Who are the leaders you really look up to? And what makes them great leaders?
You might see things like a clear vision, a drive to succeed, a passion for their work, or the ability to inspire. But more often than not, these are the results of great leadership, and we’re seeing those results, not the qualities that made them great leaders.
Here are nine things great leaders do – unwaveringly and consistently – to stay true to themselves, attract great followers, and build a powerful network.
1. Show Up: Make time to lead.
Great leaders don’t let their days be controlled by overflowing inboxes and endless meetings. They know that in this “always on” world, they can’t lead by shutting their door, arriving early to work, or spending time off site. Instead, they navigate the fast-paced, chaotic world by working with it rather than against it. If they were on a raft in a fast-flowing river, instead of fighting the current or wishing it wasn’t going so fast, they would go with the flow, navigate around the obstacles, and still reach their destination.
2. Speak Up: Cut through the clutter.
Great leaders communicate their ideas with sharp, clear messages that cut through the clutter. Whether it’s a 140-character tweet, a full-day presentation to the board, or something in between, they deliver magnetic messages that get attention, make clear points, and inspire people to take action. They don’t rely on PowerPoint, but don’t ignore it either. They know how to tailor their message to the setting and the time available.
3. Step Up: Stand for something.
Great leaders aren’t afraid to stand for something that matters to them, even if it means being unpopular. They have a strong personal brand based on what they stand for, and built on two things: their expertise (what they know) and their network (who they know). That personal brand drives their decision-making, attracts the best followers, and makes a mark in their world.
4. Light Up: Foster an innovation culture.
Great leaders know that innovation is everybody’s business, and doesn’t only come from off-site retreats or an R&D department. They create an environment that allows and encourages innovation, start conversations and ask questions that spark ideas, and recognise, reward and act on innovation.
5. Wise Up: Build their judgement.
Great leaders share their wisdom and experience with others, to build their judgement and give them greater power, responsibility and authority. Rather than hoarding knowledge from fear and insecurity, they share it freely so others can grow. They know how to develop this gradually and appropriately for each person: first by expanding their perspective, then exposing them to more senior roles, and then giving them more authority.
6. Tune Up: Accelerate the experience curve.
Great leaders are always learning, and constantly look for new ways to accelerate the experience curve – for themselves and others. They look beyond traditional training courses to other learning processes that cater for individual needs, build on existing knowledge, and create exponential learning.
7. Team Up: Find talent everywhere.
Great leaders find great talent – everywhere. They know that modern teams aren’t restricted by physical proximity, and will look everywhere for the best people to work together to achieve their goals. Their teams have full-time people and part-time people, in-office people and telecommuters, permanent staff and contractors, freelancers and salaried employees – and everybody else who fits.
8. Partner Up: Join forces.
Great leaders create strong partnerships. They find trusted partners with complementary skills, and commit to a powerful partnership to create something that brings greater value than each could provide alone.
9. Link Up: Leverage trust.
Great leaders connect. They build their community one person at a time, and find ways to strengthen the trust with key people in the community. They leverage the trusted relationships in their inner circles, build more trust with people in the outer circles, and engage with strangers to make them feel more welcome in the community.
Are you a great leader? Do you want to be?
Which of these qualities do you possess? Which of them could you develop?
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