“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Dianne had always felt like more of a wallflower than a leader. However, she had mastered her current role in her publishing company and really wanted to get promoted to a higher-level position.
To get there, she knew she had to focus on growing her leadership skills. She began working with an executive coach who gave her weekly exercises to do in order to hone those abilities. Within a couple of months, her boss had remarked about her growing leadership competencies and suggested she might be a prime candidate for a directorial position one day.
What do great leaders do? They instill feelings of confidence and motivate their workers. Many people struggle to understand how they can achieve the same results.
Here’s the good news: If you have the motivation, you absolutely can master the necessary skills to become a star leader.
Some people are born with an inherent ability to get others to follow them. However, charisma isn’t the only trait of a great leader. A lot of the personality traits that make for highly effective leaders are built on a solid foundation of emotional maturity and drive.
Here are the most essential traits that great leaders have. If you want to aspire toward a career in leadership, work toward building and developing these characteristics.
- Great leaders have Integrity.
Leaders’ honesty and ability to follow a set of ethics in all of their work affects their ability to influence their followers. Demonstrate your integrity by keeping your word and showing that the human element of what you do matters more than anything else. Set and maintain strong corporate responsibility guidelines, if you’re in a position to make such decisions. Your employees will be proud to work at a firm that takes social responsibility seriously.
- Great leaders have Intelligence.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but great leaders should be able to think critically and solve problems. Emotional intelligence is an important trait, too. Great leaders get results by working effectively with others and building strong relationships with the people they supervise. Keep an open mind when it comes to problem-solving. Seeking a range of input will increase the overall intelligence you have to work with.
- Great leaders have high energy.
Leadership requires enormous drive, hard work, good stress-management skills, and enthusiasm. Find ways to recharge during your downtime and destress your life, so you can maintain the optimistic outlook and drive it takes to succeed as a leader.
- Great leaders bring stability.
Being in control of emotions that are disruptive to others is another critical component of being a great leader. Find a relaxation technique that helps you maintain calm within the storm when difficult situations arise. If you tend to get anxious or angry easily, make a habit of not responding immediately to emails or phone calls that spark those emotions. Take a few moments to re-center first.
- Great leaders have high standards.
Great leaders set high professional standards for themselves as well as their employees. They remind themselves of the standards they want to meet and the image they want to create on a daily basis. The needs of the organization and its employees are their top priority. In many ways, a great leader is self-sacrificing. They’re willing to have tough conversations and take on demanding work for the sake of the greater good.
- Great leaders have a strong inner voice.
Using gut instincts and reasoning, great leaders are able to quickly assimilate information and arrive at a conclusion. They trust their intuition and allow it to guide their decisions. While they often seek additional input, they’re not usually starting at square one.
- Great leaders are confident in their decisions.
Great leaders know that the choices they make are the best ones, and they don’t hesitate to make tough decisions, even if that means having to fire someone. They can confidently explain the rationale behind their choices, maintaining transparency. They are also capable of mitigating damage in the event of a bad choice, knowing they’re not infallible.
- Great leaders invest in their own growth.
By keeping abreast of new developments in leadership methods, great leaders can ensure that they will continue to serve as a valuable resource to their company. They strive to read up on new techniques and approaches, and to brush up on them with leadership skills trainings.
Knowing what makes a boss or leader great is not enough. You must also take steps to put your knowledge into action. For instance, you can grow your confidence by building a support team and challenging yourself to take smaller risks. If you’re an aspiring leader, take a few minutes right now to list the steps you will take this week to become a stronger leader. Or, if you’re a manager working to grow your people’s leadership qualities, prompt them to list those steps for themselves.
As an executive coach, Joel Garfinkle is an expert at helping promising employees develop leadership qualities. Contact him to learn more about his executive coaching services.
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” —Vince Lombardi
Renae Asks: I’m trying to use my time wisely, and that means being strategic in the leadership training opportunities I pursue, as well as the ones I set up for the team I manage. Which qualities would you say are most necessary for people to develop if they wish to become key leaders in their organization?
