You may have heard throughout your life that you should be a leader not a follower. While your intention to be a leader might be there, not everyone possesses the qualities required to be a great leader.
When determining what makes someone a leader not a follower, there are often several qualities consistent amongst all leaders. However, there may be a different approach to how these qualities are implemented.
For example, some leaders are more passive while others are more hands-on.
In this article, we review 15 qualities of great leaders. Where applicable, apply these qualities to your style of leadership to continuously improve the way you guide those around you.
To be a leader not a follower, you absolutely have to have the trust of those you work with. Trust is built on being honest and showing integrity throughout everything you do.
If you aren’t honest and are caught in even the smallest of lies or exaggerations, that damages the trust that your coworkers have in you. As a result, it can be hard to build that trust back up.
However, if you do make a mistake or lie, be forthright rather than pretending it didn’t happen. Doubling down on an embellished statement won’t help you.
You are human after all, so apologize and correct the statement you made, to help regain the trust of those around you.
You want those you work with to know that you have their back and that you are working together as a team. As much as you want your employees to be committed, they too want to see your commitment.
Be present in your team effort and make sure they know that you are involved and you are there when they need it.
Having a leader that isn’t committed to the task at hand only demotivates the rest of the group and tempts them to not give their full effort.
Boost the morale and motivation of your entire team by staying committed from start to finish on the task that you are all collectively working to accomplish.
Communication is the underlying key to many of the other qualities on this list. Being a good communicator allows you to show remorse when you mess up or to delegate tasks properly with clear instructions.
Furthermore, effective communication enables you to stay invested in your teammate’s wellbeing and the overall project status.
Being an effective communicator spills over into so many other leadership qualities that it’s hard to say it’s even possible to be a good leader without effective communication skills.
Additionally, communication skills are dwindling in the workforce and having this skillset can really set you apart.
This includes virtual communication and knowing when to talk in person versus when to send an email or instant message.
It was previously mentioned in this article that to be a good leader, you need to be able to admit when you make a mistake or exaggerate something. That is one example of being able to hold yourself accountable.
However, you also need to hold your teammates accountable.
When something goes wrong, don’t be quick to blame. But, rather be quick to analyze, determine where the breakdown occurred and how it can be avoided next time.
People will make mistakes, the idea isn’t to punish them for it but to help them learn from it and continually improve.
That goes for yourself even more than your teammates.
You can control your own growth and accountability, the best you can do for them is to offer suggestions and provide guidance for the next time around.
Delegation is not just the key to getting more done.
Sure, spreading the work amongst multiple people makes for a more manageable and even workload for everyone. However, it also helps to boost the confidence of those who are given work.
If you keep all of the difficult tasks for yourself and are never challenging your teammates, they won’t grow. Eventually, they will become bored with the mundane tasks you have them completing and will be looking for alternative work.
However, you can help your team improve if you mix in tasks that challenge them to step up.
It also shows that you trust them to take on significant projects. That trust goes a long way and boosts the confidence of your team members.
Empathy is one of the greatest tools that you can utilize to gain a connection with other individuals.
You do not have to be best friends with everyone you work with. However, empathy helps to show that you understand when one of your teammates is struggling or is in a difficult situation.
Rather than focusing on the bottom line, you should be focusing on your people first. That is what will make for a better team and better results in the long run.
If people feel that you don’t understand what they are going through, there could be resentment, or it could even make their miserable situation worse.
Be willing to accommodate and find a solution to help your team members when they are going through a tough time. In the long run, this will only make them more willing to work hard for you and help to keep them optimistic during difficulties.
Everyone knows that business isn’t always booming, things don’t always go your way, and every day isn’t sunshine and rainbows.
So, how you handle adversity is crucial.
One trait that many of the greatest sports coaches talk about is their team’s ability to handle adversity. Their ability to put a loss behind them and move forward with a perspective that they will show up to compete at the next game.
