There are many different theories about what makes a strong leader. Some people believe leadership is all about vision. Others point out that it’s important for leaders to be able to understand those around them, and particularly to spot talent effectively.
It’s important to remember that the defining characteristic of leadership isn’t about the leader themselves. In order to be a leader, people need to want to follow you. There are leaders at every level of a business. It’s your personal attributes that make you a leader, regardless of what title you have or how much money you make.
That said, there are some common characteristics leaders share. If you or your business are struggling, it can be valuable to look at where you fall in terms of these. Leaders usually have a mixture of vision, confidence, trustworthiness and conscientiousness.
Leadership isn’t easy. People need to have something they’re striving for if they’re going to be motivated to try and become a respected leader. That vision, the goals you’re chasing, needs to be communicated effectively to the people around you. That doesn’t mean just explaining it to them. It also means finding a way to convey how working towards it will benefit them. Good leaders help their teams buy into their vision.
Keeping your team motivated can be a challenge, even when your ultimate goal is inspiring. Try not to judge individuals too harshly, or too publicly. That hurts everyone’s morale. It tells each worker they should keep their heads down so they don’t get singled out. In other words, they won’t feel like they can share openly. Without honest input from your team, it’s difficult to actually move forward. You need them to alert you to problems as they arise. You should also want them to share their ideas for making and doing more with you.
In running your business, it’s also important to remember the old saying: “perfect is the enemy of good.” Leaders are the face of a company in the eyes of the public. There’s a lot of pressure to make sure that everything is done right. But it’s important not to be too perfectionist. Perfectionism is a trap. Nothing and no one is perfect, but many of us are very good at what we do. Pursuing perfection can result in needless delays that keep you from actually releasing a solid product or delivering a great service.
To be a great leader, you will have to be able to trust your team and let go of perfectionism enough to delegate. Handing off some of your tasks can feel scary. But the truth is, it’s necessary if your business is going to grow. Work hard to establish trust with your team. People who perform well should be given steadily increased responsibility. Leaders need to focus on a few key tasks, and learn to hand off the rest to those around them.
Finally, think carefully about how you’re measuring success. Is success about making the most money in a short timeframe? Well, not if that means damaging relationships. Success is about reputation and trust, too. One important measure of your company’s viability is how many repeat clients you work with. This metric demonstrates that people trust you, have confidence in you, and are willing to keep investing their time and money in you.
Most businesses will go through phases of growth and then meet plateaus. Like life, business is full of peaks and valleys. While good leaders are always looking to improve, that doesn’t only mean driving sales up in the short term. It also means finding new efficiencies, learning new processes, nurturing client relationships, and taking other steps that will contribute to long-term success. Some of that can look like an expense in the short-term. But it’s actually an investment in your reputation and your future success.