What distinguishes a bad leader from a good one? Or a good one from a great one? Each of us is both a leader and follower in different aspects, so while the points I have listed below are mainly focused on the business side of things, they relate to any instance in where some sort of leadership is required — even if it only be in your own personal life where you are the captain.
Being an effective leader is half the battle. Whether in life or in business, we must learn to utilize our resources as efficiently as possible. The greatest resource of all — one which is usually abused in the business world and underused in personal matters — are other people.
You may be able to do everything better than everyone else, but why spend your time doing trivial, mechanical tasks when you can spend time on more important issues? Here are 5 traits that every great leader that ever lived has portrayed:
1. Their Mission Is Clear.
There’s no way of getting there if you don’t know where it is that you are going to begin with. The first step to being an impressive leader is navigation — knowing where it is that you are going and why you plan on going there. Taking your company to IPO status? Getting your team to work well together and to function as a unit? If there is a goal then there is a way.
Without a clear understanding of where it is that you want to go and how you plan on getting there, there’s no chance that you will actually get there. Be clear as to your mission whether you are starting your company, revamping it, or just taking it to the next step. Losing sight of your mission is like getting lost in a forest without a map or GPS.
2. They Know How To Communicate & Motivate.
Now that you know where you are going and how to get there, you have to make sure that those whom you are leading understand exactly where it is that you plan on going and how exactly you plan on getting there. Simple enough, no? Not really. If there is one thing that have learned during my short time in this life is that most issues arise from miscommunication and misunderstanding. You may very well believe yourself to be clear and concise — understandable — but that usually won’t be the case for every individual in your team.
Maybe someone misheard or misunderstood your meaning. Maybe someone interpreted your words through their own vision of the team’s goal. Whatever the case, make sure that each person in the team understands the mission and whatever task it is that they must accomplish next. There really is only one way of doing this: assume that no one understands, speak in the plainest English you can think of, and then ask them to repeat the task or goal in their own words. Only once everyone is on the same page can you all work as a team.
3. They Pick The Right Team Members.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link — truer words have yet to be spoken. Hiring the right people can prove to be difficult, especially if you feel that you can’t afford the right people. Wipe that thought out of your head completely because I can tell you right now, with certainty, that there is always a way to get the right people no matter what your current budget.
Take a look at any successful startup and you can see that their most efficient and diligent employees were with them almost from the start — when they had no budget at all. Only hire the right fit and fire all the rest. Some of the biggest mistakes companies make is holding on to employees that aren’t pulling their own weight. If an employee is performing subpar, then speak to them about it once.
If the issue continues, then fire them on the spot. Your company is only as good as your (entire) team. Don’t let one bad egg spoil the bunch. No one likes firing people, but it must be done. If you can’t do it, then you can’t lead. I’ve had to fire women older than my grandmother before I was of drinking age. If teen me could do it, then so can you
4. They Can Read People.
This is the most important skill of an entrepreneur or leader because it is just as useful as an offense as it is as a defense. Being able to get a good understanding of what makes people act the way they act, before they act is a priceless skill to have and one that should be learned if you ever hope to survive the brutal world that is business — or society for that matter. In this world, it is the smartest that survive.
Figure them out and then outsmart them and you’ll minimize the amount of issues you will come up against in business and in life. If you're in the business of people — which is every business — then learn to read and manipulate them (manipulate them ethically, of course).
5. They Present Solutions And Delegate.
As a leader, you want to be seen as the captain, the general, the main problem solver and not the bringer of problems. If you found an issue then make sure to have at least one possible solution before presenting the problem to your team. Not having solutions makes you seem weak and ineffective; you’ll lose your team's respect by the end of the week. You must be able to dissect problems, direct your team to the best solution, and then delegate the work. Delegation is often overlooked when without it you cannot have a strong team.
You may be able to do things the best, but the best business is your only problem. Most issues are too small for you to devote your time to. Delegate trivial tasks and research and take on the biggest issues head-on. As the leader, you are the brains of the operation. Your team can only make suggestions while you, in the end, make the final decisions.
Top Photo: Wolf Of Wall St