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9 Traits Truly Successful Leaders Should Possess

9 Traits Truly Successful Leaders Should Possess

Being a natural leader is a characteristic that not many people possess, though it can be learned if you have the potential. It requires a certain mindset that enables leaders to stay on top and lead their team to success. Here are a few traits that successful leaders have in common.

1. They believe in teamwork

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” — Michael Jordan

Every leader has to be a strong individual and capable of solving some problems on their own. However, they do know that working in a team is the key to success, and they consider themselves to be a part of the team — not just a person who gives orders. They know that the leader is just one part of the bigger mechanism, and that they are there to ensure the other parts, the team members, all work as efficiently as possible together. Leadership is a power that requires cooperation and not competition in order to achieve a desired end goal. Don’t be arrogant, win the championship.

2. They take full responsibility for the team’s mistakes

“The day you take complete responsibility for yourself, the day you stop making any excuses, that’s the day you start to the top” — OJ Simpson

It is perfectly normal that a team makes a mistake and fails at some project. However, a successful leader will not blame the team, but will take the full responsibility while defending his or her people. Mistakes don’t mean that the leader, or even the team, is bad. On the contrary, in order to achieve great things, you need to make a few mistakes along the way.

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A good leader won’t come up with various excuses and search for a person to blame, but will take the responsibility and correct their mistake with their team without making a fuss about it.

3. They focus on solutions, not on problems

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.” — Paul Hawken

A successful leader will not focus on the problem and who made the mistake which led to failure. They will focus on finding the perfect solution and will approach all the possible solutions with a positive attitude. If you focus on the problem, you won’t be able to find the solution — you’ll only get lost in chaos and become stressed out.

4. They listen, then act

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” — Winston Churchill

Everybody has their own opinion, and the leader has the right to act according to his or her own opinions and conclusions. However, a good leader will first listen to the team, or, if there is a problem, listen to everything regarding it before making a decision. Sometimes, there is a simple solution that we aren’t aware of, but somebody else is, and that person might become a very valuable part of your team.

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Moreover, if you don’t act in the heat of the moment, you will be able to think well before making a decision. Successful leaders don’t only act immediately, but they also listen and talk to the team, and are calm and collected when making decisions.

5. They don’t panic

“I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.” — Robert E. Lee

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t meet a deadline or if something went wrong along the way, if a leader starts overreacting and panicking in such situations, know that he or she isn’t a good leader. The ability to stay calm is the main characteristic of every successful boss. If the head of the team starts panicking, it negatively affect all the team members, who are then supposed to work under pressure. Having a boss who overreacts and stressed-out employees will not solve any problem, it will just make things worse.

No one wants a drama queen in their office, especially not a leader who acts like a bridezilla when you have to reach a tight deadline.

6. They dress for success

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” — Gore Vidal

It might not sound important, but how one dresses actually affects the opinion that other team members, upper management, and clients have of that person. If a leader wears inappropriate or overly casual clothing to work, they will be seen as an unprofessional and potentially incompetent individual. This won’t reflect the professionalism which the company is trying to convey to its clients. No one says that they should wear expensive formal clothes, but you need to know the difference between casual and professional attire. Men should definitely forget about wearing sneakers or college sweaters and focus on stylish clothes, which make them look more sophisticated.

In business, clothes matter, and not just to show money and power, but to increase your credibility, trustworthiness, and professionalism.

7. They understand their employees

“The trick is to ensure that your staff feels empowered. As your team members grow into their jobs, give them real responsibilities: They’ll respect you for it and do everything they can to rise to the challenge.” — Richard Branson

Knowing your employees and understanding them is of great importance if you want to have a motivated workforce. They aren’t robots, but people who cannot accomplish everything without encountering certain problems, which may make them insecure and a bit unproductive. A successful leader knows when their employee has a problem and has time to discuss it. A bad leader will offer to give that task to someone else, but a good one will approach the problem and solve it with that employee.

Every natural leader looks after their team, and works on making them feel accepted and respected.

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8. They inspire other workers

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

You know you are a successful leader when your workers wish to become leaders just like you. It is a hard task, but when you succeed in it, you know that your work has inspired them to achieve more in life and contribute to the company by working harder. Successful leaders constantly inspire their team to improve and challenge them to do more. If you are sitting in your office, thinking that that’s all you’ll ever achieve, know that you are working for the wrong person.

Also, a good boss will inspire their employees to finish demanding tasks and motivate them to work harder, without making them feel pressured.

9. They are the kind of leader that they would like to have

“Success is not what you have, but who you are.” — Bo Bennet

Never be the kind of leader you would hate to work for. This isn’t only related to a friendly relationship with your team members, but to the tasks you are giving them to work on as well. Sometimes, bosses can demand certain tasks without thinking about if they are even possible, and how much time is actually needed to complete them effectively. In order to be a successful leader, you have to put yourself in your employees’ shoes and see if you would be capable of reaching the goal you expect of them. Be professional, considerate, authoritative, but still friendly. All in all, imagine who you would like to work for, and be that person.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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