Joel Answers: Let’s start by demystifying what leadership actually means. It’s the ability to influence followers in order to meet organizational goals through change. That’s something you absolutely have the capacity to do—and you can help every one of your star employees learn to do it, too.
To many, leadership is an elusive role. Some people seem to have a natural talent for leading, while others struggle to grasp how to do it.
Great leaders are not necessarily born, however. Often there’s a lot of self-defeating behavior to overcome. Anyone with the motivation to lead can develop core leadership qualities.
Great leaders play multiple roles inside of an organization. You need to explore what these roles involve in order to analyze areas of weakness. These roles and responsibilities include:
- Decision-making roles, which involve innovating ideas, instituting change, resolving conflict, and allocating company resources such as payroll and inventory.
- Interpersonal roles, such as leading a team, representing the company to the outside world, and acting as a liaison.
- Informational roles, involving gathering information to uncover problems and opportunities, delegating tasks, and reporting to a boss or board of directors.
Poor leadership can lead a company to failure. By contrast, McKinsey & Company is an organization that demonstrates the benefits of developing leaders who stand out. Many executives trained by McKinsey go on to become leading executives at major companies, more so than for any other firm.
In a great business leadership training program, a motivational speaker will share valuable advice like these 5 key tips on developing the qualities of a great leader.
- As a leader know when to step back.
Sometimes being a great leader means knowing when to let people do their jobs. Micromanaging your staff wastes company resources and frustrates employees. A good boss empowers employees to make their own decisions and do their jobs in the way they deem best.
- Make yourself available as a leader.
Leaders can’t afford to be aloof. Showing their staff that they care is an essential component of the ability to influence. Celebrate success, praise and reward a job well done, and let them know that they matter.
- Leaders focus on the vision.
A great leader remembers the fundamentals and keeps their team tuned into the elements of success. They keep everyone focused on fulfilling the company’s core vision rather than getting off course. Leaders must “keep their eyes on the ball” and not lose sight of the bottom line.
- Great leaders nurture their people’s growth.
Ask them what matters to them; what goals they’ve set for themselves. If they have trouble with goal-setting, walk them through it. Be the coach and mentor your people have been looking for, and they’ll be eternally grateful for your support. A great motivational training will help you supercharge their growth, too!
- Leaders don’t put off things that are hard.
If you have something difficult to do, do it first. Otherwise it will consume your mental energy and rob you of your productive time. Have the tough conversation; make that difficult decision. That way, you won’t be stewing about it, and you can move on.
To make your business more competitive and achieve organizational goals, encourage people in managerial roles to develop their leadership qualities. Great leaders who find deep fulfillment in their work will allow your whole business to reach new heights of success. A training on influential leadership will help you achieve that goal.
To instill great leadership qualities in your people, hire Joel Garfinkle. He’s been helping promising employees develop into star leaders for twenty years.
“Trust is a core currency of any relationship. Sometimes our need to control and micromanage everything erodes our confidence in ourselves and others. The truth: People are much more capable than we think. A hearty dose of trust is often what’s needed to unlock the magic. Go ahead, have faith.”
Client Gerald asks: Some of the employees I supervise really seem to self-sabotage at work a lot. It’s clearly coming from a lack of belief in themselves. How can I instill confidence in my employees to get the best results from my team?
Coach Joel answers: Glad you reached out for support, Gerald. Employees who feel confident about their abilities will drive an organization’s success. Meanwhile, those who don’t believe in themselves will settle for the safety of mediocrity. By instilling confidence, you’ll prime your employees to take worthwhile risks, thereby growing into even better performers.
- Focus on strengths
Focusing on strengths doesn’t just make employees feel good—it’s far more effective than targeting weaknesses, according to Gallup’s research. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give feedback about areas for improvement, but don’t fixate on them too much. When employees use their areas of strength, they’re six times more likely to be engaged at work as those who don’t, Gallup emphasizes.
