Being an effective leader takes years of practice. It takes so long because you must develop and balance a variety of skills, all of which have a learning curve. Though leadership styles can and should vary depending on the situation, company, and individual, every leader should work towards honing these five traits:
You can’t lead others if you don’t know why or where you’re going yourself. True leaders know who they are and what they stand for. Consider the following questions:
What drives you?
What are your core values?
What are you great at?
What do you need to work on?
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Spend time alone and do the work to get to know yourself to the core. Find a way to align your values to the work you do. If your work and values aren’t aligning, take a deeper look to find why that is. Knowing your own values lays a foundation for your followers, which creates an atmosphere of certainty and trust.
Effective leaders know how to make decisions, efficiently. Good and quick decision making is the hallmark of a great leader. Of course, it doesn’t make firing an employee or sharing negative feedback any easier. Leaders handle these decisions differently, but have one thing in common: they don’t spend their time avoiding the decision.
A journalist asked Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, “How did you become so successful?” Walton replied, “I have made a lot of good decisions.” The reporter then asked, “How did you learn to make good decisions?” Walton replied, “By making a lot of bad decisions.”
When you consider the differences between successful and unsuccessful leaders, it’s usually linked to their decisions, or lack thereof. Too many leaders end up postponing decisions out of fear they’ll make the wrong one, which inevitably causes even larger problems. Efficient leaders often learn this lesson the hard way, and once they do, they realize the value in moving with swiftness and confidence. Even if you aren’t totally sure of the direction, consider that any direction is oftentimes better than no direction.
The best way to lead is by example, and if you want people to follow you, you have to lead with enthusiasm. Nobody wants to work for someone who doesn’t embody the characteristics they’re expected to express themselves. Nobody will be motivated to pour blood, sweat, and tears into a business run by a leader who isn’t enthusiastic about his or her work. As a leader, it’s your job to show–not tell your team what enthusiasm and joy look like on a daily basis.
An enthusiastic and transformational leader provides inspirational motivation to encourage their followers. Of course, being enthusiastic and inspirational isn’t always easy. You don’t need motivational speeches to rouse your team; you need a genuinely passionate attitude and generous spirit. Include others in your work process and offer recognition, praise, and reward for other people’s accomplishments. Sharing your joy with your team has a positive domino effect on the whole company, and is necessary to maintain your team’s motivation.
Too often, leaders lean on their titles as a crutch: “But I’m the founder.” “But I’m the CEO.” “But I’m the manager.” They excuse their own behavior and mistakes instead of earning people’s respect by owning up to their shortcomings. Good leaders earn the respect of their teams without reminding them of their seniority.
As this Forbes article outlines, great leaders acknowledge their mistakes instead of blaming others. While difficult, admitting your mistakes shows bravery and vulnerability, which are important traits to encourage in the workplace. When you make mistakes, teach your team what you learned and you’ll build connection and trust. Then, move past your mistakes: successful people take risks, make mistakes, but don’t quit. Don’t forget your shortcomings, but don’t obsess over them. Get up and keep moving. Even the best leaders will make mistakes, but if you handle them responsibly, you’ll earn the respect of your team.
Great leaders differentiate themselves through dedication. They are committed to living, breathing, and practicing their skills to best support their team and achieve extraordinary results. They consistently take initiative, embrace challenges without fear, and sacrifice for the greater good of the team and its goals. They relentlessly pursue personal excellence so they can serve their team better each day. And through their dedication, they inspire their teams and others around them.
As you work towards developing your leadership qualities, don’t forget to ask your team for feedback and inspiration. If you’re looking for a leader or a team to serve, Pinnacle Accounting and Finance can help: our team has years of experience that will put you on track for success. If you would like to learn more, please contact us at 412-343-6300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.