I think it’s safe to say we all know, to a large extent, what good leadership looks like. If this is truly the case, how come it’s so rare to see?
Are good leaders born, or are they made? I think this is a critical question to examine. After all, if you think good leaders cannot be made, we will have many people who find themselves in leadership positions, believing that they can’t be good leaders because they weren’t born that way.
I am of the school of thought that “leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work”. Does this mean that some people aren’t naturally inclined to good leadership? No, because even if you’re born with a natural tendency to be a good leader, those skills are likely to be dormant and abused without hard work.
Here is a list of attributes that every good leader should possess:
Good leaders have mastered the art of self-awareness. They regularly reflect objectively on their actions and inactions, words, strengths, weaknesses, personalities, likes and dislikes, and what they stand for. Why is this so important? Self-awareness enables leaders to lead with authenticity and clarity, which helps gain the trust of the team members and minimizes ambiguity in terms of direction.
Because good leaders are very much aware that they can’t do everything, they foster an environment that deems delegation a necessity. Also, self-awareness makes communication that much more effective. Self-aware leaders are already used to interpreting their emotions and thought processes to themselves, making it easier to convey their emotions and thoughts to other people.
Integrity is at the heart of good leadership, with honesty truly being the best policy. If a leader makes a promise and repeatedly breaks them without good explanations, the team's trust will eventually dissipate. Good leaders are conscious about earning their subordinates’ trust, as they understand that it directly impacts productivity and outcomes. You can take a good leader’s word to the bank, and that’s on periodt!
Good leaders understand the power of influence that they have and are committed to channeling that influence positively. They lead with empathy and also with a heart of service, which keeps them humble. They aren’t dictators and slavemasters, on the contrary, they value the opinion and feelings of those they lead and esteem collaboration and partnership.
Courage is a characteristic of good leaders. This doesn’t mean an absence of fear, but a determination to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” When you’re a leader, there’s no escaping having to make decisions - very tough ones sometimes. These range from having to fire a team member who isn’t pulling their weight, even after several interventions, to admitting and apologizing for making bad and irrational decisions.
Good leaders fully understand the immense power of spoken words and are very mindful of their utterances. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” It is beyond me how any leader will degrade and talk down on their team and at the same time expect extraordinary results. How??? Na ment??
A good leader should have a vision for the team. A concern for both process and results is paramount. A good leader comprehends balance and works hard at maintaining it as much as possible. Results should not be achieved at the team's expense; neither should there be an extreme focus on the team members in a way that compromises results.
Overall, a good leader acknowledges and perfects the “subtle nuances of leadership skills. For example, the challenge is to be dominant, but not rude; empathic, but not weak, and confident, but not arrogant”.