Thank you BB&T for sponsoring this post.
What makes a good leader? It’s a question I’ve asked myself over and over again- especially back in the day when I was working in the corporate world. Today I’m fortunate enough to stay at home with my baby girl, but that doesn’t mean that the topic of leadership isn’t important to me anymore. The more I talk with friends and family members, the more I encounter people who are unsatisfied with their jobs. But you know what’s terrible? They’re usually unhappy because of their bosses – not the job itself.
Isn’t that crazy? I mean, can you imagine what the working world would be like if people were happier at work? Given that we tend to spend more time at work than we do at home, shouldn’t it actually BE THAT WAY? That going to work was a good thing? That it made us feel fulfilled and not just totally stressed out?
In my opinion, yea. Absolutely. But that’s never going to be the case until organizations start taking leadership seriously. And what I mean by that is making sure that the people who fill leadership positions, actually have what it takes to be a leader.
To be a leader, it doesn’t just take skill. Sure, you ought to be proficient in your field, but you could be a genius in whatever it is that you do, and that doesn’t make you fit to be a leader.
You could be the best accountant, best doctor, best mobile pet groomer (lol whatever it is that you do) but that doesn’t automatically make you the right person to fill a leadership role.
So today, I want to talk about what DOES. I want to talk about the top 7 characteristics of a great leader.
But before I do that, I want to say how happy I was to learn about the BB&T Leadership Series. I’ve been a BB&T customer for years, so I loved learning that the company has a series dedicated to sharing insights on leadership topics from today’s best and brightest thought leaders.
We need more of that. We need more organizations shining a light on the leaders who are doing things right and who are truly making a difference in this world.
Here’s a glimpse into that series. At some point today, watch this video. Turn it on and listen to it while you drive, while you get ready for work, or while you take a shower. At some point, just do it. Because it was the most refreshing message about leadership that I’ve heard in a long time.
We need more people like Ron Clark leading out there. We really really do.
So back to those things that you need in order to be just as good as Ron…here are the 7 characteristics of a great leader.
As a leader, you need to be confident. In the decisions that you make and in your abilities.
If you’re constantly questioning yourself and can’t make up your mind to save your life, that’s not going to generate a whole lot of trust amongst your team and if your peers and employees can’t trust you, that’s a quick recipe for failure.
Unless you’re running a farm all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, if you’re a leader of any kind of team, you’ll be dealing with people. That being said, you need to know how to manage them. People have emotions, people have drives…they have distinct skillsets. These are all things that you should be able to understand and then use to better your organization.
Like Ron says in his video, as an administrator, you’re constantly juggling a bunch of different things. You’re dealing with external issues and pressure from a million different places, but on top of that, you then have to manage your people and that can be hard. People ARE very needy sometimes and there’s always drama no matter how great a team you have.
Now if you read that and you think, “Ugh, I don’t have time to deal with people…I have more important things to do” then that, my friend, should tell you right there that you shouldn’t be in a leadership position. Because great leaders know that people management is KEY to a successful business. Because great leaders know that PEOPLE are you greatest resource.
Manage them poorly, and you’ll see poor results. But manage them intelligently? Man, you can accomplish some great things by doing that.
So know your people. Know who they are and what makes them tick. Ask them about their families. Know their kids’ names. Make them feel just a little bit special, and you’ll have a loyal team of employees and “runners” that’ll help you move your bus real fast.
A Good Mood
I absolutely love how Mr. Clark said in his interview that as an administrator, he has one job – to be in a good mood! Working in the corporate world, that was one of my biggest pet peeves about working with leaders. Too often, the administrators I worked with were stressed and angry all the time and it showed. That did nothing but bring down employee morale and that’s never a good thing.
“If you’re in a bad mood, if you’re upset, if you’re negative, the negativity is going to spread – it starts from the top.” – Ron Clark
That’s a smart guy, right there. Because it’s so true. In his interview, he reminds us that we all have the power to spread positivity – we just have to change our mindset.
Now is he happy all the time? Is he immune to the stresses and the pressure that other leaders face? Heck, no! But he gets that he has a responsibility as a leader to set an example and that people feed off of his mood.
When he’s down, stressed or angry about things, his employees see that, and that negativity manifests in a matter of seconds. But when he makes the conscious decision to be positive and happy (even if he’s faking it), it does wonders for everyone around him, and that positivity spreads and reflects in everything his employees do.
Long story short, if you’re a grump, leadership might not be for you.
Vision + Passion
Okay, so this is kind of a two-in-one. I think if you’re assuming any kind of leadership position, you have to have a clear vision for your business. Where do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want your team to accomplish? What’s the goal? Think big-picture.
You have to be able to see that so clearly you can almost taste it, because that’s what’ll keep you going even on the hardest days.
And in order to have that vision, I think you need to be passionate about whatever it is that you’re doing. Passion to make things happen. Passion to make big moves.
Passion that’s visible to your team, too, because if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, then why the heck should your team be?
Here are a couple things I’ve noticed that frustrate me beyond belief. Tell me if you’ve noticed any of them too.
The minute someone gets promoted into a leadership position, their personality changes. That person who used to be cool and down-to-earth now seems to think she’s better than everyone else. What’s that all about, huh?
Or how about the leader who never smiles? Who walks into the office and doesn’t say hi to anyone? How is that even allowed?
Leaders need to be authentic. They need to be real people and make real relationships, just like anyone else. You don’t have to be a robot just because you hold a VP position. Fine, you have a nice big fancy office, but that doesn’t make you better than anyone else.
The bosses I’ve most admired always had this authenticity about them. They were who they were and they didn’t try to act a certain way because they thought it matched their title. They laughed, told jokes, played pranks, even. They were real people and that’s the way they earned my respect.
Good Communication Skills
This one’s a no-brainer. As a leader, you need to be able to communicate well with others. Verbal communication skills are necessary, but non-verbal ones too. You need to be clear and concise when communicating your expectations, otherwise you can’t blame others when they don’t understand your message.
Ron mentions that in his interview. Whenever someone DOESN’T meet his expectations, he always asks himself, “Was I clear enough?” You can’t expect people to read your mind. If you have employees who can do that then man, that’s amazing. But most of us mere mortals need to be presented with a clear message and specific goals.
Also important to keep in mind is the fact that in this day in age where we send e-mails to people sitting right next to us, communication can easily get lost in translation. You’ll want to be mindful of that, and whenever possible, communicate face-to-face with others. It’s called a conversation.
The Ability to Inspire Others
The last characteristic of a great leader that I want to mention today might just be the most important. If you really want to move your bus (the analogy Ron uses in his book for moving your business in the right direction), then you need to be an inspirational leader. You need to inspire others and bring out the best in them.
I always say that leaders really have to be CHEERleaders. And that might sound super corny, but yes, I think that’s the role that leaders need to take on. Your job as a leader is to motivate your team and to inspire them to do great work. If you can’t do that and you have zero influence over others, that bus of yours might as well be sitting in quicksand.
Point is, most of us have to work. But not everyone has to be a leader, and that’s 100% okay. There’s a role for everyone in this world, believe me, and that’s why I think it’s so important that we all find where we fit best.
P.S. Leadership roles don’t just exist in an office setting. As a new parent, my job is to be leader to my daughter and within the community, too. I’m now responsible for teaching her things and setting a good example for her, and you better believe I’ll be the best darn cheerleader she’ll ever have.
So that’s it for now! Those are what I consider to be the top 7 characteristics of a great leader. What else do you think ought to be added to that list? Have you ever had an amazing leader? What about them was so great? Let us know in the comments down below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.