In this article I’m continuing with my review of the key characteristics of great leaders. Here are some additional qualities that embody superior leadership.
Great leaders surround themselves with greatness. They actively seek out the best possible people and hire them to fill all key positions within their organizations. Great leaders know that surrounding themselves with excellence is a direct reflection on their own character, abilities, and effectiveness as leaders. They understand that their own success and the success of their organizations depend mostly on hiring and promoting the best qualified, ethical, skilled, responsible, mature, and productive people and giving them the proper resources, authority, and freedom to do what’s needed for the long-term benefit of their companies. Great leaders do not feel threatened by anyone lower in the chain of command who’s smarter, better educated, more productive, or more popular than they are. They respect the greatness and unique abilities of the individuals they lead and encourage them to continually flourish and grow.
Great leaders are optimists and realists. They are individuals who always look at life with a great deal of hope and optimism, and yet remain staunch realists who face life’s challenges head on and don’t shy away from adversity and hardships. Great leaders are great dreamers and visionaries, but with their feet firmly planted on the ground. They embrace truth and live in reality. They deal with things as they really are, not as they would like them to be. Great leaders have an infectious optimism that inspires and reassures their followers. They are not easily fooled by phony individuals or taken in by bogus schemes and unrealistic dreams. When meeting them one is struck about how clearly they see reality, yet how focused and optimistic they can remain in the face of adversity, uncertainty, and turmoil.
Great leaders earn the respect of their followers, they don’t demand it. A cornerstone of true leadership is evidenced by the voluntary submission of followers to the leader’s authority. Most great leaders have reached positions of prominence by virtue of their actual experience, knowledge, and leadership abilities, not due to schmoozing, luck, cronyism, longevity, abusing or manipulating others, or by virtue of avoiding controversy or failing to “rock the boat.” They are individuals who people respect because not only can they get the job done, but they also know what they’re talking about. Great leaders’ integrity, character, and abilities continually earn the respect, love, and trust of their followers. When great leaders speak people listen and obey, not because they have to, but because they want to.
Great leaders reward, recognize, and promote the best. They understand that a company’s most valuable asset is its employees. Acting on that belief great leaders strive to hire the best employees for their organizations and insure those individuals reach their full potential. They nurture and recognize excellence in their employees and continually aim to fairly and proportionality reward and actively promote those that contribute to the long-term success and profitability of the business. Great leaders know that hugs, plaques, and awards are wonderful ways to acknowledge employees, but nothing says thank you more eloquently than giving them a promotion or writing them a check or rewarding them in another substantive way that is financially meaningful to the individual.
Great leaders have character, integrity, and courage. They exemplify a solid moral foundation in both their words and their actions. Their management style and decisions demonstrate an unwavering consistency and integrity in practicing what they preach and speaking truthfully even when it’s not expedient or beneficial to them personally. Great leaders stand up for what they believe in and have the courage to defend their principles and their people even when it would be easier to cave in and compromise. They are not afraid to challenge lies and falsehoods, take action to deal with incompetence and evil, and defend those who are doing what’s right and needed for the long-term benefit of their organization and their employees. Great leaders have the courage to do what is right and ethical despite the pressures to be cowardly, silent, or complacent. Cowards, fence sitters, enablers, and those who believe in political correctness never make for good leaders.
Great leaders embody proper humility. They are genuine individuals who let the content of their character and leadership abilities speak for themselves. Great leaders do not boast about their accomplishments, abilities, and intelligence, nor justify their mistakes. They are not condescending towards those they lead or their peers. Great leaders are genuine, friendly, and steadfast in their dealings with others. They are just as quick to say ‘thank you’ when praised, as to say ‘I’m sorry’ when wrong. Great leaders give proper credit where credit is due and always take responsibility for their actions. They strive to recognize their employees for all organizational successes and take most of the blame for any failures or mistakes. They are open to and actively encourage constructive and substantive criticism. Great leaders purposely surround themselves with people of character, courage, and integrity whom they empower to speak and act in order to insure the same leadership ethos permeates the entire organization and outlasts their tenures.
Part I: Key Characteristics of Great Leaders – Part I