I remember my first leadership role in the business world as if it was yesterday. I was twenty-five and overseeing a manufacturing and distribution company with forty employees.
I thought I was prepared for this leadership position. I had studied leadership concepts and strategies in college and I have a degree to support my claims. Little did I know leadership has more to do with personal engagement and less to do with learning strategies and theories from sitting in a classroom or reading a blog or book.
I quickly realized during my first year that leading people in a work environment was not as easy as though it would be. Though I had taken several management/leadership classes in college, read leadership books and research studies, they did not properly prepare me for the real world of leadership.
I went through a lot of bumps and bruises my first year, but I learned a lot about leadership that I did not learn in school. I quickly learned that leadership is not about position, but it is the ability to influence the efforts of others to pursue a desired vision or goal.
I thought about all the leadership qualities I have studied and read over the last twenty years. I thought about the characteristics of leaders who have influenced my life up close and from a distance. After much thought and contemplation, I came up with ten invaluable leadership qualities that every leader should possess to live out his leadership potential.
10 Invaluable Leadership Qualities
A vision is a clear mental picture of who you want to become and what you desire to do at a set time in the future. A vision is the ingredient that launches a leader out of his place of stagnation and into forward action.
A leader with a vision knows precisely what he wants and makes it clear to those connected to him. Not only does he speak and dream about his vision, he writes it out in detail, formulates a plan and takes daily action. A leader understands that, without a vision, he won’t live up to his full potential.
An attentive leader understands that communication gives life to a vision. You cannot get those connected to your leadership to share in the vision if it is not plainly communicated. If you want others to follow your lead, then communication is your ally.
A good communicator aims to make sure his message is understood. It does little good for a leader to have a strong vision with specific goals, if he has not easily and effectively conveyed his ideas to the people connected to it. When you communicate your vision often, you encourage people to participate in the process.
Listening is a lost art. People spend more time forming what they want to say rather than listening. Listening is as important as talking and an effective leader listens more than he talks.
An engaged leader listens intently because he is concerned for what the other person has to contribute. When a leader listens, it enhances his ability to lead others in a positive and productive way. If the leader refuses to listen, he inhibits his leadership ability and disengages those he leads.
Without a clear focus, a leader can easily get sidetracked and end up in places he never desired to go. A focused leader is locked in to where he wants to go and he lets nothing or no one derail his progress.
If you are not sure of where you are going, how can those connected to you be sure? You must be a leader with a strong focus and an unwavering desire to stay the course.
A good leader can be counted on to take responsibility for his actions. He does not shuffle the blame to someone else to escape the consequences. He understands the buck stops with him.
A responsible leader stands firmly behind his commitments and tries his best not to disappoint those connected to him. When things get difficult or failure happens, he does not assign blame to deflect from himself. He steps up, faces his challenges and confronts them head-on.
Leaders must possess a level of competence that enables them to get the job done. A competent leader is not created overnight; he is built over a period of time.
Competence goes beyond the leader’s words. It’s the leader’s ability to speak, plan and execute in such a way that others realize he knows his business. If a leader does not know how to do something, he should be humble enough to admit it. He should display a competent attitude by finding someone who knows what to do to ensure the job is done the best way it can be done.
The best way for a leader to build credibility and gain respect is to lead by example. Do not just talk about what you want people to do; demonstrate the attitude and behavior you want them to emulate.
If you demand that people give their best, you should reciprocate by giving your best. Aligning your words with the appropriate actions builds trust and makes people more enthusiastic to follow you. Do not expect people to do what you won’t do.
A secure leader sees a large part of his leadership responsibility is to develop and empower others. He empowers them to take responsibility for their own actions and not blame others. He is not threatened by others’ influence, gifts or abilities. He recognizes others’ value, so he continually invests in them to help them reach their full leadership potential.
Empowering people takes a personal investment. It requires energy, effort and time. The fruit of a leader’s effort is the privilege of seeing someone move to a higher level in their leadership.
People are often seeking someone to guide and inspire them. The leader needs to be that person. A key leadership trait is bringing out the best in others so they are willing to assume roles of leadership and responsibility.
The best leaders inspire others to grasp their leadership potential beyond what they believe they are capable of doing. These leaders have an inherent ability, through their own energy and enthusiasm, to inspire others to strive for excellence rather than settle for mediocrity.
A great leader takes action. He does not sit around talking about and wishing for what he wants to do. He does not waste valuable time seeking others’ permission to act on his vision. He knows the only way to move forward is to take action.
A powerful vision with great plans and detailed written goals does not negate action. A responsible leader does not wait for a magical seven-step strategy or a special no-fail formula to take action. He establishes his plans, sets specific goals and then goes to work.
Implementing these ten invaluable leadership qualities will take your life to another level and influence others to maximize their leadership potential.
Question: What leadership qualities do you need to implement to take your life to another level?
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