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Published on May 7, 2020

9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader

9 Most Essential Leadership Attributes of a Great Leader

Great leaders are like mirrors. What they want to see in their team they often exhibit in themselves, even if that means facing things they’d prefer not to.

Can a handful of leadership attributes define every great leader? Or could you have a combination of many skills and still be a great leader?

Could a leader really change the course of a company, team, or even an individual’s happiness and success? And what’s the big deal about leadership anyway if you don’t have a team to lead?

According to LinkedIn[1], there’s a 76% chance of an employee still being at a company after 12 months, however by year three that drops to 48%!

Worryingly, 89% of employers think employees leave because of money, when only 12% actually do[2]

Furthermore, reportedly over a third of employees are actively or casually looking for a new job right now. In the US alone, employers spend $2.9M per day looking for replacement workers. That’s $1.1B per year!

A leader can make or break so much, including:

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  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Profitability
  • Health
  • Happiness
  • Education

The list is long, and when you consider someone will actively look to search a company’s attitude toward staff happiness before they start working for them, you can see that leadership is something that can impact everyone.

Even if you aren’t currently a leader, these 9 attributes could improve your success, happiness, and health.

1. Respect

Anyone that has tried to demand respect from a teenager will know that it rarely works to force it. If you want respect, you must give it first.

Staff that feel respected work harder, and while it may be easy to know what this attribute looks like, it can be hard in a fast-paced environment to know how to give it. The following attributes all help you prove you have respect for others and learn to gain it.

2. Visionary

If you want to be a great leader, you need to share your vision and mission. The key is to not only share it but to be prepared to let your team rewrite it to help them feel like they have a say in the mission. This will create a deeper emotional connection to the outcome of their work.

Furthermore, sometimes another person can see a way of redefining your vision that speaks clearer to everyone from staff, customers, competitors, and communities.

A company I coached was asked, “What is your mission?” and while everyone had a vague idea of what they stood for, everyone used different words to describe it. By letting everyone be heard and have their say, the company became far more laser-focused on delivering a message that resonated with their perfect customers and helped the team to feel connected to all outcomes, even if their department wasn’t directly involved.

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3. Communication

There is so much to say around communication and leadership that I could have written the whole article around this! Many companies I work with tend to create communication policies, clearly defined ways of communicating and ensuring whatever anyone wishes to communicate is allowed in a non-judgmental, respected way.

If you have people you work with who lack confidence or fear for their job, it’s hard for them to come forward and say “I think we are getting this wrong” or “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m not enjoying my job.” Job satisfaction has become increasingly important with the advent of websites where you can rate employers on how they impact people’s career decisions.

Communication policies also enable leaders to achieve more because they don’t’ have to micro manage every decision, and people feel confident and comfortable to take the initiative.

4. Transparency

Great leaders, while they may fear being honest and transparent, find ways to overcome this. Interestingly, when I’ve seen CEOs admit they don’t know the answer or are struggling with their work load, instead of their team being horrified and running for the hills, it tends to lead to greater honesty from everyone. And if you can see what’s wrong, it’s easier to fix it, right?

If you know others are struggling with what you hate doing, you are more likely to reach out and ask for help. Transparency, honesty, and a great communication policy enable this.

5. Passion

Leaders should get excited and feel passionate about the outcomes they are searching for with their team.

Leaders can be honest and share their vulnerability when it is linked to strong passion. Leaders that are great communicators of what they believe in and showcase their faith in themselves, their teams, and their companies inspire and motivate teams to believe, too.

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Passion creates passion. As someone who creates a lot of Facebook Lives for people having a tough day and looking for motivation, I know that when we share our passion and faith in what is possible, others buy into that. It’s good for us all.

So if you look behind you and discover that there is a group of people following you, they probably bought into your passion and want to learn more, so look to let your passion shine through everything you do, have faith in the outcomes, and trust you can achieve it.

6. Ability to Fail

Failure is so important to leadership. It’s great to see leaders that inspire and motivate and talk a great game, but you can really spot a great leader when failure is imminent. They don’t fear failure[3]; they look to learn from it.

It is scary to do this, and sometimes companies end up creating a “them and us” and blame ethos if failings aren’t handled well. Therefore, seeing a leader that can put their hands up and say “I got this wrong” is a powerful thing. It lacks arrogance and ego, which rarely work well for great leaders.

Being open to failure also leads to new discoveries and opportunities. I worked with a company that were struggling to bond as a team, and by rewriting what the company stood for, they were able to move forward in a powerful way. The irony was that this was created by looking at the mission statement of the company.

Someone shouted out in our group coaching session, “It doesn’t even say we care!” This led to a great conversation where the team member (who rarely spoke up) explained how one of the things they loved about the company was that they genuinely cared, and yet no one ever talked about that. Because the leader was able to take that one on board and go in a new direction, it led to great things.

