Think of the best leader that you have ever known. What is it about this person that made him or her such a great leader? It is very likely that we are all describing someone who is highly passionate, respected, driven, caring, servant-minded, ambitious, motivating, knowledgeable, confident and who gets things done.
What is it about that person that motivated you to put forth extra effort to perform? Better yet, how can we each be leaders or be that person who others want to follow?
Actually, leadership does require those traits described above or those exhibited by the person you thought of as the best leader. Those traits are often inherent, although they can also be enhanced through experience, mentoring and education.
Let’s understand the important qualities and behaviors that demonstrate successful leadership.
Leading by example. Whether it is working hard, making the difficult choices, taking risks or sacrificing personal time, a successful leader needs to consistently lead by example. It’s the key to authenticity.
Integrity. Leaders are honest and dependable. Others need to count on you to not compromise on your principles. Others need to see that you can and do take the tough road through a situation to “do the right thing.”
Solid goals. Know your goals and what you are seeking to achieve. A leader needs to have a solid objective. A successful leader has direction, and when others know what it is, they know the expectations, catch the vision and seek to work with the leader to achieve it. It is difficult to get others to do what you want if you don’t know what you want.
Knowledge. Know and understand your obstacles, competition and risks. You need to leverage yourself and your group for the best chance of success. This may mean that you need to consult an expert.
Provide for autonomy. Those working with a leader need to understand the defined goals and from there, individuals need to have the ability to be creative and have the ownership to decide how to achieve the goal. Successful leaders encourage people to think, innovate and own the solution.
High standards. Leadership should expect a high level of excellence. People want to be proud of what they are doing. High standards should not be ones where the goal is perfection. The standards should be high but still maintain the allowance and the realistic expectation that people will make mistakes. Good leaders minimize the lessons learned through errors and oversight, although they take optimal advantage of these opportunities to learn.
Humility. Leadership is not about you; it is about others and reaching the goal. As one has more successes, this trait may become more challenging to maintain. Leadership focuses on what was accomplished and acknowledges those who accomplished it. Humility understands that the accomplishment came through those you lead. Humble leaders encourage others and give them credit.
Execution. Execution requires discipline to get things done. Many leaders have the ability to define great strategies but often there is a gap between what is desired and one’s ability to achieve it.
True leadership is a demonstration of all the characteristics listed above. To some extent, they are inherent in each of us and it is our choice to develop them. We each have the opportunity to search ourselves for these characteristics and step up to be the leader for someone in our lives.
Sue Chase is COO of Clinical Research Management Inc., www.clinicalrm.com. She is filling in for quarterly columnist Victoria Tifft.