Great leaders are born in crisis – Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, Volodymyr Zelenskyy to name a few. It is usually how leaders react to, and deal with crisis, that define them as leaders.
A leader is like a conductor in an orchestra – selecting the players, knowing how and when to call on each player such that an organization can operate in harmony, whatever the situation in order to keep the music playing.
People often ask what it takes to become a successful leader. In my experience, there is no one style of leadership that prevails. Having seen and worked with some great leaders, I find it equally important to learn from the “not so great” leaders. We have all experienced those leaders. My greatest growth and learning as a leader, was learning not just effective styles, but more so, those actions or styles which were ineffective and created confusion and some level of disconnect across the organization.
It is how leaders handle situations, which contribute to their credibility and can in turn result in consensus and following.
There are many leadership styles that we learn about- democratic, visionary, autocratic, transactional, servant leadership, pace setting and laissez- faire. Most leaders do not have one specific style of leadership, they often have multiple styles that are adapted depending on the situation and the organization.
Autocratic leadership is defined by a top-down approach when it comes to all decision-making, procedures, and policies within an organization. Leaders tend to focus less on collecting input from team members and tend to make executive decisions others are expected to follow.
At the other extreme, is democratic leadership, which is the most participative leadership style. It’s motivating and empowering and allows people to take a full part in the decision-making process. Ideas and suggestions can be brought forward by any team member until there is consensus in decision-making.
There are pros and cons to the various leadership styles, and it’s critical to understand the organization and the culture in order to determine what style will be effective.
Great leaders find the balance between business foresight, performance and character. They have vision, courage, integrity, humility and focus, along with the ability to plan strategically and catalyze cooperation amongst their team.
Most leadership spend time reflecting on their leadership qualities and apply them on a daily basis.
That said, there are many attributes to being a successful leader. You will be observed internal and externally, how you interact, connect, and conduct yourself, listening closely to everything you say and do. A key trait in most successful leaders, is honesty and trust; admitting to, and learning from failures coupled with transparency.
Let’s not forget the value of emotional intelligence (EQ). All great leaders have high levels on EQ. Top of the list is self-awareness allowing leaders to adapt to, and more readily, understand situations. In addition empathy, accountability and motivation.
Five Characteristics of great leaders:
- High level of emotional intelligence
- Effective listeners
- Clear communication
- Encourage strategic thinking, innovation and action
- Focus on growth and development of people
EQ is important at all levels of leadership, so continue to have self awareness, be authentic and continue to exercise your integrity. Great leaders can inspire political movements and social change. With the increasing focus on climate risk, environmental, social and governance agendas, there is opportunity to drive change.
Remember, leadership is an art not a science.
Next in the leadership series: “Communication is King.”