Guest post by Lynda Petrovski
In every profession, industry and field of expertise, great leadership is paramount. But what are the attributes of outstanding leaders and why do these people stand out?
The legacy of a strong leader continues well beyond their time. However like many things, being a great leader requires hard work and dedication coupled with a passion for excellence and ongoing development.
In our experience at Global Partnerships, the most progressive leaders have healthy egos but are able to “park the ego” and focus on the team, customer and stakeholder. Extensive research (Goleman, George, Simms, and Dr. Crawshaw) suggests that outstanding leaders possess the following personal traits:
Great leaders have the capacity to introspect. Being cognisant of your own “internal compass” inclusive of values, motives, principles and philosophies is essential. If you are clear about your internal compass, you have a greater probability of illustrating authenticity, as you can gauge your overt behaviour, including the attitude and engagement process you bring to a discussion.
2. Passion to mobilise others
Strong leaders possess a determination and belief in a vision and strategy for the organisation and its people. They have an endless amount of energy and drive. The more authentic the leader, the greater the capability to be able to reach others because there is a genuineness in the leader’s desire to develop others and bring them along the journey, without focussing solely on self-interest.
3. Strong communication abilities
Outstanding leaders have the communication skills to be able to harness their left and right brain to relay the business strategy, numbers and vision, and connect with others emotionally across the wider organisation.
Telling stories that involve real people in the company have the capacity to move people (Speculand 2009,). Using mediums such as digital and social media is another way of reaching staff. Employees may be disappointed about hearing challenging news, however, it’s our observation that an outstanding leader with undoubtable integrity will obtain greater traction in the long term.
This trait embodies the capacity to be able to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. Empathic leaders are also known to be able to demonstrate interpersonal sensitivity. Active listening and having an appreciation of your team’s underlying feelings is an important component of empathy.
Great leaders are able to turn on the right amount of empathy for the individual, team and client without losing sight of the big picture. We remember leaders that show compassion and conviction in their resolve to build something bigger than themselves and respect them.
Once we respect and admire our leader, mountains can be moved. Nelson Mandela was a great leader of his people in South Africa as he always believed that there would be an end to apartheid in his land, hoping for democracy. He was courageous and made tremendous personal sacrifice for the good of his people. Lessons can be taken from his chapter in terms of the qualities he possessed as a great leader.
Outstanding leaders show persistence, mental toughness and have the capacity to bounce back.
Resilience and self-regulation are like a “hand in a glove”. We have found that great leaders are able to self-regulate. Using a variety of techniques, this leads to psychological well-being. Otherwise burnout and anxiety may occur, cascading to anger and possible dysfunctional behaviour if manifested over long time frames.
Possessing an agile mind and leadership style is becoming an important skill in today’s world. Using different leadership styles, such as participative, delegative, consultative and directive/autocratic, as and when needed, demonstrates great leadership agility.
Our observations illustrate that leaders that possess the ability to harness more than two styles have greater success in reaching a wider audience by using their stakeholders’ fundamental needs as a basis for further negotiation.
Great leaders need spades of courage in today’s world. Defending a position at board level, winning the hearts and minds of the executive team by showing conviction, showing strength, staying the course, challenging the status quo and doing the right thing requires sheer courage and a belief in the betterment of the organisation, despite setbacks and challenging rivals.
There is no doubt that being able to perceive or discern a situation accurately and respond in an emotionally intelligent manner is critical. Intuitive leaders have a warning bell that provides a message that propels them toward the most effective political and commercial outcomes supported by the balance sheet.
In summary, over the last 10 years we have seen a 360 degree shift in the Board, CEO and executive leaders’ desire to strive for excellence, retention of key staff, strategy implementation, engagement and team spirit and diversity. How many of the above attributes do you possess to be considered on the pathway of becoming an outstanding leader?
Dr. Crawshaw, L. Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace Jossey-Bass Management Series USA. 2007
George. B., Simms, P., Gergen, D. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. Jossey-Bass Incorporated. USA (2007)
Daniel, G. What makes a leader? Harvard Business School. USA. 2008
Daniel, G. Primal Leadership. Harvard Business School. USA. 2008.
Speculand, R. A. Beyond Strategy. The leader’s role in successful implementation. John Wiley & Sons, Singapore (2009)
Lynda Petrovski is the Founder, Managing Director and Psychologist of Global Partnerships, a boutique advisory firm with global reach. Our firm finds and develops outstanding leaders for key clients within financial services and related organisations.