Good leaders are hard to find. Great leaders are even harder.
Many people are thrust into leadership roles but are not leaders. They demonstrate their lack of leadership skills by the way they act, talk and think.
Great leaders, however, demonstrate their leadership skills in very specific ways. Everything great leaders do shows just how great their leadership skills truly are.
Don’t confuse great leaders with great bosses or managers. They are not always the same.
You may think your boss is great because he cares about you or he leaves you alone during the day. Your manager might be very hands-off or give very detailed instructions about how to complete a project.
These traits are great…but do not mean your boss or manager is a great leader. Click here to see the difference between leadership and management.
What makes someone a great leader then? A great leader is someone who demonstrates great leadership skills. Some of these skills can be learned. Others come naturally. Regardless, the skills are continually being sharpened.
Leadership skills are sharpened when they are used frequently. Great leaders are consistent with the use of their skills.
The following are seven leadership skills great leaders continually practice:
1. They hire people who complement their weaknesses – Great leaders recognize their strengths and weaknesses. To create a strong team, they hire people whose strengths are the weaknesses of the leaders.
Great leaders are humble enough to show their weaknesses. They do not always have to be right or think they can do everything.
2. They get buy-in from subordinates without intimidation – Have you noticed how many bosses tell employees what to do? When they tell, they automatically talk about consequences of not doing what your told.
That’s not a trait of great leaders. Great leaders get buy-in from their subordinates. Be it employees, team members or peers, a great leader gets buy-in because the followers ultimately believe in and trust the leader. The leader is motivating, not demotivating.
They want to do what the leader asks. They do it out of desire, not fear. Fear is a great motivator but it is a short-term motivator. Great leaders don’t have a use for that tactic.
3. They listen to all sides but make the decision they feel is best – Great leaders are open-minded. Since they understand they do not have all the answers (See number 1 above), the are willing to listen to ideas.
Ultimately, though, leaders have to make the decisions. Great leaders will take in as much useful information as possible, digest it and then make the decision they feel is best for the situation.
If they make the wrong decision, they will own up to it but will also indicate it was the best decision based on the information at hand at the time.
4. They react quickly without overreacting – How would your boss react to losing your best client or receiving other bad news?
Would he overreact and implement an organization-wide or group-wide change that would definitely keep the same bad thing from happening but would also hamstring future progress?
Great leaders wouldn’t do that. Great leaders would react quickly but not overreact. They would quickly gather the facts, ask appropriate questions and then deal with the person responsible, if necessary.
There’s nothing worse than punishing an entire group for the mistake of one person.
5. They embrace change – Most people fear change. Great leaders embrace it. They know that growth and progress can only come because of change.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. Great leaders realize this and drive change to drive progress.
6. They take time to think – Do you get paid to think or to act? Almost everyone gets paid to do something. Leaders, while they are paid well to take action, they are also paid to think. Before any action is taken, great leaders think through it.
Also, great leaders are visionaries. Those visions and dreams for the future come from thought. Thinking is part of a great leader’s daily agenda.
7. They are willing to do the grunt work if needed – How many bosses have you had who were not willing to “stoop down” to your level? You would not catch them dead doing the grunt work.
Great leaders will get in the trenches with their followers. While doing that consistently is not the best use of a leader’s time, energy or salary, a great leader will show her followers she is willing to work.
The complete package
Put all of these seven leadership skills into one person and you will have one great leader. Have you ever worked for someone who demonstrated each of these leadership skills?
No? That’s not too surprising.
Can you even think of someone who you think had each of these characteristics? That’s difficult too isn’t it.
That’s why great leaders are so hard to find.
Can you be a great leader? You can if you really want to be. You have great qualities about you already. Work hard to add the skills above that you don’t consistently demonstrate and you’ll be on your way.
Once you become a great leader, you’ll start changing the world!