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I have always asked myself what separates great leaders from those who aren't titled the same. When great leaders do things right, they inspire people working with them, but great leadership does not just come on a platter. A true leader is noteworthy and someone to be observed in action. They have exemplary characteristics that stand out. Not everyone is a natural born leader but everyone has the capacity to be a great leader. There is no one formula for great leadership but there are some things that great leaders do differently that clearly place them in a category all their own.
There has always been a great debate on whether leaders are born or made, but the truth be told, everyone is capable of attaining leadership abilities. These abilities, however, come with commitment and actions, and it is through the actions that leaders execute on a daily basis that the essence of great leadership is brought to bear.
Great leaders inspire people, they create exciting working cultures that motivates people and make them want to give their best. They instill confidence in their team and share their visions with them thereby making the members of their team visionaries while providing guidance and mentorship to improve their leadership skills. These great characteristics are the things that great leaders do differently that clearly differentiate great leaders from us.
They lead by example.
Great leaderships entail more than just leading and providing solutions for problems when they arise. It involves doing things right and inspiring those around you to perform at their best. Setting examples as you lead a team is important in making a difference in your team. This is imperative because when a great leader sets double standard it invariably leads to lack of trust and confidence from team members. When you require people to put forth their best, you will need to inspire confidence and trust in them by practicing what you preach. Great leaders exemplify integrity by walking the talk. They tend to model the qualities they will like to see in others.
They are assertive.
A great leader tends to be assertive without being pushy. This is one of the major attributes that clearly differentiates great leaders. Being a great leader is more than just getting results, it's also about getting the most out of the people around you. So how does one become assertive without being a jerk? Great leaders become more assertive by engaging employees, and leveraging the respect and relationship they have built with their staff over the years. They lead with empathy while being assertive about what they want.
They are confident.
Confidence should be the driving force for every great leader because it is an essential ingredient for leadership. A leader that lacks confidence will find it difficult to lead, because people will not want to follow an insecure and uncertain leader. There is a natural tendency that people tend to trust those that appear confident, because they are not afraid to make decisions and commit to them and that is what is expected of a great leader. When a leader is confident, it gives an air of security to those around him, suffice to say, that without confidence there is no leadership. However, leaders need to be careful not to be seen as overly aggressive because this can be misconstrued as lack of confidence. Confidence can be regarded as one of the things that great leaders do differently that differentiates average leaders and great leaders.
They trust their team.
Leadership is all about inspiring, encouraging and empowering people to do things in your stead. Sometimes you might feel the need to do everything by yourself, but there is always a limit to how far you can go at some point to avoid burning out, so there is the need for you to delegate authority. Great leaders learn how to put their trust in their team’s ability to finish their task. However, in building this trust, communication plays a major role because there is always the need to communicate and specify your expectation and requirements towards fulfilling that expectation. It is also worthy to note that your team will also need to trust and count on you too, because trusting in leaders and management is a critical driver of employees engagement. It is difficult to see people who follow a leader who does not follow through on promises.
They care about their team.
Caring about the welfare of your team as a leader is very important, because it is the people you work with that are always critical to the success of every organization. We must understand that cultivating a great relationship with your employee helps you in motivating your employees better. Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz is planning on spending close to $250 million over the next 10 years in sending eligible employees through college. He wakes up at 4 AM everyday and sends out motivational emails to his employees. When great leaders take care of their team, it trickles down to how enthusiastic they will be about their work and this often reflects in their daily activities. When you motivate your employees they tend to work at their highest individual potential and are more likely to stay on the bus and work with you.
They stay positive.
One of the things great leaders do differently is that they combine positivity and reality to achieve their goals. Having a positive attitude and being optimistic increases the motivation of your team because people will believe in you only when you believe in yourself. So when things get tough, a great leader should be solution oriented and remain positive while focusing on the goal ahead.
They protect their team.
As a leader, you need to earn the respect of your team for you to excel in that leadership role, and you cannot earn that respect when you keep passing the buck and throwing them under the bus. It is important to always protect your team. Be ready to take the hit for a team member and don’t try to shift the blame. Great leaders protect their team and build up the people that follow them. They create an enabling environment where people are not afraid to speak up, but they can only do this by earning the trust of their team.
They convert vision to action.
One of the things that great leaders do differently that puts them above the rest is that they have good visions and are able to envision critical success parts which they build on to produce excellent results. It took Richard Branson five months after he floated the idea of Virgin Atlantic to get it underway. While for some other business entrepreneurs it will take them at least two to three years for them to implement such an idea, Branson relied more on his business instincts and moved at a record breaking speed to fully utilize his instincts. Every great leader works with his team to develop a shared vision which usually results in a plan for action that produces excellent results.
They work to improve their leadership skill.
Great leaders accept the fact that one can never know everything so they tend to improve their skills and learn new ones. Personal growth often comes from the desire to learn and it is leaders who work to learn and improve their skills that often get the results. Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz was under the mentorship of leadership expert Warren Bennis for over three decades because he understood that there is a need for every great leader to study what other great leaders did and incorporate it into their lives. When a leader stops learning, he is often stagnated and most times he is fighting obsolesce and obscurity. It is quite important as a great leader to always equip yourself and refresh your skills because that is the key to remaining relevant in an evolving business environment.
They encourage consistency and not complacency.
As a great leader it is important never to settle for average, that is why it becomes imperative that while a great leader recognizes the value of consistency, he must, however, be careful not to become complacent. While consistency gives a leader the opportunity to focus on other things and evaluate new strategies, a great leader should be able to determine when the business is becoming complacent and look out for those signs that shows it is going off track or settling at a particular level of achievement. A great leader should be able to encourage consistency while maintaining a certain standard of excellence, thereby discouraging complacency.
In conclusion, we can see that companies perform well when great leaders put together these characteristics that have been highlighted here. These characteristics are things that great leaders do differently that clearly differentiate them from average leaders.