What makes a great leader? 

Great leaders inspire change and greatness in others. What do you think are the key attributes that make a great leader? 

Is there one thing that stands out above all others? We have certainly come a long way in the last few decades when it comes to defining effective leadership. It’s no longer about leading with fear, or with an iron fist Instead – we recognise the need to bring out the best in others, be self-reflective and honest about our-selves, fulfil the need to engage and inspire, not just tell people what to do and how to do it. 

According to research conducted by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman in their book “Speed“, there are eight essential leadership behaviors shown to improve performance and ultimately drive organisational effectiveness by asking more than 300,000 business leaders to rank what they think are the top four attributes from a list of 16 key leadership skills. In ranked order, the top five key attributes that make a good leader were; 

1. They inspire and motivate others 

It makes sense this is considered the number one key attribute of a good leader. Exceptional leaders have the capacity to create and portray a clear and compelling vision, a strong story that effectively engages and motivates others. They make people feel their work has meaning, that collectively people are doing something with purpose, something for the greater good. Great leaders allow people to feel inspired by allowing them to see how the small role they play contributes to a much greater purpose. Research shows that above all else, it is a feeling of purpose that provides the greatest fulfilment to your work, much more so than money, pay rises or bonuses. If the purpose is not there, the engagement and the motivation will decline. 

2. They have integrity and honesty

Great leaders do what they say they are going to do, they walk the walk and talk the talk. They are transparent and honest in their approach. This is becoming increasingly important. Younger generations expect integrity and authenticity when it comes to leadership. Leaders need to be good people, and earn the trust and respect of the people they want to lead. Integrity and honesty are critical characteristics of an authentic leader. 

3. They are good at analysing and solving problems

In business, complex issues arise and decisions need to be made. Of course this is a fundamental trait of a good leader, businesses need decision makers and people look to strong leaders in times of uncertainty and change. It’s good to see that is it recognised that leaders need to have excellent analytical qualities. As the world rapidly changes, businesses need to stay agile and respond to things quickly. Effective leaders should possess the ability to stay calm, think under pressure, gather the opinions of others and ultimately make decisions that will propel the business to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. 

4. They are highly driven 

In business things can get tough and busy. Good leaders need staying power, the grit, to hang in there when things are particularly challenging. Good leaders can be relied upon in these times, they often have more drive than others – the drive to get through challenging times, and bring others along with them. They are able to hold the torch and keep everyone on the path to get through the difficult times, keeping themselves and their people inspired and motivated despite the obstacles coming their way. 

5. Their communication is powerful and prolific 

When we think of the great leaders of the past, we think of those with powerful communication – who use their words to inspire and unite, especially in times of uncertainty and change. Effective leaders don’t always have to deliver moving speeches in order to be defined as being a powerful and prolific communicator, they can do so in their everyday interactions with people. With businesses needing to respond to opportunities and threats with speed and agility, and with humans being naturally resistant to change, it takes a strong leader with the ability and communication skills to inspire and ignite a passion to embrace change amongst their people. Leaders who have the capacity to create a strong narrative or story that adds meaning and effectively communicates a higher purpose and encourages creativity are most successful in inspiring change and innovation.  

Great leadership encompasses so many qualities – more so than is covered in this article. Do you agree with these key attributes? What else do you think makes for a great leader? If your leadership team could do with my help, please get in touch today, I’d love to hear from you.

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