“Leadership is Action; Not Position” – Donald H. McGannon
This is one of my favorite quotes on leadership. Just because someone has a manager, vice-president or CEO after their name, doesn’t mean that they are a good leader. You probably know some of these people. There are also many people within organizations that have no title and are exceptional leaders. I hope you know some of these people as well.
So what does it take to be a great leader?
I often ask participants in leadership development programs to identify the characteristics of a good leader. This is usually a pretty easy activity. Some of the words they list on a flip chart include honesty, integrity, care about others, help employees, confident, positive attitude, charisma, ability to communicate their vision, inspiring, motivating, leading by example, creative and innovative.
Who do you know or know about that has all of these characteristics?
The answer is no one. No one has all of these qualities. Not all of these qualities are needed to be effective. But everyone can come up with a list of people who are good leaders and have some of these characteristics.
Below are five characteristics of a great leader that are at the top of my list to be a great leader; with or without a title:
- You can lead yourself first. You are clear about your personal and professional goals, can communicate that vision, are focused on continuous self-improvement, are willing to take criticism and receive feedback, choose a positive attitude every day, and can manage your emotions in all situations. You hold yourself accountable and make decisions with integrity. If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others.
- You can communicate your vision. Leaders must not only create the vision for the success of an organization but also identify the path to achieve those goals. If you are not able to clearly communicate that vision, you can’t lead a team to success. You take the time to make sure that your body language, your tone, and your words are working together to communicate your message.
- You leverage strengths. You have identified your own strengths as well as those of your team and know how to leverage those strengths for the best results. You recognize opportunities for improvement and balance tasks and responsibilities accordingly. You understand that you don’t have to be the “expert” in everything your team does and you allow others to shine.
- You exude confidence. You know how to be confident without being arrogant. People trust you because you are willing to make decisions and stand by them while also listening to others’ opinions. You stay calm in difficult situations and you focus on solving problems.
- You choose a positive attitude every day. You don’t always feel positive, but as Dr. Phil says:, “Behave your way to success.” There are days that you don’t feel like showing up, you don’t want to be positive, you don’t want to be professional. You put your feelings aside, shake them off, and choose to be positive anyway. You lead the energy and the attitude of your team.