Leadership is a complex process that involves constant thinking and careful planning. There are various leadership styles (seven main categories are commonly identified) that are chosen according to a leader’s personality and workplace culture.
However, regardless of industry or leadership style, all successful leaders are known to possess three golden attributes. These traits define leadership in its purest form, aimed at guiding and empowering followers with great effectiveness.
Great leaders are highly self-aware of their thoughts, actions, and reactions. These individuals possess great control over their emotions at the workplace. This enables leaders to identify common triggers (e.g. the careless oversights of employees) that set them off and knowing how to avoid or defuse such situations with ease.
These individuals are professionals of the highest order. Self-aware leaders are capable of making rational decisions by weighing the consequences of each reaction before settling on the best outcome for everyone. This also means handling each conflict through an objective stance and drawing the line between personal feelings and the needs of the organisation.
Leaders can improve self-awareness by recognising their personal strengths and weaknesses. This means being comfortable with admitting to mistakes in the presence of employees. As such, the strongest leaders are always willing to acknowledge their emotions rather than bottling them away.
Additionally, leaders should constantly seek feedback from mentors, staff, and peers, to gain greater insight into a situation. Perspectives abound in a dynamic workplace and a self-aware leader understands the limitations of a one-dimensional viewpoint. They know that the opinions and suggestions of others can help draw their attention to “blind spots”, which might prove advantageous to the organisation.
Self-awareness is an integral aspect of emotional intelligence, which serves as a necessary ingredient in the sturdiest employee-worker relationships. Self-aware leaders are constantly challenging themselves, leading to high-performance. They are also known for being role models. These individuals are likelier to motivate and engage employees, leading to lowered turnover rates.
Feedback may be received from various channels, ranging from 360-degree reviews to meeting debriefs, and frequent check-ins.
These leaders are likely to accept a multi-varied reality, where each individual is appreciated for their uniqueness and specific contributions. As such, employees are highly respected and treated as people rather than units of work.
Self-awareness may be considered the adhesive that holds together the other golden traits of successful leaders. It acts as the compass that guides leaders through quality decision-making to provide the greatest positive impact.
It is crucial to note that self-awareness is an ongoing process. It is not a destination but a lifelong journey improved through constant self-reflection and humility. According to organizational development coach Kate Price, “your perception of the world is a reflection of your state of consciousness and as such you are responsible for creating the world you want to live and work in.”
Surrounded by the Right Company
Successful leaders are always surrounded by the right people. Motivational speaker and author Jim Rohn once shared that you are the average of the five people that you spend most of your time with. Leaders will find themselves stagnant if they are always in the company of negative and unmotivated individuals.
In contrast, leaders are likely to thrive if they associate themselves with success stories, such as leaders better than themselves. There are many priceless lessons to be gleaned from people who have made it. This includes past mistakes and adopting methods that have been proven to work.
Good leaders are also known to receive strong support and encouragement from people around them. This means receiving the occasional push when they feel jaded and directionless. The right people will help leaders reconnect with themselves when they feel like they have been derailed from their focus.
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a pillar of strength and support for Queen Elizabeth during the earliest years of her reign. The elderly statesman knew more about running a country than the young queen could understand. The pair worked well together, resolving countless national crises over the years.
While the queen was the head of state, Churchill never shied away from disagreements between them. He was known to openly challenge the queen’s decisions and provided moral support when she had self-doubts.
The special relationship between Churchill and the queen is a fine example of how a leader is refined through associating themselves with someone more knowledgeable and popular (Churchill was by then a celebrated war hero) than themselves. Such bonds enable the transfer of real-world experiences that are more impactful than other modes of leadership training.
It is also necessary for leaders to remain unthreatened and non-hostile during their relationships with mentors who are more accomplished than the leaders themselves. This offers two major benefits: establishing an approachable persona and being perceptive toward learning and development for the most fulfilling experience.
Leadership advisor Carol Sankar shared, “True mentors want to see you win. Mentorship is an in-kind donation of time in good faith. Great mentors want to ensure you prosper as well.”
A good and reliable mentor might be difficult to locate in the flesh. Leaders may consider the alternative of downloading podcasts and motivational videos of thought leaders in their field. These resources can help create a remote bond with successful individuals, forming an indirect mentorship.
Good leaders are willing to hire beyond their comfort zones. This means exceeding their usual restrictions of academic achievements and professional experience. Overqualified individuals may be the next star hires who will push leaders and organisations toward the next level of achievement.
Great organisational leaders should surround themselves with experts who possess the competencies that they lack. This challenges leaders to always learn, step up, and keep up. On the other hand, leaders surrounded by less successful people company are likely to become complacent, gradually compromising their decision-making and management skills.
A successful leader focuses on the strengths of others and themselves to achieve dynamic results. Gallup studies have shown that strength-engagement has a greater positive effect than the focus on eliminating weaknesses. The workplace model has led to improved productivity in the workplace and greater staff satisfaction.
Good leaders understand that employees are the greatest asset in the organisation. They know that it is important to keep workers engaged and satisfied with their roles by providing appreciation and a strong sense of purpose towards their contributions.
Gallup research has shown that the popular metric of employee satisfaction is insufficient at gauging productivity levels. For long-lasting results, leaders should integrate strengths-engagement as a part of their overall organisational strategy. This means that successful leaders create engaged work cultures where employees can connect personal values with organisational missions.
Good leaders understand the importance of creating passion-driven and positive work environments for workers all-year-round. Additionally, great leaders are unlikely to display a sense of authority. They understand and appreciate the unique strengths and strategies of each individual.
As such, these leaders are willing to provide the best support and resources that complement the strengths of their employees. This results in an energised and inspired workforce always prepared to go the extra mile for their organisations.
Good Leadership vs Great Leadership
Slight changes in leadership techniques can lead to significant organisational improvements. Here is a breakdown of some common characteristics between good and great leadership.
- Reacts swiftly towards a situation.
- Willing to share knowledge and expertise.
- Surrounded by less successful individuals.
- Focuses on eliminating weaknesses.
- Reacts to a situation upon assessing the best outcome for everyone.
- Willing to engage in mutual learning opportunities with workers.
- Spends valuable time with superiors in various competencies to improve self-motivation and development.
- Engages strengths to bring out the best in themselves and their employees.
5 Things to be Done as a Leader
Ultimately, a great leader is not simply a manager. It is necessary to consider the longevity of the organization as well as short-term goals. There are five things that leaders can do to make a positive impact in the workplace with noticeable results.
- Improve self-awareness. Dig deep, engage the inner voice, and ask for consistent feedback from people around you. A leader with strong self-control can achieve great things and create lasting relationships.
- Identify strengths and weaknesses. Apply the concept to the self before extending the process to the entire organisation. This can be honed with daily practices of self-reflection.
- Find a mentor while aiming to become one. We learn the best when we teach as it exposes us to fresh perspectives. Two-way learning processes will speed up the development of your leadership skills.
- Create an engaged workplace. Assessment tools such as CliftonStrengths (Clifton StrengthsFinder) can help identify the strengths of your staff and suggest the best mode of engagement.
- Be Consistent. Sometimes, the biggest challenge lies in staying on track. The best leaders should have the self-discipline to maintain their workplace culture despite all obstacles.
StrengthsAsia has helped many individual and corporate clients all throughout the region in empowering leaders by enabling breakthrough experiences for both leaders and followers. If you want to learn more about the Strengths Leadership Program, feel free to reach out to us here.