What Makes a Good Leader?

Discover the skills and perspectives necessary to become a great business leader.

Leaders are responsible for establishing a clear vision of the future of the business and to then communicate this vision to all stakeholders. Employees can sense when there is no clarity on the direction of the business. Thus, the lack of strong leaders can paralyze an organization, holding it back from reaching its true potential.

In order to become a better leader, we first have to understand what skills and perspectives are critical for success.

So, what makes a good leader?

A study conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) with 2,239 business leaders from 24 organizations in three countries, identified nine competencies that are the most critical for success now and in the future (5 years out).

Business leadership skills

  1. Change Management

Leaders have to use effective strategies to facilitate organizational change initiatives and overcome resistance to change in order to achieve their vision. The world is always changing, so without clear guidance, it is difficult for an organization to transform itself in order to overcome challenging moments.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin.

  1. Inspiring commitment

The team can sense when passion and energy is revitalized in the leadership team. Leading by example, rewarding good behaviors and giving opportunity for personal growth are some of the factors that can motivate your team to perform at their best.

  1. Leading employees

Attracting, motivating and developing employees is the key to growing a profitable business.

Once the leadership is able to communicate a clear vision and demonstrate passion and focused growth activities, each of the team members now has the ability to determine how the business fits with their personal long-term goals.

Younger team members are also looking to see the future beyond the current ownership. (While this may not matter as much to the current ownership, the younger team members and their families want to see a long-term career vision they can get excited about). When the entire team is capable of “rowing in the same direction” the business can accomplish amazing things.

  1. Taking initiative

A leader takes charge and capitalizes on opportunities. Sometimes it’s necessary to spend a quarter to make a dollar. If the leader is not willing to invest time and money on improving the business, no one else will.

  1. Building collaborative relationships

More than ever, companies need a wide range of skills to operate. In order to allow people with different specialties to have productive working relationships with coworkers and external parties, the leader has to build an organizational culture that encourages collaboration. Leaders also have the responsibility of helping its subordinates to understand how their occupations can relate to each other to benefit the company.

In this video, MIT former Professor, Edgar Schein, discusses help and advice in management, where specialization requires cooperation and communication on a broader scale than in generations previous.

  1. Strategic perspective

Leaders should understand the viewpoint of higher managers. They should be able to use data to identify problems and opportunities in the organization and in the market to determine creative strategies to improve the business.

  1. Strategic planning

In order to achieve the business vision, the leader should establish clear long-term goals and realistic strategies that will transform the business from its current situation to the desired one.

The Business Model Canvas is a great visual tool leaders can use to document and explore the opportunities that exist.

  1. Participative management

There’s an old Greek saying that says, ‘The fish rots from the head down’.

Consistency between what the leaders say and what the leaders do is critical. The actions and attitudes of the leader (the head of the fish) affect every part of the business operations. If the leader is efficient, focused and driven to accomplish the business goals, the team will follow and act accordingly.

  1. Being a quick learner

The world changes at a fast pace so leaders need to quickly master new technical and business knowledge.

How can you become a better leader?

The following three steps can help you improve your leadership skills:

  • Identify your strengths and weakness among the 9 skills presented.
  • Develop specific goals and strategies for personal leadership development.
  • Create systems for measuring how these efforts are paying off.

To learn more about the results of the study conducted by CCL® read this article by Jean Brittain Leslie.

We would love to hear your ideas about this subject. Please, leave your comments below.

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