That also translates into all types of teams, and typically, it starts with the leader of the team.
What will set you apart as a leader not a follower is how you react after you have a day that doesn’t go your way. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and your team, wake up the next morning and treat it as a new day.
Each new day is an opportunity to build on the hard work you and your team have accomplished to date.
8. A High Emotional IQ
Emotional IQ might be a newer term, but the idea and the practice of emotional intelligence has been around forever amongst great leaders.
To be a leader not a follower, you need to be able to control your own emotions. Furthermore, being able to react appropriately to the emotional responses of others is critical to communicating and avoiding outbursts.
When someone has an unjustifiable emotional response, it can be tempting to match that response with an outburst of your own. Instead, settle down, and get to the root of the problem.
Find where the emotions involved are coming from and develop a solution or a plan from there.
A great leader has top-to-bottom transparency with their team.
Rather than hiding certain information with your team, be open about your vision. Furthermore, discuss how you plan to achieve that vision, so all team members are aware of what they are trying to accomplish.
If individuals are confused on why they are doing certain tasks, or why you are withholding information, you lose their trust.
One main difference between a leader and a follower is foresight. A good leader can visualize what they plan to achieve with their team and work backwards to determine a plan.
Most of the challenges you face alongside your team will require you to consider the implications of each decision and where it will land you in the future.
Having something to shoot for, such as a final result or an end goal, will give you and your team more clarity in your decision making.
Everyone is creative.
You might not think that you have a creative gene. However, the reality is that everyone has the potential to be creative and the ability to approach challenges from a unique perspective.
Being a leader means that sometimes you will be faced with situations that you have never faced before. As a result, you will need to develop unique and creative solutions for those situations.
Also, creativity can help when it comes to how you interact with your team. Being stuck in your ways can get boring for those you interact with.
12. Decision Making Skills
The ability to make efficient and effective decision-making skills only comes with experience.
You don’t want to make decisions too quickly that you don’t think them through. Alternatively, you also don’t want to wait too long which might result in missed opportunities.
Furthermore, as a leader, you should have the final decision, but you don’t have to be the only one who has input. If it affects other people, consider their opinions on the matter before deciding one way or the other.
When separating a leader from a follower, it is evident that the latter struggles to confidently determine a path forward when challenged with a complex problem. However, as you are given more exposure to tough situations, your decision-making skills will only get better.
13. The Ability To Motivate Others
To be a great leader, you have to be able to help your team find their motivation so that they can contribute effectively to the common goal.
This means you need to identify their strengths and what they enjoy doing and allow them to do more of that.
If your team members are happy with what they are working on and motivated to help accomplish the common goal, they will take more pride in their work. In the end, the finals result will be better because of it.
Also, if you are the leader, your motivation should be amongst the highest on the team. Your motivation will be contagious to a certain extent, and those around you will be able to feed off of your energy.
If you are not inspired, then likely your team members will not be either.
Another difference between a leader and a follower is confidence. Confidence not only in yourself but confidence in your team as well.
When you are confident in yourself and your team’s ability, you have no problem taking on challenging projects. You know that as a group, working collaboratively together, there is a lot that you can bring to the table
As a leader, you want the people you work with to have confidence as well. Let them know that they have a reputation to preserve. It will help the whole group strive for excellence.
This will go a long way in enhancing your delivered product and in developing your team into a respected force.
15. Be Humble
Being humble in a leadership context means not putting your own interests over the interests of the team.
As a leader, you need to consider the other members of your team and their perspectives. How can you best solve the problem together? Instead of only considering how the situation can provide you personal gain.
Many aspects of business have changed throughout the years. However, even in the midst of new technologies, methods of operation, and new industries, what makes a good leader really hasn’t changed much.
The 15 qualities described above represent the qualities of a leader, not a follower. Take these qualities, which have held true for significant periods, and work on implementing them as applicable to your situation.
The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?
eightysixfourhundred, make them count