As the question of what makes a good leader is pored over and examined further by business analysts, law enforcement and educational institutions, new developments arise in leadership theory and methodology. The one thing that remains the same is the understanding that leadership is the catalyst under which all elements of an organization work together.
Here are seven factors that can serve as a springboard to success for anyone occupying a leadership role.
When a leader is transparent, they are challenged less by those they oversee. Good leaders use transparency to help those around them embrace change, which can be accomplished with a combination of communication, informed debate, shared decision-making, reaching a consensus and using social media. People should know why and how a leader has come to a decision and in what ways it will affect them. Transparent leaders are not micromanagers; they give credit to others when success occurs, and take the blame for failures.
2. Learn from Failure
Experiencing failure has the power to shape a leader. It is a powerful resource for learning and teaches survival, renewal and innovation. Embracing failure enables us to change and inspire others. Leaders must be willing to take great risks and fail or great reward can never be attained. In the process, leaders gain great perspective about people and who it is they can trust.
One of the core principles of leadership is trust. In the past, leadership was scarce and special, a function of powerful people. In the modern day, that vertical model of leadership is less effective. Today, success is attained by being able to collaborate with someone a leader has no power over in pursuit of common goals. In other words, a good leader no longer trusts in power, but places their faith in the power of trust. Additionally, a leader is the trustee in any relationship and in order to be effective, must be trustworthy as well as willing to take the risk of placing trust in the people around them.
A good leader embodies confidence. No one will follow a leader that isn’t self-assured, and people can see through a façade of confidence. A leader who can articulate their goals and stand by decisions is far more effective than someone trying to hide their insecurities behind a mask of arrogance. Even after failure, a good leader is able to trust their gut and take on any decision. Confident leaders are generally happier, create better relationships, remain open to risks, accept feedback, think for themselves, recognize success and are more motivated.
A good leader weighs a decision carefully, but once they make up their mind, they are not easily put off course. This shows commitment, which breeds consistency, both of which are traits that pay off well in leadership. Scott Hoffman, owner of Folio Literary Management, told Entrepreneur.com that he often looks back on advice he received from a mentor when learning how to officiate basketball games; “Make the call fast, make the call loud and don’t look back,” he said. He went on to note that many times, wrong decisions over trivial matters made in a decisive manner yield better long term results and a strong team mentality than “wishy-washy” decisions that end up being correct.
This trait is important to keep leaders grounded and connected with the people around them. Being honest, having integrity and listening to employees will only help gain their respect, which will pay off when it comes time to exercise decisiveness. The best leaders possess an open mind and flexibility, and are able to adjust to new ways of thinking or alternative methods when necessary. These leaders take criticism in stride and view it more as an opportunity for growth than an assault on their character. While it’s true that everyone loves confidence, humility creates a likable persona, making others more comfortable with their position.
Many decisions a leader will encounter will be unique to the business and will require more thought than simply throwing a canned solution at it. Teams will often look to a leader for innovative thinking, so being able to tap into previous experiences and a treasure chest of new ideas will pay off for any leader. For Aubrey Marcus, founder of dietary supplement company Onnit, innovation is a key element of survival in the modern business world. “The innovators are our leaders. You cannot separate the two,” Marcus said in the Entrepreneur.com interview.
While leadership styles may need to be tailored to suit specific situations and businesses, these seven traits can provide the tools necessary to steer an organization down the path of success. Some people may be born leaders, but these are characteristics anyone can display with the right amount of determination.