7. Encouraging

Encouraging leaders are like coaches in that they enable people to speak up, be honest, take ownership, be accountable, and feel honored and respected. People often think that just listening is encouraging, but it’s not. Encouraging in the style of a coach is a form of communication that enables a deep level of conversation that breaks down fears, insecurities, confidence issues, and barriers to change.

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If you want to be a great leader, become a great coach first. It is a style of communication that I can hand on heart say impacts every communication and relationship I have—all for the positive. Be respectful of the coaching process and learn the skills and key questions and strategies to make this work. Everyone can coach to some level with a bit of education, practice, and feedback.

8. Goal-Oriented

When you’ve listened to and encouraged your team, being able to share clear goals is imperative. Whether it’s being a leader of a basketball team, a parent, a CEO or Scout leader, it’s not enough to create goals that you expect everyone to get on board with.

When your team feels they are valued in their opinions, their engagement increases. Engagement leads to recognition, and this leads to accelerated success: value your team and they will value what you stand for and aim to achieve and help you achieve it, often without additional financial incentive.

I’ve seen companies where they honestly believed the only solution was more money, more staff, and more investment. In the end, the only investment they actually had was in coaching, which enabled the company, the team, and the individuals to all feel that they mattered to the end results, which led them to work hard to achieve it.

9. Adaptable

We all face hardship and tough times, and the leader that can bounce back and adapt to ever-changing environments, challenges, and obstacles is the leader that people want to be with. You don’t have to know all the answers; by tapping into the other 8 attributes, you have the skills as a leader to bounce back from anything.

I’ve been in many a packed room where I know I’m there as the sacrificial lamb to prove “We’ve tried everything,” only for the team to come together and discover the power in these attributes and find a more productive and successful way of operating that has secured the future of the organization.

Seeing a sea of angry faces offloading their frustrations on me instead of their leader is (I’m not going to lie) a little scary; however, using the above skills, they have been able to break down the barriers to change and create new ways of thinking and operating to make everyone’s job a lot easier and create some happiness along the way.

More Tips on Leadership Attributes

Featured photo credit: Fabio Rodrigues via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Mandie Holgate

International Coach, Best Selling Author & Speaker inspiring people around the world to success.

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Last Updated on April 22, 2021

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

Habits are what sets an average leader apart from a great leader. We can argue that talent is the biggest factor; we may debate how the amount of charisma sets the two apart. Yet, if you were to show me what you believed to be a great leader, I can show you the habits that made her/him great. Great leaders have great habits and know how to work hard the smart way.

Developing Great Habits Is Hard Work

In my early college days, I had spent a lot of time learning how to play the trumpet. Playing the trumpet took time and discipline. I had some natural talent, but not enough to hide my lack of ability. My trumpet teacher was a man of discipline, and there was no doubt he had talent. What stood to me was his work ethic. He had to be one of the hardest working mentors that I had the privilege of working with.

One afternoon, I was in his office getting ready for my weekly trumpet lesson. As I was preparing, my eyes scanned the room and saw that there were quotes all over his office. My eyes rested on one quote that forever changed my thinking about my playing. It was a quote from my high school basketball coach Tim Notke that would become popular through professional athletes Kevin Durant and Tim Tebow:

“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”

Hard work trumps talent. The key to success is not found in your talent or ability. Talent and ability are necessary, but they are not the primary factors. They are supporting roles in the story you are writing.

Ultimately, hard work is the key to your success. A good work ethic creates the momentum that propels you forward towards your goals.

Motivation Is Not the Answer

How many times have you seen someone go to a conference, get inspired, and then come home and do nothing?

If motivation were the answer, the world would have transformed hundreds of times over. Yet, when we look out our doors or turn on the news, we do not see a utopian society.

We have thousands of people who become inspired but lack the work ethic to apply anything they have learned. Time and time again frustration creeps in. We are so motivated and inspired by what we see but fail to put in place the things that would change our lives.

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Frustration happens when the gap between what you expect to be true and what is true gets bigger. Motivation tends to create an expectation that is not rooted in reality. We want to take on the world but cannot get off Netflix long enough to do so.

Motivation is not the answer, but working hard is. Good habits and routines that produce success are the byproducts of a strong work ethic. The habits and routines we create and follow are the foundation on which we build a winning life.

How to Work Hard by Working Smarter

Here are 4 routines that will help you learn how to work hard and achieve your short term and long term goals.

1. Define What a Win Looks Like

In football, a player that crosses into the end zone gain points. In soccer, a player kicks the ball into the net to score. Hockey, lacrosse, and basketball are all the same. The player takes the object and moves it into the designated area to gain points. The team with the most points wins the game.

Why is it that we can define what a win looks like in sports, but we fail to do so in our leadership, our businesses, or our homes?

Learning how to work hard without setting a target is futile. It is insanity to work hard without having a clear direction to place your energy. I would argue that defining a win is one of the most important routines that a leader can have. Defining a win separates superficial activity from meaningful activity.

