According to American scholar Warren Bennis, leadership can be defined as “the capacity to translate vision into reality”. There have been numerous examples of this throughout history, from military conflicts and humanitarian projects, to the worlds of commerce and business. Take the British manufacturing sector, for example, in which companies led a remarkable recovery after outsourcing had triggered a rapid decline. As a result, UK manufacturing now employs more than 2.5 million people and accounts for an impressive 52 % of all national exports.
This underlines how good and strong leadership can drive positive change, even in the most challenging of circumstances. It also offers an insight into the qualities needed to make a great leader, many of which have fundamental value that can be transferred across various worlds and industries. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the reasons that distinguish individuals as great leaders.
1. They Can Inspire Trust from Those Around Them
Despite many of the trappings that are associated with leadership, the successful direction of others has nothing to do with status, titles or seniority. Instead, it is driven by an innate ability to inspire trust from those around you, whether this is through honest communication or physical example. If you are able to achieve this, you can influence others and maximize their potential while also enabling them to share in your unique vision.
2. They Continually look to Evolve and Improve
Rather than wilting under the pressure of challenging tasks or exercises, those with leadership qualities tend to thrive and achieve greater heights. Statistics also suggest that 70 % of leaders learned their most important lessons through challenging assignments and unexpected job changes, and this underlines their willingness to constantly improve and use hardship as a way of driving their evolution.
3. They are Passionate and Focused
Maintaining the drive to continually evolve as an individual can be difficult, but leaders can often rely on their passion and focus when negating difficult times. Heartfelt passion provides them with the motivation to keep going when they face considerable challenges, for example, while an ability to maintain focus ensures that their positive energy is used constructively. Such enthusiasm is also authentic and infectious, meaning that it will draw others to share in your goals.
4. They Take Ownership of Strategic and Mission Critical Tasks
The world is littered with fascinating tales from our intrepid entrepreneurs, with one concerning Richard Branson particularly interesting. After being challenged by his aunt that he couldn’t learn to swim during a family holiday, Branson urged his father to pull over on the way home and jumped into a nearby river before swimming to shore. He won the bet, and underlined the fearless nature that leaders must adopt if they are to succeed over time . In business terms, this translates into a willingness to take ownership of strategic and mission critical tasks before executing these under extreme pressure.
5. They are Never Satisfied
Richard Branson is particularly interesting as an entrepreneur, as he clearly embodies many of the traits required for natural leadership. Not only is he fearless when conceiving ideas and bringing them to fruition, but he is also never satisfied and constantly looks to embark on new and exciting projects. This ethos is also reflected in the way in which specific work tasks and projects are approached, as true leaders never stand still and are always seeking future growth opportunities, however they may arise.
6. They are Driven by the Fear of Failure
The fear of failure is an often discussed psychological concept, although it is also misunderstood in many instances. Although it can be detrimental if this fear becomes all-consuming, true leaders use this as an engine to drive their endeavors and achieve future success. This fear then becomes a purposeful motivational tool, and one which has the potential to drive greater levels of effort and output. Great leaders can also put this psychological outlook into action, by maintaining this drive even after they have failed or fallen short of their expectations.
7. They Communicate Openly and with Humility
While leadership is a serious subject, the greatest practitioners throughout history have always had a keen sense of wit and humor. Think of the great British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for example, whose humorous quips and quotations are legendary and have managed to transcend generations. Wittiness is particularly important, as it showcases humility and an appreciation for self-depreciation, which in turn eliminates status and social classes. It is also an entry point into an honest and open relationship, where leaders are able to speak authoritatively and also listen intently to others’ needs.
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