Written by Anna Bernstein on 08 Apr 2014
What makes a person a great leader? Our history is rich with the struggles, battles and achievements of those considered to be “great leaders”. From studying the characteristics and personalities ofthese people we begin to see common leadership skills start to emerge.
Mahatma Gandhi was a wise leader with exceptional people-skills and the natural ability to motivate others. Nelson Mandela was infamous for his unbreakable determination and persistence, whilst maintaining full belief in his vision and values. Winston Churchill was devoted to his goals and showed aggressive determination, perseverance and fearlessness in achieving them.
In business we too need strong leaders to help us achieve success. Much like the Gandhi’s, Mandela’s and Churchill’s of our time, strong business leaders also share common characteristics, personality traits and behaviours that can be attributed to their success in the realm of leadership.
A leader needs to have a vision and the passion to achieve. A good leader will be able to use that vision and passion to motivate and inspire others. In business this means motivating and inspiring your team to share your vision and work hard to achieve it. In order to do this, you need to have the sort of passion that is infectious. You also need to be able to communicate your passion with your team in a way that inspires them to share your vision, work with you and deliver their best to achieve success; which brings us to our next leadership strength:
A great leader must have impeccable communication skills; both the ability to voice their own thoughts and opinions, and also maintain the ability to listen and understand those of others. As a leader you will utilise your communicative skills every day. You will use your voice to inspire and motivate your team, build and maintain strong relationships, delegate work and orders as well as selling your vision and passion to your team. Likewise, you will use your ears to listen to the feedback, thoughts and opinions of your team, and others, in order to identify any opportunities or areas of improvement.
Confidence is an obvious characteristic of a strong leader; you need to be confident in yourself for others to place their faith in you. Nobody ever followed a shy, coward into battle did they? It’s therefore not surprising that those who are confident are most likely to take risks: another characteristic shared by great leaders. Anyone in business will know that difficult decisions are often presented - these decisions often carry high risks. A leader has to be able to weigh these risks and decide whether to hold back or take the leap.
Part of taking risks however, is the strength to take responsibility when they backfire. Being able to admit when you were wrong, accept responsibility and being able to deal with the consequences is a strength that only the greatest leaders achieve. However, as a leader you must also take responsibility for the performance of your team. Accepting responsibility of both yourself, and your team, will make you a great leader; being able to look forward and overcome will make you the greatest leader.
Finally, and it may seem apparent but, it is important for leaders to be able to lead to victory. Combining all of the above mentioned, a great leader must be able to think strategically in order to formulate a plan - a strategy that will lead their team to victory. In order to do this they must also have a good sense of direction so that they can ensure their team follows orders, stays on course and reach their goals and targets.