Throughout the ages, great leaders have forged new societies, built great companies and advanced progress toward social change using a set of skills and abilities that are the awe of anyone who wants to inspire people to take action.
So often confused with one’s position within a hierarchy, leadership is not a title, a role or a position of authority. Leadership is the sum of many different moving parts — it’s definition difficult to pin down and for most, a matter of opinion.
For me, great leadership is a set of values, attitudes and beliefs brought to life through an individual’s actions and behaviors while working towards achieving progress.
A leader is as such no matter their position within social or organizational structures. And sometimes, people with the greatest potential for leadership, don’t even realise they have it.
Here are 15 signs you are going to be a great leader, even if you don’t realize it right now.
1. You empower others
Leadership is not a position of privilege or power. It is a position of service. A leader’s job, first and foremost is to help and guide people achieve what they want to achieve; not to make them subservient to their own whims and agenda.
Research out of Penn State University, Claremont McKenna College and Tsinghua University found that so-called “transformational leaders,” those who empower self-guided teams by cultivating trust and autonomy, lead teams that achieve more and are personally more effective and successful in their job.
2. You have emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is one of the single most important characteristics of good leaders. Without it, the most intelligent, skilled and ambitious people will still fall short of achieving greatness in leadership.
Studies undertaken by psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence, found that emotional intelligence was twice as important for “excellent performance” as IQ and technical skills for people in jobs at all levels.
3. You use logic
Logic is the principles of reasoning. Among the discourse of leadership and management, logic, reasoning and rational thought are often overlooked in favour of intuition and gut feelings.
Although intuition is important, the ability to follow and create logical processes, arguments and strategy is a cornerstone of high-performance and success.
4. You start with why
According to recent studies, 70% of the American workforce are disengaged from their work. So what’s missing? Inspiration!
Simon Sinek, author of global best seller Start With Why explains that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Whether you’re starting a social movement or building a great company, you need followers. Great leaders use the power of why to find people that believe what they believe and inspire them to take action.
5. You focus on solutions, not problems
When the pressure is on and deadlines are approaching, what separates great leaders from the rest is their ability to focus on solutions, rather than problems.
Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company and pioneer in establishing mass production said “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.” Great leaders only spend enough time focusing on a problem to learn from it what they need to overcome it.
6. You are a learner
Albert Einstein, one of the most prolific leaders of scientific progress the world has ever seen believed that “intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
A commitment to life long learning is one of the most important attributes of great leaders. The ability to challenge one’s own assumptions and learn lessons from he successes of failures of themselves and others is the cornerstone of progress.
7. You make others better
Great leaders are not interested in subordinating their followers. Instead, they want to create more leaders. Personal and professional development of team members and building an army of capable and effective drivers for whatever cause a leader is working toward is a great-leader’s top priority.
8. You think outside the box
Great leaders challenge the status quo. They disrupt the natural order of things to find new and better ways of doing things. Anyone can tow-the-line. Great leaders achieve great things because they’re willing to ask questions, be critical and create change where it’s needed to drive progress.
9. You are a good follower
Great leadership comes from being a great follower. Robert Kelley, author of The Power of Followership, says that good followership is the opposite of what you might think.
A good follower is not a sheep or a yes-man. A good follower is active, independent and is constructively critical of directions and decisions before carrying them out. Most importantly, a good follower can function at a high level without a leader present.
10. You listen more than you talk
Great leaders are life long learners, and nobody has ever learned anything from talking. Arguably one of the most successful leaders in history, Richard Branson, swears by the power of listening over talking and says that the most successful business people he knows all have the habit of listening in common.
Listening over talking gives you the full picture when trying to tackle challenges. It puts things in full and proper perspective which gives great leaders an advantage.
11. You give frank and fearless advice
Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” What he meant was that we shouldn’t compromise what we know is right for personal gain.
One of the most important attributes of a great leader is integrity. A great leader stays true to their convictions, even when the advice they’re giving is not what the people around and above them want to hear — and even at their own expense.
12. You communicate effectively
Leadership and effective communication go hand in hand. Great leaders spend most of their time in some kind of interaction with other people. Whether it’s the people they want to influence at the highest levels or future leaders who need inspiration to take action, a leader cannot lead without the ability to communicate effectively.
Peter Economy, author of Managing for Dummies, says that effective communication can be achieve by sticking to the 7 C’s: Clear, Consistent, Credible, Confident, Civil, Concise and Compassionate. Get these right and you’ll find your interactions with others to be more successful.
13. You are compassionate
Great leaders care about the well being of the people around them. And it pays dividends. A recent study found that employee loyalty is influenced more by having positive relationships at work than by the salary.
Great leaders are so effective because they’re able to generate loyal followers, in part due to a compassionate approach to their relationships.
14. You ask for forgiveness, not permission
People are hard wired to resist change. Triggers for change resistance include fear and habit. Great leaders know this and, guided by their belief in what’s right and their ability to think outside of the box and challenge the status quo, will move ahead with new and sometimes controversial projects in the interests of progress.
15. You are not afraid of making the big decisions
Stepping up to make the big calls is hard. That’s why it takes an extraordinary leader to do it. They don’t do it because it’s easy. They do it because they know that, in many cases, failure to make a decision is worse than making a bad one.
The ability to lead can be learned and this list is a great starting point. What leadership characteristics would you add to this list?
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