Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “born leader”. Leadership qualities like everything else have to be learned. Some people may be fortunate enough to be born in a family that demonstrates good leadership and thus they may have learned them at an early age. Others may have to work at it a bit but leadership can be learned (and taught).
If you have an overwhelming desire to be the very best in the industry and climb the career ladder you need to develop certain key leadership skills.
Typical qualities found within a “natural born leader” are:
1. Delegation Skills
Being able to effectively delegate work, tasks and roles is an essential part of any leadership role. You need to be able to identify which staff member can take on each role and complete it in a satisfactory manner. Effective delegation means not feeling that you have to micromanage the task but having an efficient system in place to check on progress and provide direction as needed. It does not mean being “bossy” but rather providing an environment where employees are motivated to give their best.
I don’t have a problem with delegation. I love to delegate. I am either lazy enough, or busy enough, or trusting enough, or congenial enough, that the notion leaving tasks in someone else’s lap doesn’t just sound wise to me, it sounds attractive. ~John Ortberg
Staff, clients and other managers are the main people that will need to be communicated with on a regular basis. You need to be able to deliver your message in such a way that everyone is clear about the specific areas and the things that need to be done. Communication is a two way street and it involves as much listening as it does speaking (perhaps more listening). Understanding is a key component, the message must be delivered and understood in order for communication to actually have taken place.
When receiving a message you need to verify that what you think you heard was actually what was intended. Likewise, you need to determine whether your intended message was actually received and understood. Also different people have different preferred methods of communication. Auditory learners and/or extroverts might prefer a personal phone call while visual learners and/or introverts might prefer receiving an email. So you need to be able to communicate in the most effective way for the task at hand.
Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life. ~Brian Tracy
Leaders need to be able to stand up for what needs to be done, in the face of opposition and obstacles. They need to have the confidence to take on staff issues, and confront work related problems head on. The shy and retiring type are generally unsuitable for a leadership role because they let difficulties slide. Leaders also need to have confidence in themselves and their ideas. But this does not mean that they aren’t willing to listen to others or change their mind when necessary. As a matter of fact, a supremely self-confident person is often more willing to accept good ideas wherever he finds them rather than feeling threatened by ideas other than his own.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ ~Eleanor Roosevelt
If you are not fully committed to your role and the business you are working for, your success will suffer. One of the key factors in success is perseverance, not quitting at the first sign of difficulty and being willing to do “whatever it takes”. This does not mean that you should lack principles or that you should continue doing something once it becomes obvious that what you are doing is not going to work. It may mean being willing to try 1000 different ways to accomplish a goal like Thomas Edison.
Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. During all those years of experimentation and research, I never once made a discovery. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention, pure and simple. I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved. This was the only possible way for me to work out the problem. … I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. ~Thomas Edison
It is not always easy to be positive, sometimes the stresses of daily and working life can take their toll and affect a mood which will have an impact on team morale and gradually affect the success of the department. Think positively, act positively and the people around you will follow suit. Turn failures into successes and highlight the positive aspects that are within each issue. By creating a positive work environment you will attract the best employees and your results will show it.
“What I am suggesting is that each of us turn from the negativism that permeates our society and look for the remarkable good among those with whom we associate, that we speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults, that optimism replace pessimism, that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and was prone to speak critically, my father would say: “Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley
Thinking outside of the box and using your own initiative is something that is a desired quality within any potential leader. You need to bring something new to the table that will invigorate the team and allow the results to not only be accurate but a great success. You need to lead people into a different type of thinking and allow your team to stand out.
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. ~Steve Jobs
Leaders need to inspire people to follow them after all you can’t be a leader without followers! Leaders need to create an environment where employees look up to you for inspiration, perhaps because of your vision, charisma or ability. This is where your strengths shine and because of those strengths people will be willing to follow you.
In life you need either inspiration or desperation. ~Tony Robbins
Leaders need to set an example and encourage their staff to follow it. They need to be mindful of company principles, have a strong work ethic and set the pace for members of their staff. A good leader says “follow me men” rather than “take that hill men and I’ll be there shortly.”
If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example. I have to do so for all the Ikea employees. ~Ingvar Kamprad
Staff need to feel as though they can talk to the people above them about anything whether it is a personal issue or something work related. Happy staff will work harder and achieve more if they have a strong leader that is supportive (whom they feel has their best interests at heart). This doesn’t mean that you need to solve all of their problems for them. Your role as a leader is to be a resource for employees, to monitor their work and guide them within their roles. If you solve all their problems you are not helping them to reach their full potential and it takes time making you less efficient (delegation). Your job is to clarify their problem (communication) and point them in the right direction (vision).
In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power. ~Ken Blanchard
Being passionate about a job is important for many people and never more so than in a leader. Your passion will provide motivation for you and inspiration for your followers. It will give you the commitment to persevere in the face of obstacles and make you an example people will want to emulate. Passion leads to charisma, makes it easier to delegate, promotes creativity, positivity and a good working environment. Passion is the foundation for all the other key leadership qualities. After all without passion it is “just a job.”
It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson