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11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

11 Qualities Of A Truly Great Leader

Whether it’s the president of a nation or the captain of your kickball team, it is easy to tell when you are in the presence of great leadership. Studies have shown that one third of the qualities that make a successful leader are innate while the rest of what makes up true greatness is learned.The following are qualities of an effective leader.

1. Great leaders make tough decisions and take responsibility for the consequences.

Every decision, whether it be to go to war, to run a clinical trial with a new cancer treatment that you believe in, or to refuse to listen to racist jokes at the playground, has consequences.  Leaders are able to make a choice and defend their actions. The greatest leaders admit their failures, learn from their mistakes, and go right back to work, taking strides to prevent future shortcomings.

2. Leaders are focused on the final goal and committed to achieving it.

Nelson Mandela, the first South African president, remained committed to the anti-apartheid movement, even after serving an almost 30 year jail sentence. Great leadership requires sacrifice and determination despite your losses.

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3. Leaders are focused on the future, aware of the present, and have learned from the past.

Great leaders learn from the mistakes of their predecessors. They have the insight to predict where the future is headed, and even though progress might be slow, they are able to keep their focus as they manage the daily challenges of the present.

4. They are able to filter out what is important and what is not.

NFL quarterback Drew Brees stated that the best advice he received was “never let anybody tell you that you can’t accomplish something that you are willing to work for.” There will always be people around to tell you that you’re not good enough and that the task ahead cannot be achieved. The ability to listen to the motivating voices and shut out the deterring ones propels leaders toward success.

5. Leaders are visionaries: they are willing to see things outside of the current status quo, ignore the lines already drawn, and draw new ones of their own.

Mahatma Ghandi found a way to protest the atrocities he saw in India without violence, later inspiring Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Madeleine Albright paved new roads for women in politics. Mark Zuckerburg believed he could change the way we communicate with one another. Society will always make boxes with labels and people will always be more comfortable putting things in their pre-assigned place. It takes courage, determination, and creativity to change these categories. While this is often a lonely road at first, it is astonishing how one person can open the door for countless others.

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6. They are devoted to ethics.
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    Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Great leaders see something wrong and they are unable to look the other way. Whether it’s changing the operations of a large company, fighting for civil rights, or standing up to a bully on the playground, these people do not stay quiet to the injustices around them.

    7. At their core, great leaders pursue a purpose to improve mankind and work for the greater good of others.

    Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, was told by her mother to “leave behind more than you take.”  Great leaders are focused on benefiting the whole. They are focused on making policies that improve the conditions for not only themselves, but all those around them. They work to empower people to become stronger individuals and thus create a stronger whole.

    8. Great leaders know how to communicate with their audience.

    They are able vocalize their ideas and their mission. They explain their actions and the rationale behind them. They understand that everyone has something to teach them and often the best communicators are the ones who are best able to listen.

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    9. They are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those around them.

    While leadership requires immense initiative, great leaders know that no goal can be accomplished alone. They can accurately identify the abilities of others and they delegate tasks appropriately in order to maintain efficiency and maximize potential.

    10. They rely on their intuition.

    In the book Blink, the author Malcom Gladwell argues that our “intuition” is based on a subconscious collection of our past experiences. This “gut feeling” works like a computer in that it aggregates all of our previous interactions with the present situation. The “feeling” is then your brain’s first impulse based on the data collected. Great leaders know when to rely on this ability and when to wait for more information to make a decision.

    11. They lead by example.

    In your own life, who is more inspiring: the person who continually talks about dieting and weight loss or the person at the gym everyday bringing their own lunch to work? While effective communication is extremely important to the success of a leader, actions often speak much louder. This explains why so many politicians are dismantled not by poor political decisions, but by mistakes in their personal life such as affairs and drug use (ie. Anthony Weiner and Rob Ford).

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    The great leaders of our world often do not set out for glory, fame, or fortune, but believe in doing the right thing and commit themselves to that goal. They lead by example, make sacrifices, and are not deterred by challenges that would defeat the average person. If you look at the great leaders in your life— your boss, your mother, your religious leader—you will notice the above probably applies to them. Being a leader only requires that one person follow you, and at some point everyone will be in this position. Keep these qualities in mind: you never know how many people are already looking to you for direction.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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