Countless resources exist on leadership. Our conversation, yes, I look forward to your insight, embodies some of what I perceive and value as great leadership as portrayed by business and community leaders. For many, our discussion serves as a refresher and opportunity for you to reflect on your opinion of a great leader. As I attempt to articulate some of what I value, I welcome your expertise so that we can all continue to grow and learn. For those early in your respective profession, I hope this fosters some ideas applicable to your journey. If you aspire upward movement at your organization, keep in mind the importance of developing and applying soft skills.
Leadership exists in many forms. A leader can have positional authority. However, positional authority does not necessarily equate to leadership. Leadership transcends position. One must know when to lead and when to follow. A direct report or team member can and will weave in and out of lead and follow modes.
Let me kick off our discussion:
Qualities of Great Leaders
- Great leaders have integrity and conduct themselves in a professional manner. With a moral compass, they serve as good stewards.
- They lead by example setting a proper tone for their organization and community through actions.
- Great leaders have strong communication skills both written and oral. They realize the importance of nonverbal and verbal delivery. They articulate vision. Simon Sinek offers his perspective on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”
- Great leaders persuade. Building community and consensus, they seek to convince others rather than coerce compliance. Inspirational, they motivate.
- Through active listening, great leaders know the pulse of their organization. They seek to listen receptively including to the unspoken.
- Great leaders reflect and have self-awareness. With an inquisitive mind, they ask good questions and constantly learn. Resilient, great leaders seek continuous improvement and learn from failures.
- Leveraging the qualities of conceptualization, foresight, and intuition, they invest in understanding the organizational culture including historical lessons and current realities. They align operation with strategic goals and desired outcomes.
- With credibility and through innovation, leaders serve as change agents. I encourage you to consider David Kelley’s, founder of the Silicon Valley global design firm IDEO, approach.
- Genuine and real, great leaders lead authentically and manage conflict well through emotional intelligence and empathy.
- Aware of internal and external forces, great leaders see the big picture. They leverage their networks. They know when to defer to the expertise of their team yet act decisively when appropriate.
Great leaders know how to build collaborative teams. As Dr. Kate Walsh, Associate Professor of Management in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University explains, this involves diagnosing, managing, growing, and letting go of your team. This necessitates trust, building relationships, and empowering members to own the process and desired outcomes. Great leaders create synergy and foster engagement while harnessing the energy and talents of members. They know how to lead meetings effectively and efficiently while maintaining a good balance of process and desired outcomes. Great leaders recognize behavior and preferred communication patterns. They also ethically support their team. This necessitates responsibility and mutual respect.
They commit to the growth of people. They learn how to establish direction, align people, and motivate and inspire. Dr. Bradford S. Bell, Associate Professor of Human Resource Studies and Director of Executive Education in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, recommends a series of “Getting Results through Talent Management” steps.
- Examine Your Talent Philosophy
- Identify Your Key Talent
- Devise Development Strategies for Engagement and Retention
- Measure the Effectiveness
Great leaders invest in their organization’s most important asset: People. Successful organizations improve results through talent management. Great leaders serve as coaches and mentors. They show a vested interest in and develop direct reports (i.e., one-on-one sessions).
Leadership fascinates me. This May, I have the honor of co-emceeing the statewide CPA Celebration at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis. I really look forward to networking with colleagues and hope that you join us. I anxiously await the inspiration and motivation of leadership success stories and accomplishments. Join us for an invigorating evening!
As I shared several qualities, what do you look for in a leader and how do you define? What would you add or edit?
Do you know your leadership style? Does it change based on the situation?
Several leadership styles exist:
“The greatest contribution of a leader is to make other leaders.” - Simon Sinek
For growth, step outside of your comfort zone.