As early as 1977 the question of leaders and managers, and their role in an organisation has been consistently raised. In an article on organisational structure and process, Abraham Zalzenik addressed the question of the difference between leadership and management. Management, he said, focused on achieving competence and the right balance of power. He said this excluded the leadership traits of inspiration, empathy and vision.
For a while, all big corporates wanted great managers at all levels. The change came when companies which had a leadership culture started gaining all the advantages in the market. They were the ones setting trends, attracting the top talents, having bigger profit margins and were active not reactive to market processes.
So, what are the qualities of a great leader? Here are what we believe to be the most important leadership qualities:
Great leaders hold themselves true to certain standards and ethics. When practiced, integrity not only earns trust from others, it is reciprocated. Employees largely mirror their leaders from the top. A good leader must uphold the ethical standards they want filtered through their organisations.
Great leaders have visions they want to achieve and the ability to make them a reality. It is not just about reaching the highest levels of success, it is about being unique, setting trends, changing directions and consistently discovering new approaches and ways to do things; motivational because it allows employees to feel they are part of something worth their time and dedication.
A great leader’s approach is impactful and results oriented, motivating their employees to produce work of the highest possible standard while working in line with the company’s vision and values. This, in turn, ensures a low turnover and generates a workforce who are willing to give their absolute maximum.
Great leaders accept responsibility when they’ve made an error in judgement, or when they’ve failed to handle a situation correctly. They use these experiences to learn or to teach others, and take the necessary steps to correct or compensate for their downfall. Demonstrating accountability filters through an organisation and generates respect, plus earns trust and goodwill from stakeholders.
Great leaders effectively communicate their expectations. They also possess excellent listening skills, and an ability to observe feedback and put it into practice. They tailor communication styles for different situations to be able to meet the needs of whatever is taking place. Constantly balancing need with outcome.
Modern leaders do not simply dictate, they listen to ideas and make room for them to be implemented. They recognise contributions. There is no monopoly of knowledge and great leaders are open to solutions and ideas from others. All organisations benefit from a hybrid of contribution.
A great leader steers away from suspense and stagnation. The bureaucracy that impedes decision making prevents organisations from taking advantage of growth opportunities. A bold decision, even when it turns out wrong, makes business better in the long run.
A great leader understands that a business is only as good as the sum of its parts and so builds teams and people, investing in training and advancing other leaders. Great leaders are committed to the professional development, wellbeing and happiness of themselves and their employees.
Many of the challenges and obstacles faced by leaders arise with no clear roadmap. They have an obligation to take control and make fast decisions. This requires well developed insights to identify patterns and pathways to resolution. Great leaders possess the ability to make good judgments with little detail present. This gives way to proactivity and the right people being given crucial roles.
In such a competitive and fast-moving world, it is important to stand out in a saturated market. Great leaders embed a culture of innovation to set new market trends and energise the workforce.
Tania Watson is the founder of Creative Coaching and an executive coach, organisational consultant and leadership specialist. Creative Coaching is a successful company dedicated to the development of senior leaders in organisations through one to one coaching, intact team development and group facilitation. If you or someone from your organisation would like to have a no obligation conversation about how Creative Coaching may be able to help, please email Tania directly at email@example.com.