The term "leadership" conjures many images in our minds: a political leader pursuing a case, an adventurer leading an expedition or a senior corporate executive developing an organizational strategy.
Whatever the scenario, leadership is all about charting out the path you need to take as a team or as an organization to achieve the desired objective. It's basically impossible for a company to grow and flourish without effective leadership. In today's dynamic times, with ever-changing technology and changing ways of business and customer engagement, leadership becomes even more important. An organization without effective leadership in such times will be like a ship that sets sail without a captain.
What makes a great leader?
An effective leader is someone who creates an inspiring vision for the future; they set the direction. They then use management skills to guide the people toward that direction in a smooth and efficient way.
- Decisive. In today's complex business environment, indecisiveness can prove costly for a business. Leaders need to think on their feet and make strategic decisions quickly. Good leadership is all about informed decision-making. Also important is for leaders to commit to the decisions and see things through.
- Good examples. If you want to be a good leader and establish a positive culture in your organization, you've got to practice what you preach. You need to exemplify the values you want to instill in the employees. As a CEO or a leader, you're a role model for your employees, and they take cues from you about how to behave.
- Forward-looking. Great leaders are effective problem-solvers. They always have the bigger picture in mind and never lose sight of goals they set at the beginning. They focus on working toward the solution rather than dwelling on problems.
- Passionate. As a CEO or chief, you can't see your profession as just a job. Good leaders have to feel passionate about their work and their organization's vision and goal. You should care about the company and the people you lead and work with.
- Humble and accountable. Leaders command rather than demand respect. People don't respect them because of their title or position but because of their behavior and approachability. They are humble, open-minded, and willing to listen to their employees and their teammates. When things go wrong, they are willing to take responsibility and don't play blame games.
- Willing to praise others. Good leaders don't just take responsibility for their actions when things go wrong; they also give credit where credit is due. A leader realizes that an organization's success does not depend on one person but on the collective effort of the team.
- Innovative. Great leaders are open to new ideas and to testing new theories. They face failure head-on. They are willing to take risks and experiment, because that's what keeps an organization's competitive edge alive.
- Excellent at communication. Communication skills are crucial to effective leadership. Good communication isn't all about talking but also about listening to others, trying to understand what they are saying, and then making an informed decision. It's about encouraging people to put forth their ideas. Leaders speak clearly and effectively to influence people.
- Confident. Great leaders are fearless. They are ready to take on challenges. They are visionaries who are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone and try out new things in order to achieve their goals.
- Trustworthy. Great leaders never violate anyone's trust. This makes them more approachable among employees, who will feel confident sharing their concerns and queries with them.
Good leaders aren't born. They are made with years of learning and myriad experiences of dealing with people, situations and circumstances. My advice to all budding managers out there is, if you want to grow up to be a successful leader, you've got to be focused and curious. Love what you do and excel at it. Be ready for any challenges and situations that might come your way, and face them with confidence.
How to become a great leader
- Be ready to take on challenges. A great leader isn't afraid to face the consequences. Be brave, yet prudent.
- Work on your skills. No one is a born leader. It takes years of learning, unlearning and experience to acquire the skills necessary to be a great leader. Develop expertise in your niche and learn management skills. Remember, a great leader is someone people like to follow, and people will follow you only if they see exceptional work or knowledge on your part.
- Become a great communicator. This one requires discipline. Make it a habit to talk less and listen more. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Focus on nuances of the conversation. Only then will you be able to make informed judgments.
- Be part of the team. Great leaders sees themselves as part of the team. They are team players and focus on the collective efforts toward a shared objective.
- Never micromanage. Micromanaging means keeping track of every move and action by the team. This can stifle creativity, as team members feel they are always being watched and are hesitant to think freely. While it's good to be aware of what your team members are up to, it is also important to give them space to think freely and voice their concerns. This is bound to have a positive impact on the team's productivity.
- Lead with love. Last but not least, love everything – your organization, your work, your colleagues, your seniors. Whatever you do, do it with passion, and it will show. Love the people working with you for you, and people will love you back and follow you.
Each of these qualities is essential to great leadership. Without them, leaders will not live up to their full potential and, as a result, neither will the employees. Therefore, it is vital for companies to instill these values in their employees from the very beginning to encourage young and emerging leaders.