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Sep 21'

3 Key Qualities Successful Leaders Possess

When we think about great leaders such as Bill Gates, Barack Obama, or Oprah Winfrey, the first thing that might spring to mind is charisma, the ability to draw others into the orbit of your own ambition and share the dream.

Conversely, bad leaders repel or frustrate staff, neglect opportunities, and exist in a permanent state of delusional self-aggrandizement. Not everyone is cut out for a job at the top.

However, for every magnetic leader, there’s a divisive, shy, or peculiar one – think Mark Zuckerberg, Margaret Thatcher, or Donald Trump. What then do all these people have in common? What makes thousands or even millions of people want to follow them, work for them, or hold them up as sources of inspiration?

There are three qualities that are mandatory if you want to be a great leader. Let’s have a look at these essential personality traits in a little more detail.

SUCCESSFUL LEADERS IMPROVE THEMSELVES

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Bill Gates famously reads fifty books a year. When asked why, he told Insider magazine “reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding”.

The tendency not to rest on one’s laurels is key to good leadership. It’s converse, being a know-it-all, alienates employees and prevents a leader from learning new skills.  Given how fast things are changing in our technology-driven age, it behooves leaders to develop a humble approach to knowledge.

If you are new to leadership or harbor ambitions to lead a team one day, here are three simple ways for developing an open and receptive mind:

  • · Read, listen, and watch a wide range of media, across the political spectrum and in fields affiliated with, or adjacent to, your own.  If you don’t have time to read fifty books a year, can you listen to podcasts or watch video content while travelling or working out?
  • · Hold briefings with HoDs with specialized skills to keep up to date with technological and economic developments.  This both has the advantage of improving your skills base, and allowing your team to develop and demonstrate theirs, building loyalty.
  • · Pay close attention to your health and wellbeing – sleep, diet, mental health, and physical fitness are the four elements of a well-balanced health regime.  You won’t lead your team well if you’re exhausted, anxious or having trouble concentrating.  Think you can skimp on sleep and squeeze more in?  Think again.  Read Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep? To find out why this may be one the best tips you’ll ever receive.

SUCCESSFUL LEADERS DEVELOP THEIR EMPLOYEES

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Another vital aspect of leadership is recognizing your team’s achievements, rewarding success, and promoting new talent. During the COVID-19 pandemic, employee resignation has proven a huge problem. There’s even a name for it – The Great Resignation. Recently, NPR reported a record four million resignations in April 2021 alone. 

The reasons for this mass exodus were many:

  • · Staff became used to the freedom of working from home, which not all businesses would continue to support.
  • · Time for reflection allowed employees to reexamine their roles.
  • · Some workers decided to take time off to be with their families or pursue other ambitions.
  • · Other workers took early retirement.
  • · Still more were worried about returning to offices which they viewed as unsafe.

Ultimately, it’s down to leaders to make workplaces inviting spaces for employees to return to. The ingredients for this are simple, yet often overlooked – employee rewards and recognition and advancement. Great leaders develop the unique skills their employees have, even when this creates a temporary vacancy, or increased financial outlay because of training costs or pay hikes.

Forbes recently outlined 15 ways that leaders could show appreciation to their staff, not all of which cost money.  Even simple praise can pay dividends in increased productivity. 

As poet William Blake put it: “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.”

SUCCESSFUL LEADERS VALUE INNOVATION

If you’re a naturally risk-adverse person, you’re probably not a born leader. There’s a reason why three of the world’s most famous billionaire CEOs took to space in 2021. Leaders inspire by example and are always seeking the next big thing. There’s a host of reasons why this might be, including:

  • · Market advantage is assured when you get there first.
  • · Blue sky thinking leads to real world products – think Teflon or Velcro (both from the 60s space race).
  • · Innovation allows you to recruit the best minds.
  • · Innovation can pull together whole teams in work they enjoy.
  • · It’s fun!

That last point isn’t a glib throwaway. Give your employees the opportunity to shine by developing new products, services, or ways of working and you’re buying something priceless – job satisfaction. That’s the best protection against employee churn.

TAKEAWAY

Master just these three elements, and you’re firmly on the way to becoming a much better leader.

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