What Makes a Great Leader?

There have been countless books, articles and blogs written about “leadership.” A Google search brings 457,000,000 results. Well, I’m going to make it 457,000,001. I’ve had the good fortune to have worked for some fantastic leaders and each one had unique characteristics that made them great. They were humble, self-aware and fair. These may seem obvious and simple, but these traits are routinely overlooked when hiring for such an important role.

Great leaders realize they aren't going to win every battle or situation. Some of the great leaders never won a championship or the “Gold Leader Award” of their industry, but they got the best out of those around them.  They learn from each encounter and situation and are able to provide guidance to their team members.  They are less concerned with the title on their desk than they are in helping their team members succeed. They remove obstacles of failure for their teams and provide a path to success.

Great leaders also understand the importance of their position and title and don't assume they are approachable. They reach out to all employees and seek opinions. They create a safe, honest and open environment where their employees always know where they stand, good or bad. They get out of their offices and interact with team members. They take an active approach in their employee’s career path and provide guidance on the next move for that person.

Great leaders, especially those new to an organization, give everyone a chance to prove themselves and succeed. They offer a new slate and block out the noise from others in the organization about their team. They value the opinion of those valuable Talent Review 9 boxes, and from other leaders, but ultimately make their own assessments of the skills and abilities of the team. They also don't change things just because they feel the need to make their mark. They take the time to evaluate currents systems and processes, and, if something is working well, they don’t create unnecessary changes for the sake of change.

I’ve heard leaders described as having the “it” factor. They possess some intangible quality that can only be measured by the cufflinks or stylish shoes they wear. But great leadership is more than a fancy suit or a high-priced manicure. Great leaders put their employees and their organization first and realize the recognition will come as those around them succeed.

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