, to a business school student audience.
Anyone who aspires to be a leader needs to understand that anyone can become a leader if they choose to be – and if they create a culture that inspires others.
There are many qualities that make a leader, and in some cases, it’s almost impossible to define exactly what characteristic makes someone a good leader. But here are five qualities that successful leaders possess — and you will notice that none of them pertains to innate talents, thus proving Colin Powell’s quote. With the right focus, anyone can ensure that they have these qualities, and that they can lead their team to success.
- Dedication: No one is going to follow a leader who doesn’t portray a strong sense of commitment to the cause. Whether you are leading a company or a division, it’s vital that you live out your belief in what you are asking others to do. That doesn’t mean a blind devotion but rather a genuine conviction that your company is the best at what it does. If you don’t believe it, no one else will.
- Team mentality: Are you asking your team to do things that you never would do? Employees can see right through that – and they resent it. Never ask someone at your company to do something that you yourself wouldn’t do. An inability to remember what it was like to be at the bottom rungs of a company is the opposite of leadership. Sure, you have moved beyond certain tasks. But a true leader has never moved “above them.”
- Focus: If you don’t know where you are going, how will your team? Leaders who constantly adopt new projects and focuses confuse the team they are leading…and lead them to believe that nothing is important. Make sure that you are clear on the goals, and impart those to your team so everyone is heading in the right direction.
- Camaraderie: Great leaders aren’t above their team; they’re with them. While you have to take care to not play favorites, or be too “buddy buddy” with your department, neither should you be so aloof that no one truly knows who you are. Take the time to get to know your employees. Engage them in social activities. Create a true team atmosphere where they believe that they truly are all on the same side working toward the same goals.
- Humility: No one likes a braggart, and particularly your team doesn’t! Have you ever worked for someone who took credit for everything? It’s incredibly demotivating to be the person working hard and have your boss claim your work or ideas as their own. The best way to inspire your team to want to work harder and smarter is if they know that you will pass on the accolades and truly acknowledge a team dynamic – crediting the team and not yourself.
As you can see, these traits are not easy, but they are also not impossible to achieve. If your goal is to lead, adopting these five characteristics will help ensure that you have a team who will willingly follow your leadership.
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