- Be specific with your praise
When you give praise, make it abundantly clear what behavior you’re praising. Highlight key strengths that led to a project’s success, or observations about things that employees consistently do well. Better yet, give this praise in front of others so employees feel their visibility growing.
- Reduce stress in the workplace
As Chris Adalikwu says in How to Build Self Confidence, Happiness, and Health, stress can make people feel less capable, even if they’re fully equipped to handle the situation at hand. Lowering workplace stress will thus bolster employees’ confidence. Being more flexible about deadlines if need be, encouraging employees to leave work at work, and ensuring they have all the tools they need to get the job done are just a few ways to reduce workplace stress.
- Have a plan for building skills
Develop a plan for how to help employees reach the goals you’ve set together during your performance reviews. Otherwise, they may feel daunted about how to get there. Focus on incremental growth, helping them build skills gradually over a series of projects rather than all at once. Small successes will give them the courage to persevere.
- Coach them from the sidelines
If an employee feels daunted about taking on a challenging project, don’t just throw her into it and hope for the best. Instead, coach her from the sidelines. Check in often (but without micromanaging how she does things). Ask if she has questions or needs advice, so she knows it’s okay to feel confused or want feedback.
- Ask them for help
The four most powerful words you can use as a leader are “I need your help.” Say them often, whether you need help with a task, developing a new strategy, or helping the company through a transition.
- Model confident behavior
Some leaders strive to appear invulnerable, but that sets a poor example for everyone. Show your people that strong leaders have questions, need support from others, and solicit others’ advice. Ask for their opinions, and for their feedback on how you can be a better boss. In doing so, you’ll instill self-confidence in your employees and improve communication in the workplace.
As you implement these tips for building people’s confidence, you’ll see your team blossom. To further enhance their growth, consider hiring a motivational trainer who will work to thoroughly understand and address the challenges your people face.
Contact executive coach Joel for more support in growing as a leader so you’ll get the most from your people.
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Trevor wanted his people to be pillars of innovation and creativity. When he came to me for coaching around innovation, he mentioned how fearful his team was in taking risks and possibly touching failure. I asked him, “What are you doing to celebrate failures?” Like many leaders, he had no answer. We then looked at some fun ways that corporate leaders have learned to take their failures and celebrate them. In doing so, they help their most creative people to develop exciting new ideas.
Celebrating your failures is just as important as celebrating your success. Here’s some ideas for you.
- Hold an Idea Funeral
Holding an idea funeral is a fun way to learn from the failure as a group, as Annabel Acton says in an Inc. article. Take turns eulogizing the idea or project you’re “burying,” sharing lessons learned. Focus on its merits as well as the reasons it ultimately failed. This creates a culture of trying out new ideas and learning from the results. “Startup funerals” have taken off as well, as budding entrepreneurs are increasingly embracing failure as a stepping-stone to success.
- Create a Fail Wall
The finance website NerdWallet creates a “Fail Wall” where mistakes are posted, emphasizing that everyone fails and honoring outside-the-box thinking. Why not set up a “Fail Wall” in your own workplace? Give it a brightly colored banner and encourage people to write down their failures on post-it notes and stick them on the wall.
- Give a Heroic Failure award
Advertising company Grey gives a “Heroic Failure” award to employees who take ambitious risks and go down in flames. Giving this award changes the culture of feeling shame or humiliation if a risk doesn’t pan out. Rather than letting failure become part of people’s identity, they become branded as risk-takers.
- Hold a “F— Up Night”
In a popular social meetup event called “F— Up Nights,” a handful of entrepreneurs tell their stories about failure, followed by a Q&A session. These events been held in over 250 cities across 80 countries. Hold a similar event with your own people, encouraging everyone to take a turn at the mic. If it’s a hit, hold a series of them so everyone gets time to share and ask questions. Find a fun way to host the event outside of the office, like reserving a large room at a restaurant or finding a community space that hosts performances.