When I define a win, I know the goal line I have to cross[1]. Knowing where the goal line is informs me of the activity I have to engage in to cross it. Without a clear direction, I am spinning my wheels hoping that I will get to a destination I haven’t defined. It is like asking a GPS for directions but failing to input the destination.

4 Steps to Define a Win
  • Know the outcome you desire.
  • Declare the outcome in specific, meaningful terms.
  • Write the outcome down.
  • Set your activity list to only do that which will complete your goals.

Let me give you an example. 15 years ago, I started speaking professionally. As a young and naïve speaker, I thought winning meant that I had to get a reaction from the audience. If they cheered, smiled, or cried, I considered myself a winner. The problem was my lack of understanding of what a win looked like. As a seasoned speaker, my wins look different.

As of today, when I speak, I am not looking for any emotional reactions from the audience. I win if, and only if, I clearly communicated my point so that anyone hearing the talk can take it and apply it to their lives that day. That is how I define a win when I speak now.

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Create a habit of declaring a win. When you do, you will see your productivity soar and your encouragement increase. Pairing a hard work ethic with wise decisions creates victory. Stop being a mouse on a wheel that goes nowhere, and start being the captain of your fleet.

2. Evaluate Your Activity

Not all activity is equal. There are things you must do, things you need to do, and things we can either give away or delete. The greatest challenge of a leader is understanding the difference. Understanding what activity is busywork and what activity is mission work is pivotal.

Not only do we need to learn how to evaluate our activity, but we must make this a core routine in our arsenal of success. Stop working so hard on everything and start learning how to work hard on the right things.

Not every activity will move the needle forward for you. In fact, you were never meant to do everything yourself! Once we stop trying to be a martyr in our leadership, we can start looking at how to take things off our plates through delegation.

Based on the Eisenhower box, there are 4 things that we look at when deciding on which activities are important:

  • Do now
  • Plan to do it later
  • Delegate to someone else
  • Delete it

Powerful questions are the way you discover if the activity is right or not:

  • Does this activity move me towards or away from my goals?
  • Do I have to do this activity or can I give this activity away to someone else?
  • Does this activity have to be now right now or can it be scheduled for later dates?
  • Does this activity have to be done at all?

Evaluating the type of activity you engage in should be a routine that you do daily. Learning how to work hard should create progress. Having a system of evaluation and a routine to do it will help.

3. Prioritize Your Calendar

If you were to show me your calendar, I could show you why you are not further along. When you lack the routine of placing things on your calendar, two things happen.

First, what does not make it on your calendar does not get done.

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It is a simple truth that is often overlooked. Your calendar contains the power to change your life. Yet, we don’t use our calendars to their fullest potential.

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” -John C. Maxwell

Also, if you don’t mark you activities on your calendar, you are leaving it open to other’s priorities.

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” -Stephen Covey

Having a routine in your life where you place things on your calendar is pivotal to your success. This is not a routine one should overlook.

It’s time to take your leadership and business to the next level. It’s time to start putting your daily routines on your calendar, along with your priorities.

4. Reflect on Your Day and Plan the Next

We are all about the morning routine. Whatever that looks like for you, there should be a routine in the morning that sets you up for success.

Hard work starts when your feet hit the ground in the morning. Creating the habit of winning starts with the first thing you accomplish that morning. If you win your morning, you will win your day.

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Best Morning Routine to Prepare to Work Hard

    But how often have you heard people talk about an evening routine? Tomorrow is won the day before it happens. When you fail to plan your day, you may put your effort toward in the wrong things. Route replaces routine. Indecision replaces decisiveness. Losses replace wins. The discouragement will deflate your momentum and increases the chances of procrastination. That is why we set our schedule the night before.

    “Every battle is won or lost before it is ever fought.” -Sun Tzu

    Working hard doesn’t have to be hard work. It shouldn’t take much out of you learn how to work hard as long as you work smart. Having a time where you reflect on the day and set your priorities is the difference-maker.

    Use these questions to reflect on your day:

    • What went well?
    • What didn’t go well?
    • What can I change?
    • What do I need to start doing?
    • What do I need to stop doing?

    The Bottom Line

    Navigating through life is hard work. Yet, the work doesn’t have to be hard when you work smarter. When you create routines that support your mission, you create wins. Working hard, the smart way will tip the balance in our favor.

    Boxing legend Joe Frazier said:

    “Champions aren’t made in the ring; they are merely recognized there.”

    Champions put in the hard work behind the scenes. The world recognized them as a champion when they saw the results of the hard work. Right now, you are doing the work of creating a champion in yourself.

    That work is setting your routines in order because you now know that success flows from your daily routines. If you are not experiencing the success you desire, then it is time to change things up.

    More on Creating Healthy Routines

    Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] The Balance Careers: Interview Question: “How Do You Define Success?”

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