We know a highly effective leader when we see one. They give off an energy that often makes us like them instantly—we feel comfortable in their presence. Highly effective leaders have employees singing their praises and can captivate an audience for hours. They can lead a revolution when required and can have a great impact on those they lead and the lives they touch.
As an HR Manager and Public Relations Specialist, I've had the opportunity to work closely with Executive and Senior Leadership teams of organizations. With time, it became clear to me that highly effective leaders have some similarities when it comes to how they interact with others and approach day-to-day and long term work goals. Through my research and observation, I've found the following to be a few of the leadership traits best used to learn how to be a better leader.
1. They give feedback and encourage
Highly successful leaders understand that employees like to receive feedback and encouragement. Even if it's not always positive, communication and feedback help an employee know their work matters, and they're being noticed. In addition, the type of feedback shared by successful leaders is more than praise—it's feedback that reinforces facts about an individual's work vs. simple praise that's one's opinion of someone else's work. For example, stating "You completed the project on time without any flaws. Great work!" provides facts and praise, which has been shown to be more effective than simply stating, "Great work!" The latter only provides praise, which is an opinion without any specifics or true factual information.
2. They listen
How well are you with this leadership trait? Effective leaders listen to hear you, not to react to you. Listening is a skill that can take some time to master, but it is one of the traits that sets leaders apart from the rest.
3. They show vs. tell
Effective leaders lead by example. They understand that when you tell someone something, it might not be as well-received as when you show something. This also speaks to the fact that we respond to pictures and images in a different way than we do to words. Visual Teaching Alliance reports the following stats on their website:
Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners. — Mind Tools, 1998
Although only 10 percent of secondary students are auditory learners, 80 percent of instruction is delivered orally. — University of Illinois Extension, 2009
The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text. — 3M Corporation, 2001
4. They are open to suggestions and realize it takes a village
When you take note of highly successful leaders, also take note of the team they surround themselves with. Highly successful leaders know how to hire or create a team of individuals to support them. They also understand it takes a village to create success, so they're open to the ideas of others and delegate to get work done. To learn how to be a better leader, start building a team that inspires others and creates success.
5. They don't compare themselves to others
We are each on our own path and have our own mark to leave on the world, and highly effective leaders understand this. It's essential not to compare oneself to others and where they're at in their careers. On that token, it's also important to do things the way you feel they should be done for optimal results, which might be different than how someone else will do things. Finally, not that it's always easy, but it's important to keep jealousy and envy in check to be a highly successful leader.
6. They follow through, keep their word, and uphold integrity
Many leadership programs repeatedly state that we are only as good as our word. If we say we're going to do something, then we need to do it. If we can't follow-through, then we need to communicate so to remain in integrity. Honesty and dependability are two key leadership traits.
7. They take responsibility and ownership
Mistakes are going to happen and the quicker we own up to our mistakes and take responsibility for them, the quicker we can come up with a solution and move on to the next task.
Early in my career, I had made a mistake at work. Though I held a lot of fear around the situation, I immediately told my manager. "Did you fix it?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "Great," he said, as he walked away. It was as simple as that. At that moment, I knew I would make mistakes, and I knew the sooner I owned up to them, the better. This moment also allowed me to give myself a break and realize that I was likely going to make mistakes again, which was OK, but it was how I handled and reacted to them that mattered.
8. They have perseverance and tenacity
Having had health issues for the majority of my adult life, I clearly recall in my early 20s when one physician told me that I needed perseverance and tenacity to get better. These words have stuck with me. To heal, I needed to keep researching, moving forward and couldn't give up. This is what I see in the majority of highly effective leaders I meet—they have a lot of perseverance and tenacity, which is required for them to achieve and maintain success.
Though we often think of leaders as those who hold management positions, speakers, or leaders of organizations, it is possible for others to hold leadership traits within an organization. You can be a leader with or without the title to go along with it if you so choose to be. If you think you have leadership qualities, speak to your supervisor to find out what opportunities there might be for you. To learn how to be a better leader, you can also look for leadership training on your own, and you might also consider finding some volunteer opportunities that allow you to put your leadership qualities to the test. After all, we cannot have too many highly effective leaders in this world.
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