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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((LinkedIn: 3 Factors Strongly Linked to Better Employee Retention, According to 32 Million LinkedIn Profiles)), 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((O.C. Tanner Institute: 2020 Global Culture Report))

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:

  • 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.

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.

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((The University of Warwick: A Reconceptualization of Fear of Failure in Entrepreneurship)); 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.

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.

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