The backbone of every Nation, Organization and Community is leadership. Nations have fallen, and some have risen due to their quality of leadership. That is why Leadership is a vital skill.
But ponder on this: what does it take to be an effective leader?
In the world of today, we need great leaders who can guide and lead us to victory. It doesn’t have to be victory in the war but triumphing over challenges in our daily lives, in our communities and creating a positive change in our society and the world at large.
Fortunately, quality Leadership is a trait that can be learned, developed and improved over time.
But it should be committed to mind that leadership development is self-development and the first inner quest is to discover who you are and what you are supposed to do based on what you hope to achieve.
This brings us to the crux of this post – Qualities of a Good Leader.
Listed below are seven qualities of a good leader,
Purpose and Vision
Reverend Theodore Hesburgh once said that the very essence of leadership is that there is a vision.
Vision is a mental picture of the future. It is the ability to idealise what the future holds based on plans and purpose.
Vision is the embodiment of our dreams, hopes and ideas that gives birth to a sense of purpose. Visions give us a picture of what is possible.
A good leader is a visionary working with purpose. As there is a reason for every leader that is either installed or elected, then there must be a vision.
In order to take an organisation to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision.Warren Bennie
A Leader with a clear and passionate vision can easily motivate and infect his followers to act with a certain level of passion to achieve a particular goal.
He makes this vision-so it is clear for all to see, and every move he makes is in line with his stated vision.
The vision of a good leader does not centre around him but it extends even to those working with, by, and by extension, the society.
A good leader is a person of purpose. He does not just do things with plan and consideration. He is intentional and aims at achieving this purpose.
As it is, every gathering with a leader must have a vision and a purpose. These must be first stated before any other activity; else, things go on haphazardly with no head and a distasteful end.
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.Jack Welch
As Jack is a visionary and is purposeful, he carries with him people who understand and appreciate his vision. Together, they map out strategies for achieving the stated purpose.
Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is known for his visionary insight and for turning an idea of e-commerce that people didn’t understand and believe in about 20 years ago into a multi-billion-dollar establishment.
This is the same for Steve Jobs, who brought into existence the famous and very successful Apple company.
Their ability to imagine a future that we were and have yet to see is a reminder that great leaders believe in bold visions of the future.
Martin Luther King Jr saw a vision and a future where Black people can live together and in peace with white people.
MLK’s vision of equality and civil disobedience changed the world for his children and the children of all oppressed people. He changed the lives of African Americans in his time and subsequent decades.
Strategic Planning and Action
It’s great to have visions and dreams but remember, “Dreams can only be dreams, until you wake up and take the very first step.” And for every great leader, the very first step after conceiving a vision and properly communicating it is strategic planning.
Strategic planning has been said to be the deliberate process of creating a focused long-range of actionable plans to achieve a set goal. It creates a deeper understanding of vision and how it can be achieved.
When Strategic Planning is done well, it engages followers, aligns resources and stimulates the will to work.
According to Robert J. Mckain, strategic planning helps you to fully uncover your available option, set priorities for them and define the method to achieve them.
Strategic planning in leadership is known to help provide a roadmap to what can be done to achieve an objective. Though it might be complex, it provides a sense of direction, clarity and management in everything.
Hillary Clinton is a true embodiment of strategic planning when it comes to leadership. She demonstrated it when she had to study the peculiarity of the American healthcare system closely and the problems it faced in her position as the Secretary of State.
Furthermore, she had to set up systems to engage the citizens in the vision and the process by outlining a detailed program for the objectives set out and eventually worked together with both American political parties to implement those goals.
Movie director Steven Spielberg also exemplifies a strategic leader in the world of entertainment. His movies apply visionary and strategic tactics that enthral the audience through how he approaches his projects as a whole.
Spielberg is not afraid to tackle controversial social issues, and his style of creating movies is therefore challenging and forward-looking.
It is not easy to be courageous because it can be tricky at times. Showing courage, especially in the face of adversity, is an important trait of a leader.
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Courage enables you as a leader to step up and take action whilst moving things in the right direction, rather than avoiding problems or allowing conflicts to go on.
When people identify you with this quality, it encourages and empowers them to also stand up and take action.
Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for, upon it, all others depend.Winston Churchill
Having the quality of courage means that you are willing to take risks in achieving your goals when you are not assured of success.
Because there is no certainty in life or business, every commitment you make and every action you take entails a risk of some kind that may even cause people to desert you or lose their trust in you or encourage them to support you more.
Leadership involves making bold and often unpopular decisions. Leadership entails courage. This is because as a leader, you need to have a voice, and courage gives you that voice. That is why it is said that leadership withers in the absence of courage.
Research has shown that professionals who demonstrate courage in the workplace not only perform better but influence their peers to act with bravery and drive organisational success.
Malala Youfsafzai is an embodiment of the word courage. She risked her life on several occasions to fight for the right to education for her people, especially young girls.
Rosa Parks showed courage when she refused to give up her seat on a bus at a time when white supremacy was at its very best.
