Despite all of the books, interviews, TED talks, and lunchtime powerpoint presentations, the nitty gritty details of being a good leader are surprisingly murky.
Most leaders sitting at the top of the professional ladder will tell you that leaders are made, not born. So what does it take to become a good leader, and more importantly, how can you adopt some of their key skills?
We all know the stories of the worlds biggest CEOs. From Mark Zuckerberg shooting to riches from a college project with Facebook, to Steve Jobs creating one of the largest companies in the world. But the leadership style and approach that these CEOs have are so different, it can be hard to infer any particular qualities to guarantee the best leadership style.
Though different leadership styles can be used at different times in a business, some character traits are important for all leaders:
- Self-awareness – understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
- Decisiveness – the ability to make decisions quickly
- Fairness – treating others equally
- Enthusiasm – motivating a team with a positive attitude
- Integrity – earning the respect of your team
- Knowledge – keeping abreast of the facts and figures
- Creativity and imagination – coming up with new and innovative ideas
- Endurance – persevering when things go wrong.
There are also characteristics that any successful leader will avoid, such as:
- Poor communication – leads to misunderstandings and errors
- Reluctance to delegate – leads to resentment and inefficiencies
- Favouritism among staff – leads to resentment.
The difference between managers and leaders
Management and leadership complement each other, but they are separate roles. A leader inspires, motivates and encourages people to achieve visionary goals. A manager, on the other hand, deals with the actual operation of a business.
Typical managerial tasks include:
- Ensuring products and services reach clients in the way they expect – a manager needs a good understanding of customer service
- Evaluating business operations and all legal requirements
- Ensuring all work health and safety responsibilities are met
- Planning budgets and arranging suitable training for staff.
Each business will include both leaders and managers, and they can sometimes be the same person. However, there is a clear difference between the two roles. A leader can only inspire a team to success if there is a management structure in place to ensure tasks are carried out. Likewise, a leader who wants to be effective must be careful that they are not spending too much time managing and not enough time leading.
The following infographic examines these leadership traits, and looks at actionable ways to practice them in an afternoon: