There is no substitute for experience, with many professional lessons learned by working with different leaders and different leadership styles and approaches. Here are some of the qualities I’ve found to be common in the best leaders – regardless of level – and the nuances that take them from good to great.
Integrity. Whereas authenticity is about being genuine in the moment, integrity speaks to creating and sustaining trust by what you say and do in the longer term, with words consistently matching behaviours.
Clarity. Great leaders are clear in their vision and communicate it in a way that engages and motivates. Leaders with clarity have the strategic foresight to divine the path toward the desired state and effectively lead others to achieve it. As thoughtful decision-makers, they consider the totality of the situation. Their measured approach arises not from a big-picture perspective, but a full-picture perspective. They don’t abandon the details, but consider the weight of their associated consequence accordingly.
Creativity. Great leaders can think outside the box even when they must live within it. They are the innovative pragmatists who navigate the limitations of the current state, facilitating forward motion toward positive change. They expertly translate by connecting dots and drawing pictures – through language, whiteboard, stylus or serviette – to ensure complexity is made clear.
Adaptability. While steadfast in their vision, great leaders adapt to evolving circumstances by updating plans and correcting the course as necessary. They don’t waste precious time and resources on lamentation, but remain sensitive to helping others along the way.
Humanity. The best leaders remember that people are behind every achievement. They value the strengths of individuals and build complementary teams. They treat everyone with respect and encourage others to do the same. They create a culture where competition truly is friendly, not fearful, and drive innovation through positive reinforcement. They also recognize the importance of coaching and mentoring future leaders for succession management.
Charisma. That certain je ne sais quoi, while not essential, certainly helps. It’s that special combination of ability and likeability which instils confidence and influences outcomes. When people speak a leader’s name with a degree of reverence when they’ve nothing to gain, charisma is at work.
Connectedness. The broader a leader’s network is, the greater the options and opportunities for recruiting the best talent and expertise. Acting as a conduit to connect others also builds the foundation for future partnerships.