Winston Churchill showed courage when he led Great Britain during the time of a crippling war and was able to bring peace and put an end to the war.
Naomi Osaka also showed courage when she would take a stand against racism and other happenings during her tennis games and even recently when she withdrew from the French Open as her way of advocating for mental health.
Resilience is the ability to carry on despite the circumstances and situations. This quality is one of the factors necessary for success. A resilient leader has grit and dogged passion. He forges on with his purpose and vision despite the opposing forces. He sees opportunity even in turbulence.
A resilient leader is not limited in whatever situation he finds himself in. Instead, he turns the situation around to his advantage.
He sees failures as temporary setbacks they can recover from and maintains a positive outlook. When faced with ambiguity, a resilient leader finds ways to move forward and avoids getting stuck.
Great leaders throughout history have shown this quality and were rewarded as a result. Examples include Nelson Mandela, who in many publications have been noted to have exhibited this quality.
Nelson Mandela of South Africa, despite the years in prison, still came out and continued his purpose.
And while Mandela swam through treacherous, shark-ridden waters, many times against the tide, he knew where he was headed. And he never stopped swimming.Huff Post
As a leader, you need to be humble because that is when you are respected and exalted. And not just humility on the face of it, but you must show that it is genuine and from the bottom of your heart.
According to Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell and author of the book Execution, “The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen, and admit that you don’t know all the answers. You exhibit the attitude that you can learn from anyone at any time. Your pride doesn’t get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results. It doesn’t keep you from sharing the credit that needs to be shared. Humility allows you to acknowledge your mistakes.”
Humility doesn’t mean you are vulnerable or weak. It doesn’t mean that you are giving people the right to trample over you even though that is what it may look like. It means you respect the decisions and actions of people.
It means that despite your success or achievements, you do not view yourself as bigger and better than others. It means that you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognise the value of others without feeling threatened.
A leader who emulated this quality was Barack Obama. Obama is one of the most loved leaders in the world and a favourite of the people.
His ability to see himself as equal with other people and relate with them as equals, irrespective of his status in society, made him one of the most respected persons in the world.
Another leader who was an embodiment of this quality was Nelson Mandela, the great South African leader. Fondly described as a fortitude of humility, Mandela was neither a politician nor an opportunist, but a man deeply committed to improving the lives of his people and a staunch advocate of peace.
While on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2000, he said,
Humility is one of the most important qualities you must have. If you are humble, if you make people realise that you are no threat to them, then people will embrace you and they will listen to you.Nelson mandela
In Leadership, the focus is not just about keeping your mind on a specific thing. A new light is shed in leadership about maintaining focus in three areas; inward (yourself), others (relationships) and outward (the wider world).
Inward focus is dependent greatly on self-awareness and self-control.
You must be able to listen to your inner mind based on your perception and people’s impression of you. Also, guide your thoughts and actions following your goal.
Great leaders prioritise relationships and influence others based on their relationship with the people around them through empathy.
A leader should always try to be empathetic when making certain decisions. That is, to understand other people’s perspectives, feel what they feel and have the ability to show genuine concern in their unfavourable situations.
It is very easy to recognise such leaders who focus on others, and naturally, people will gravitate towards them.
Outward focus in leadership requires good listening skills, questioning skills and an analytical mindset. Leaders must be able to analyse the wider world, strategise plans and innovate actions to remain relevant.
Washington Carrato, owner of The Man Van exemplifies a three-dimensional focused leader when he said,
Being a great leader is all about timing and knowledge. A good leader knows when to criticise, when to praise, when to encourage, and when to demand more from their team. Being a leader does not mean working in isolation. Nobody knows the answer to every problem, and it is essential to understand your shortcomings, and consistently learn and develop. A good leader will seek out a mentor to learn from and bounce ideas off.
Also remember what Andrey Sergeyev said, “If you want your life and work to be meaningful, then focus on the things that matter most and spend your time, efforts and resources on those things that are meaningful.”
Integrity is the foundation of good leadership. It is a core quality that any good leader must possess.
Integrity entails total honesty in all areas, both internally and externally.
“No matter how hard a situation is, a good leader inspires with his principles without compromising; they refrain from making false promises or take shortcuts, choosing thoughts and action over personal gain.”
The link between integrity and trust cannot be overestimated.
When you are a man or woman of integrity, people around you or your followers will learn to believe in you and your vision.
They would listen to support you because they know that regardless of the situation, you can be counted on as trustworthy.
The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.Bob Marley
A person that represents this statement is Mahatma Gandhi. His story has inspired and changed millions of lives all over the world, including some of us reading this now.
He was known as a man of integrity and is today remembered for his commitment to pacifism, peaceful protest and simple living.
He single-handedly inspired millions of people to action, preaching a message of love, tolerance and avoiding greed.
As a leader, you need to hold yourself accountable not just to your superiors or those who have gone ahead of you, but also to your peers, staff, followers and people around you.
Similarly, you must learn to treat everyone fairly, regardless of a person’s standing in the organisation or society.
Please feel free to share some other qualities you think leaders should possess in the comments section below!