Coach Krzyzewski certainly understood the leader qualities of being an effective leader, didn’t he? Spot on. I have been in the military and business world for forty years and I often get asked which leadership principles contribute to the best leaders.
Leaders should be reliable without being predictable. They should be consistent without being anticipated.
Check out our thoughts on team leverage.
Developing these qualities is a lifelong learning process. You are never done learning. Every great leader always looks for ways to improve on all of these qualities.
Leadership can be especially challenging for entrepreneurs. Balancing the need to run a business (i.e., products, investors, customers, etc.) and the need to lead company personnel is quite a task.
Effective leader qualities as an entrepreneur means that you can “make things happen,” instead of just “letting things happen.” The quality of leader influence involvement is required in many activities. It is involved in a variety of situations and problems, from the very simple to the very complex.
Leaders must influence others in order to achieve goals, and they must gain the respect of followers in order to influence them. This is no easy task, but if you want to have the respect of your followers you have many trusted leader qualities.
Here are 13 leader qualities Digital Spark Marketing uses with clients to improve their ability to develop to be the best leaders they can be:
Core principles of leadership … foster teamwork
Drucker makes an interesting point when he said that leaders don’t train themselves not to say “I.” He’s implying that leaders innately work with others and let the team get the credit. They don’t force themselves to say “we.” “We” is natural for them, and it’s the way they’ve always thought.
We believe that employing an “employee of the month” or a “who gets credit for what” attitude is not a good process. You work as a team when you don’t care who gets the credit.
Leadership principles … encourage growth in others
Some companies follow the motto: “hire for character, train for skill.” You hire people that are eager to learn and are very “raw.” They don’t have a ton of skills; but as a leader, you teach them, and they become better. They grow with your company and contribute to its success.
You see this with football coaches. In football coaching, it’s almost unheard of for someone with no experience to be hired as the head coach of a team. Most people start in a low level position (i.e., video coordinator, quality control assistant, scout, etc.) and gradually move up if they become successful in their roles. Sometimes it takes more than thirty years before they finally get a chance to be the head coach.
The same can occur in business. George Bodenheimer is the former president of ESPN. He started out working in the mailroom of ESPN. It would have been very difficult for him to rise to the presidency if he hadn’t had a boss who wanted to help him grow and succeed in the company.
Always demonstrate your courage in making tough decisions, knowing that bad decisions will be penalized. Remember that doing nothing is always an option.
Boost employee confidence
Employee attitude is so critical that it can’t be overemphasized. It trickles down from employers. Your business isn’t optimized if you don’t optimize for employee happiness.
Leaders should make employees feel good about themselves. Constantly criticizing and pointing out the flaws in an employee is a sure fire way to decrease morale and performance.
Examples of leadership principles … be an optimist
People want to follow an optimist, a person always looking to prioritize and solve problems.
Be willing to be misunderstood
This isn’t an excuse for being a jerk to employees. To colleagues in your industry, sometimes an invention is at first misunderstood before it becomes a revolution. So if you aren’t willing to be misunderstood, you may never be a pioneer in your industry.
A good example of a willingness to be misunderstood as a business leader is Netflix. It was a totally unique way to receive movies. In the late 90′s, if you wanted to rent a movie, you’d have to go through your cable or satellite provider or get one at Blockbuster or something similar. Getting rental DVDs via mail was unconventional. Undoubtedly, Netflix needed to be willing to be misunderstood. They were pioneering and attempting to change the way people watch movies.
Get people to follow you
You earn leadership by what Anne Mulcahy calls “followership.”
“I think sometimes we forget that we’re not actually anointed leaders, we actually have to earn it and we have to have people that trust us and are willing to follow. I think that really is the differentiator between great leadership and average leadership.”
-Anne Mulcahy, Former Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation
Even if a leader is anointed, it doesn’t mean that they’ll have followers. The leader needs to gain the trust of the followers. It has to be earned because not many people will mindlessly follow a leader.
Inspire and motivate to get the most from each team member and succeed based on your ability to work with others.
A quality of great leaders is being able to clearly articulate ideas and get people excited and inspired about them. It’s not selling people on an idea, it’s inspiring them.
Wear your passion and enthusiasm
Always wear your passion and enthusiasm in what you are doing. To do that, you must find those things that you love. Follow the passion; it is what gives you the strength to overcome the obstacles to everyday tasks. Passion is power … it is what keeps you going when everyone else gets tired and gives up.
Be a continuous learner
Observing and learning from those around you makes you stronger, better. Never fail to see its value. Your peers as well as competitors can usually teach you more than your friends. Let them. Learn from them.
To be a great leader, you need to have a strong will and an even stronger stomach. At the end of the day, you need to remind yourself that your job isn’t to make everyone happy, but rather to improve the organization as a whole.
Good leaders constantly trying to improve, surround themselves with the most able people they can find. They look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future. And because of this, they can move forward with confidence that’s grounded in the facts, not built on fantasies about their talent.
Always work hard at being a little better than you were the day before. Continuous learning is one of the most important attributes in the work and personal environment.
Persistence is key. Always keep up the effort as you will never know how close to success you may be.
Think about your energy. It’s not just about what you like best, but about what feeds you and what depletes you. And who. Do what you can to increase the good stuff and decrease the bad. You just need to realize you have the power to accomplish it. Much more than you may have imagined.
Limit your fear of failure
No matter how confident someone may seem, everyone is afraid of failing. All of us are afraid of screwing up or afraid of looking stupid.
But great leaders know that everyone they interact with is also afraid.
These people are successful because they act in the face of fear. They go after what they believe, seek change and, ultimately, make a difference.
They also believe they can take a risk because even if they fail, they’ll be able to learn from it and overcome it. Their fear doesn’t hold them back. Instead, it springs them into action, because they know not stretching themselves is worse than failing.
Be a good listener
You don’t gain insights by talking. Ideas can come from anywhere, so it’s important to keep your ears open to new ideas and insight. Focus on hearing everything that’s being said so you can make the most informed decisions.
Listening helps a leader get multiple perspectives. When making a decision, a good leader always listens to a number of different people. They know they own the final decision but always make sure they get input from multiple people.
The bottom line
A simple reminder … business leadership skills, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it … it takes lots of consistent practice. You need to dive into the pool as soon as possible.
Great leaders know that every step they take, every decision they make, matters in the end. They know they must strategize carefully, and then act decisively. They know they must think ahead — not just to their next step — but to the many steps after it.
Practice these leadership behaviors often and think ahead for your greatest leadership advantages.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you.
It’s up to you to keep improving your ability to lead. Lessons are all around you. In many situations, history may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
It’s up to you to keep improving your leadership learning and experience from all around in your environment.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your continuous learning?
Do you have a lesson about making your leadership better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on continuous learning from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library:
Increase Influence through Good Leadership Qualities
Looking for Battle Tested, Effective Leadership Qualities?
The 10 Must Have Leadership Competencies of the Modern Businessman