One of the most popular questions I get asked is ‘What are the qualities that I look for in a leader‘. What are the skills, and traits that I think leaders need to have that will help them become great leaders?
When I am asked this type of question my first reaction is ‘what kind of leader I would want to work for, what are the qualities that allow me to thrive,‘ because that’s really the ultimate test.
Here are the 7 things I look for in a leader that I think would give me the right environment to be successful and to develop my own leadership skills further. And before you ask command and control aren’t amongst them.
One of the keys to success is having clarity over the goals and the objectives, and I believe that a leader who can bring clarity to a situation is going to help his team be more effective by having them focused on the right things, have all of them pulling in the same direction.
Leadership is not always easy, sometimes it involves saying no. No this isn’t possible. No this is not the right thing to do. No, I need resources. Leaders need to stand up for what their teams needs, and sometimes this is not what the senior management wants to hear. But it has to be said if you want to set your teams up for success. It easy the easy way out to just agree or accept less than you need, but it is also the first step on the road to failure. Good leaders know this and they have the courage to take a stand and ask for what they need.
Success is not an easy road, and leaders need to show faith and be committed to the journey. If a leader is not committed, then why should their team members be. There are always many people who want to turn back, or give up, when the going gets tough but leaders remain committed to the goal. Yes they can be flexible about the approach, especially as new information comes in but they remain committed to the goal.
Whilst it’s true that leaders need to be tough, they also need to show compassion. They need to be supportive of others who are having a tough time, they need to take care of those that are under their command. They have to understand the limitations of their teams and work to cover them not expose them. They also need to understand the need for work-life balance in order to get the best out of their teams without burning them out.
Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street. As well as being clear and concise in their communication ensuring that everyone understands the goals, and the plans to achieve them. They also know that they need to listen. Listening shows respect to your teams, it helps increase their involvement, and consequently, their commitment. Given that the troops on the front line probably have a better understanding of what is going on, you will perhaps learn something valuable too.
Consistency is a quality that often gets overlooked, or that people don’t think has great value. But let me tell you, once you have worked for a leader who is inconsistent, you will appreciate consistency very highly. With inconsistent bosses, it is hard to predict what they will do, what they are looking for. One day a piece of work might be thought of as great, then next terrible, this kind of behavior can breed doubt into your teams and have them second-guessing themselves, which then impacts their effectiveness. Leaders also need to be consistent in how they treat everyone, got to play fair with everyone and not play favourites. All of this helps build trust and trust is a key cornerstone of leadership
Leaders have a duty to develop their teams, to help build their skills and coaching is the best way to do this. You have to share your knowledge, give guidance, and provide opportunities for people to gain experience. You have to push people out of their comfort zones, cajole them into taking risks and trying new things. Coaching also includes creating a safe environment where, if people try and fail, you help them learn from their failure, in order to be better next time.
These seven qualities are something that I look for, and value in leaders. Because I know that they will create an environment that will challenge me to be better, but one that will also support me on that journey.