5 Steps to Great Leadership

Decades of research on what qualities create great leadership have reached a clear conclusion. Here are the 5 distinguishing characteristics and behaviours that distinguish the truly great leaders in business, politics, and elsewhere.

1. Optimistic and Inspirational. Great leaders have a positive “can-do” approach that helps to inspire and motivate followers. One problem we often see in the U.S. politics, for example is negative campaigning/mudslinging. Rather than focusing on a positive, inspirational future, poor leaders use fear tactics and focus on their opponent’s negatives. This is a no-win situation when both sides do it, as voters feel like they have to choose the “lesser of two evils.”

2. Positive Role Model. Great leaders are people with the skills, commitment, and character that we want to emulate. The very best lead by example and aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work side-by-side with followers. Alexander the Great was a successful military leader who was beloved and respected by his troops because he led the charge into battle. Being a positive role model also means being an ethical and responsible leader – doing the right thing and having good character.

3. True Concern for Followers. Truly great leaders develop their followers’ leadership capacity. They share and “co-create” leadership with followers. You can’t do this if you don’t listen to followers and have a genuine concern for their needs and welfare. The very best leaders try to reach out to ALL followers, unifying, rather than dividing them.

4. Challenge, AND Support. The very best leaders don’t coddle followers, but challenge them to get engaged, be innovative, take risks, and together – leaders and followers – are able to achieve extraordinary results. Setbacks or errors are used as positive learning experiences to make the team better.

5. Humility. Don’t get me wrong, great leaders have high levels of self-confidence and are able to self-promote, but the very best leaders possess an important form of humility that helps make them truly great. This humility is the ability to admit when you make mistakes, and, importantly, to learn from mistakes. Knowing and acknowledging that you may be wrong. This requires seriously listening to followers and seeking their feedback. This humility keeps the leader on the right path.

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