- Record What You’ve Tried
Keep a track record of failures, with detailed information about what people tried. Just as a failed cancer drug proved incredibly useful for managing the AIDS virus, a past failure can become a wild success in a different context. Take notes on why the idea failed—it might succeed under the right conditions, or if certain aspects of it are revamped.
It’s most fitting to celebrate failures related to innovation, rather than execution, Harvard Business Review points out. You want to celebrate the failures that show you took a leap. If someone failed to follow through on a task, you obviously won’t want to throw a party. If she gave her all in a new project and it just didn’t achieve the desired results, that’s different. Celebrating those kinds of failures will help your people learn to fail gracefully, growing from the experience.
Most importantly, stop thinking—and talking—in terms of “win/lose.” When you eliminate the shame around failure, and show it’s okay to be vulnerable, people can talk about it. That means they can learn from it, finding the germ of a great idea within it.
Want more advice on boosting creativity and innovation in your company? Hire leadership coach Joel Garfinkle so he can help you develop and implement ideas that get results.
“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.”
Tom had been working as a manager for almost a year. He was good at evaluating people’s performance, pointing out areas for improvement, and saying “thank you” often. To him, those were the things that a good boss did.
However, when Tom sat down with his mentor to talk about his progress, his mentor told him that those things are just the tip of the iceberg. “One of the hallmark qualities of a great boss is that he’s always striving to improve,” said his mentor. “Here are 5 tips on how to become a better boss. You’ll be the kind of boss who inspires tremendous loyalty, innovation, and respect from his people.”
- Inspires a Shared Vision
Hone your understanding of your organization’s vision. Talking in-depth about vision with company leaders will give you a better grasp of it. Even if you’re not a high-level leader, understanding how your department fits into the big picture will help you and your people excel. Then instill the vision in your people. At the beginning of a meeting, talk about how the project you’re presenting furthers the organization’s vision and mission. People will have a stronger grasp of their importance, and in turn, greater motivation, when they share the vision and goals.
- Be a Great PR Agent
To be a better boss, show how much you care about your people’s success. Sing your people’s praises in front of colleagues and superiors. This shows you’re committed to their advancement. Let them hear you giving praise, but don’t hold back if they’re out of earshot, either. If you speak highly of them in a private meeting with your own boss, mention it to them later. Your loyalty to them will increase their loyalty to you.
- Have Difficult Conversations
Embrace difficult conversations, seeing them as an opportunity for growth. A great boss is a pro at conflict resolution, and puts his mediation skills to the test if coworkers have a problem to resolve. When he’s talking to people about improving their performance, he keeps a positive focus. His coaching skills guide them toward a better understanding of how they can strengthen their work.Next time you see a difficult conversation on the horizon, ask yourself how you can make it a positive experience. Seize upon the opportunities for growth, and reflect on how you can act as a supportive coach rather than just calling out mistakes. If you want to learn more, read Practical Tactics for Crucial Communication.
- Help People Envision Their Future
Help your employees craft their career plans, envisioning the future of their dreams. An outstanding boss asks plenty of questions that help people figure out where they want to go in their careers. She shows she’s invested in her employee’s happiness. Her people look at her as a wise mentor rather than someone who’s there to criticize them.
- Focus on Work/Life Balance
Don’t assume that people will come to you to talk about problems with work/life balance. They may feel ashamed that they’re feeling burned out and stressed, or worried about your response. Check in with employees about their work/life balance regularly. If they’re having an issue, brainstorm solutions with them, being as accommodating as you can reasonably be.
Tom agreed to work on growing in these ways over the next several months. As time went on, people stopped seeing him as just a supervisor and started seeing him as a valued mentor and coach. Their trust and loyalty skyrocketed, and they felt encouraged to think creatively and take risks. Knowing they had a great boss behind them, they felt there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish together. With these tips on how to become a better boss, you’ll get there soon too, even if you’re not well on your way already!
Whether you’re an experienced boss or an aspiring one, reach out to Joel for Leadership Coaching Program.