Great leaders in any business or enterprise possess solid social intelligence, a drive for change and, above all, a vision that allows them to set their sights on the things that truly merit attention.
Leadership takes on many differing components, factors, and shifts in societal perceptions. However, here are the most useful and compelling traits I find that every leader should have and/or aspire to develop. These are foundational traits for a truly effective Comfluential™ Leader, and are not gender-specific.
These traits hold true whether you are leading a Fortune 100 department, nonprofit board, ad hoc committee, community organizing group, political campaign team, entrepreneurs, vendors and supporters, change movement founders, or family members. As you read on, think about how they are relevant to whatever endeavor is speaking to your heart.
Which ones do you possess, and which could use improvement?
1. Be Passionate.
When you’re excited about your work, your mission and your vision, it shows! And it rubs off on others. Passion and positive drive get things done and empower others. Your own passion also keeps you buoyed when there are successes and resilient during the challenges.
When I am passionate about my vision, I wake up every morning thinking about it, and it is the last thing on my mind and in my heart when I go to bed each night. The day is then full of moments of brilliance and success in creating the vision in reality.
Tip: It is this passion that draws others to your team and your movement. The individuals who join you in this passion are those who want to make a difference in the world and see that what you are doing will create that change.
2. Be Organized.
Reaching your goals requires organization and knowing exactly the direction of your enterprise or endeavor. Disorganization literally drains your life energy. When you are frazzled, late for a meeting, distracted by your phone, or always rushing around, you encourage the same behavior in others. To others you look frazzled, stressed, unproductive, out of control. This is not the way an extraordinary leader shows up.
Being organized inspires trust and sets the standard for your team. How organization is accomplished is in the particular style of the leader.
I’ll recommend a simple yet powerful organizational tool that I learned from Sherri Coffelt, Founder and CEO of Results Partner: The Rule of 3. As you probably know, our brains are not designed for multitasking. I know you might be saying, “Of course we can multitask. I do it every day. It is the only way I can get everything done in a day!”
Tip: What truly keeps you organized and focused is to choose just three key tasks or goals to do each day. This makes organization manageable for you and your team, and keeps you on track.
3. Be Responsible.
You must take ownership and responsibility at all times, even as you are delegating work to others. You’re the ultimate go-to person; you are the holder of the vision, and your followers depend on you to keep on track and moving forward. Your team must know that you’ll be there for them when the sailing is smooth as well as when storm winds blow.
Some leaders believe that once you delegate, you’re not accountable if something goes wrong. Not true! The leader holds both responsibility and accountability, the delegate holds only the responsibility to get their particular part completed.
Tip: There is a difference between responsibility and accountability. When you delegate a task to a team member, you are sharing the responsibility for getting it done.
4. Be Focused.
We’ve all seen leaders who go off on tangents, get distracted, and ramble on and on in a meeting. Big problem. Stay focused on the mission at hand. This challenge is one reason I named my book and leadership program The Art of Herding Cats: Leading Teams of Leaders. It’s targeted to entrepreneurs but the concept holds true for any type of leadership. It means holding and keeping the focus for the organization, the vision, the stakeholders, and the team – the big-picture path as well as the specific work at hand.
Being focused means within yourself (your vision, purpose, simply knowing yourself well); focus on others (your relationships, team and supporters); and on the outside world (your competition, world changes and trends, your target market, etc.).
Tip: Clear knowledge of me, us, and them is critical to successful leadership.
5. Communicate Positively.
Outstanding leaders are excellent communicators – why else would people follow them? As you are responsible for holding the vision, you must be able to communicate that vision to inspire and motivate, as well as articulate the steps along the path to achieve it.
A key aspect of communicating positively comes from my training on Comfluential™ Leadership: command versus influence. Move from telling to asking. For most of us, we resist being TOLD what to do (unless it’s an emergency like, “FIRE! Get out of the house – now!”) ASKING is being curious, asking questions, inviting a response. Big difference! Influence brings more cooperation, collaboration, and more inspired followers.
Tip: When you communicate to your people that their individual work matters for the creation of the big picture, you are validating their worth to the team and to the goals, the mission, and the organization. When your people are on board at that level, you all are unstoppable!
6. Listen to your people.
Listening is key to knowing what’s going on, not just about the business, but also in the lives of everyone involved in the endeavor. Listen to what they have to say and provide positive, productive, and supportive feedback (however, remember that you’re not there to solve all their problems or take over their responsibilities).
Your people will appreciate your consideration, and the relationships will build motivation and cohesion to work towards your goal. Bonus: you stand to build deep, rewarding, lifelong friendships.
Tip: How to practice “active listening:” 1) focus your complete attention on the person talking (not on your cell phone); 2) look interested in what they are saying, reflecting back to them their enthusiasm and excitement – authentically (don’t fake your feelings!); 3) repeat back what you heard to ensure you heard them correctly and to validate their message.
Let’s face it. You can’t do everything. Even – especially – the best leaders don’t go it alone. You need a team so that everyone pitches in and does their part to make everything happen. Yet delegating is the one skill that puts fear in the hearts of many leaders, and can be a challenging skill to learn and use. It’s important to know how to take the fear out of delegating such that it becomes easy and effortless.
Tip: Practicing the other 6 traits will help you succeed in delegating to others.
~ Selected from my bestselling book No One Stood Up When I Entered the Room: One Woman’s Journey from Command to True Leadership.
Linda Patten is a Leadership Trainer for women entrepreneurs and change-makers. Her vision for every woman is to become the natural leader she is meant to be, through teaching an empowering mindset, masculine AND feminine leadership skills, and how to activate a vision into a full-bodied business or social change movement. For opportunities to awaken and empower the leader within you, please visit Dare2LeadwithLinda