6 Characteristics Of A Leader

A Guest Article

This is a post by Anne Baum. Anne is the Lehigh Valley Executive and Vice President for Capital BlueCross and the author of the Small Mistakes, Big Consequences series. She is passionate about sharing useful and easy to apply techniques to help people succeed.

There are millions of books and theories that teach leadership techniques and skills. Much can be learned from the experiences and concepts of other successful leaders, though there are six key concepts upon which a leader can focus, that are easy to remember, and can be used every day to achieve success.

The first concept relates to the job of a leader – when, most people describe the job of a leader using actions, e.g.: motivate the team, communicate well, define a vision. While all of these are skills that a leader must possess, their answers demonstrate how a leader succeeds. They are missing the concept that the job of a leader is to get results. It’s simple and straight forward and absolutely the primary job of a leader.  Remembering this, will help you keep you and your team focused on their purpose.

As a leader, it’s important to clearly understand and clearly communicate the results that you and your team are expected to achieve. How does this happen? It happens through open, honest, two-way communication and negotiation, the second key concept of leadership. What do I mean by “two-way communication”? Not only is it critical for a leader to communicate clearly, it’s just as important to be a great listener. Dictating to your team something that is impossible to achieve is not only demoralizing, it also depletes your team’s respect for your leadership. Sharing the results that you need to achieve and negotiating how the team can successfully achieve the results together makes a tremendous difference in your ability to succeed. Communication must be mutual to be effective and when everyone is on board, working toward a common goal, success is much more likely.

This leads readily into the next concept of “how” you lead. Depending on who you ask, the “hows” may vary from a dictatorial leader to a servant leader. Ultimately, how you lead must be consistent with your own, unique leadership style. Understanding who you are and what you value helps you refine your own unique style and doing so is critical to your success as a leader. I always encourage people to look at the behaviors and leadership skills of leaders that they admire and then determine which of those skills match with their own unique personality and leadership style. Trying to adapt a skill that doesn’t match your natural style causes conflict and appears insincere – this depletes trust and doesn’t present you as an authentic leader. Learn how to be the best version of you to lead.

Focusing on results along with open, honest, two-way communication achieved through your own unique leadership style must be supported through the most important characteristic of a leader, integrity. Integrity is how you behave and trust is what others perceive based on your actions. Integrity builds trust and when you regularly demonstrate this characteristic, not only are you trusted by the team, but you build confidence in you and your abilities. Without a doubt, operating with integrity drives results, build trusts and successfully keeps your organization and team moving forward.

Another key characteristic of a leader is the ability to empower your team. Empowering others requires you to trust them to achieve the results you’ve mutually agreed to accomplish. As a leader, it’s important that you provide your team with the training, resources and coaching that they need to achieve their goals. And it’s especially important that you have their back when something goes wrong. Help them learn from their mistakes, don’t jump in and take over when something progresses differently than you expected. The fastest way to end empowerment is to take back responsibility for a project after the first mistake. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and helping your team members learn from their mistakes makes the team stronger. Trust your team, provide what they need to succeed and watch them shine!

On the road to achieving results, another important concept for a leader is improving the organization everyday. As a leader, it is your responsibility to improve every person and every system every day. Never be satisfied with the status quo and always strive for enhancement and improvement of your people and systems. When you lose sight of continuous improvement, you fall behind your competitors. Be careful not to become hypercritical. Though your goal is to constantly improve, it is important to recognize and acknowledge success and then consider how, next time, it could/will be that much better.

Leadership is a challenge and one that can be achieved by focusing on these key concepts of:

  • Getting results
  • Practicing open, honest, two-way communication
  • Developing your own, unique leadership style
  • Operating with integrity
  • The Power of Empowerment, and
  • Improving the Organization Every Day
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