There are thousands of books written about leadership and just as many theories written by known and unknown scholars. If you’ve read any of these or had the opportunity to work with or for an Exceptional Leader, then you have probably noticed some common themes to their success. You’ve probably also noticed some common characteristics for those not so exceptional leaders as well that you can probably list off the top of your head.
One common misconception regarding exceptional leaders is that they must be extremely smart or must have a high IQ. But let me ask you- How many of you know someone that is so smart, they are actually dumb?
The other misconception is that you must be extremely talented or skilled in what you do. But let me ask you- How many of you know someone that is extremely talented and skilled at their given profession, but haven’t achieved much and certainly wouldn’t qualify as an exceptional leader?
Before I go any further let me clarify something. Of course you need to be somewhat smart and skilled at what you do to have a shot at being an exceptional leader, but those traits alone will not place you in the exceptional leader category.
Obviously there is something else that brands these exceptional leaders and it’s these qualities that I would like to lay out.
- Leadership is about People- we don’t lead in a vacuum and if your leadership style is always about what is best for YOU than cross yourself off the list for exceptional leader. Effectively communicating a plan that involves people and creates buy in to a larger vision is key if you plan to lead. Creating, building and maintaining strong relationships is the easiest way to engage a team and not just those at the top rung but at every level of the organization.
- Lead by Example- Successful leaders demonstrate the behaviors they ask their teams to perform. Leading is essentially coaching and everyday as a coach your team is relying on you to be a role model. How are you showing up under adversity? How are you managing conflict? How are you living the values that you ask others to act upon?
It’s hard for anyone to have faith in a leader that that isn’t as committed to the vision of empowering a team to take action as they are being asked to commit themselves. Leading by example shows confidence and dedication to a team and allows them to align with the vision of the organization.
- Be Human and Admit Mistakes- Leaders are not paid for perfection, they are paid for results. Everyone will make mistakes. How you own up to those mistakes goes a long way toward the type of leader you are. Admitting to a mistake and owning the consequences makes you relatable as a leader. More importantly it gives others the confidence to take risks knowing that mistakes aren’t fatal and part of the learning and growing process. Show me a team that is afraid to make mistakes and I’ll show you an unengaged and unproductive team. Once you own the mistake it’s easier to get your teams to focus on fixing the problem instead of fixing the blame.
- SHUT UP and Listen- The best leaders are always the best listeners. Listening to your team provides you with valuable information from multiple sources that ultimately allows you to make the best and most informed decisions. Your team doesn’t expect you to always agree with them, but they do have a right to expect that you will at least hear them out. When I know you are listening to me, even when you don’t agree, I know you value me.
Remember being a good listener is not about YOU understanding that person, it’s about that person feeling understood in that moment. Which do you think is more valuable if you want to become an exceptional leader?
- Have Solid Values
Strong leaders have a clear set of values and a personal brand that they strive to live up to every day. If your values are simply about making $$ and being profitable that’s hard to get fired up for in the long term. Don’t get me wrong, people go to work to earn a living but that’s not what causes them to go the extra mile.
Working as a team, flexible work hours, having a life outside the workplace, a positive work environment, job security and feeling as though what I do contributes to the success of the company and makes a difference in people’s lives. Those are values that people can stand behind and if as a leader you understand those values then I’m willing to walk through walls for you.
- Develop Future Leaders
There is always a need for good leadership at every level of an organization. Identifying talent, and providing opportunities to training, coaching, mentoring and development is a hallmark of exceptional leaders. True leaders love watching others grow and become better than they are. They don’t fear for their jobs by the growth of others, they promote it and most importantly fund it.
Exceptional leaders usually aren’t born that way, they were fortunate to have someone that nurtured their talent and ability. As a team member, when I experience a leader and an organization that is willing to invest in me and my success, then I’m willing to invest my energy and talent in the organization and more specifically in that leader.
There you have it. The six most important characteristics of exceptional leaders. But don’t kid yourself there are so many more and some that you may practice on a consistent basis that will allow you to get up on the exceptional leader board.
Which of these do you demonstrate on a consistent basis? Where do you have an opportunity for growth and development? What are you planning to implement this week to start or continue being that exceptional leader?
Post you responses in the comments below and share this article with anyone that you feel could benefit.
Cheers you your continued success and your health
One Quarter Turn at a Time
Quote for the Week:
“Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching”- Lin Pernille
You don’t need a title to be a leader- lead from the chair you reside. –Coach Tim