The 10 Qualities All Great Leaders Possess

Great leaders take many forms but from my experience, all great leaders that build successful long-term businesses, possess most if not all of the 10 qualities below.

1. Inspirational

Leaders must be able to sell themselves and their teams on the vision for the business. This is not to be confused with motivation. Motivation is a push factor compelling you to take action even if you don’t necessarily want to. Inspiration is a driving force, something that makes people pro-actively want to give their best.

2. Purpose Driven

Who are you as a person? What drives you? Being open with your team and vulnerable will give them the license to do the same. People don’t have to like you to do a good job, but they have to believe in what you believe in.

3. Empathetic

Guess what, every employee is a person with a life outside of work.  Keeping personal lives outside of work sounds great on paper but it’s impossible in the real world. Understanding that people have ups and downs and helping them manage these is critical to each person and ultimately your business’s wellbeing. The bonus here is that it breeds loyalty and desire in your team.

4. Decisive

When leaders are numbers driven with a test-and-learn mindset, decisions can be made quickly and with a higher likelihood of success. If the decision turns out to be wrong, then learning from the mistake and moving along quickly is paramount.

5. Perseverance

Things will go wrong, especially as a business scales. Leaders need to be positive when things go bad and find a way to keep pushing forward as an example for the rest of the team.

6. Taking Responsibility

The buck stops with the CEO and then responsibility runs down the org chart and eventually to the person that may have made the mistake in the first place. The best practice is for every result and even down to each task to have just one person ultimately responsible.

7. Accountability

Accountability is about setting realistic targets and a meeting and reporting cadence that keeps teams accountable. Accountability is a two-way street and leaders being accountable for their actions and results is just as important.

8. Embracing Feedback

Encouraging an environment of continuous improvement where feedback is given and received safely and effectively. This has to be done carefully with a structured process on how to provide feedback especially important. In short, it should always be done as soon as the issue is identified, 1-1, and not in a group setting and with options on how it can be rectified.

9. Culture Obsessed

Understanding that you pay employees to do their job but they volunteer their best is a mantra every leader should live by. Ensuring you provide a safe and positive environment to give your employees the best chance of reaching their maximum potential.

10. Client focused

Great leaders have a huge focus on their clients, not just revenue or profit. Everything they do is dictated by offering their clients a better service or product. But as Richard Branson says, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients”

Taking businesses from Good to Great

For those looking to learn more about the characteristics of great leaders, I highly recommend you read Good to Great by Jim Collins. In the book, they report on research conducted to identify how companies go from Good to Great. The definition of great was a cumulative total stock return of at least three times the general market for the period of 15 years. 

The findings were very interesting and have changed the way I have led and seen leaders. For those wanting a shortcut (I highly recommend reading the entire book though), you can check out Jim Collins’s blog here where he outlines what a Hedgehog leader is and why all Good to Great leaders were Hedgehogs.

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