Successful leaders are the backbone of any organization. They are like the pillars of the building that hold the entire structure while giving room for modifications to adapt the house to modern standards. It’s therefore no surprise that these leaders possess certain qualities that make them stand out.
Here are some common traits you may find among successful leaders. Of course, the list is not exhaustive. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.
1. They are Visionary and know how to communicate their vision clearly:
Vision is not goals, vision is what gives birth to goals. It is not dream, vision is both dream and action. Vision is not sight, it goes beyond sight. Your sight can be obstructed by physical, social, psychological and spiritual barriers of the moment. But your vision can’t because it’s not what you see with the human eyes, but with the mind’s eyes.
Great leaders have a clear vision about where they want to take the company or organisation or country to. But that is not enough. They also know how to communicate such vision in details to their team. A leader has to see and make others see the same thing he sees. The amount of illumination might differ but everyone should have a picture of what direction the organisation is headed.
The Holy Scriptures says that where there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).
Related article: The power of focus in a multitasking world
2. Ability to Delegate:
Deciding on what to do is as important as deciding on what not to do. Attempting to do everything all by yourself is a good way to cripple the growth of an organisation as well the potentials of your team members.
This is one quality I’ve observed in most successful leaders – they know when it’s time to delegate authority, duties and roles. And they stay around to oversee but not to control, else it’d be useless.
If your interest is truly to grow the business, community, institution or whatever organisation you’re leading, then, you have to learn to delegate because no one will make a great business who wants to do it all himself and get all the credit.
Being able to foresee or predict the future was an ability that made the prophets stand out in the Bible days. This gift of God made the prophets King Makers. Kings came and went but prophets remained until death. In fact they were the spiritual and de facto physical guide of the nation.
Daniel outlived many kings because of this rare ability to see into the future and make accurate predictions. Joseph ascended the throne of Egypt because of his accuracy both in understanding and prediction.
Related post: A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they may never sit.
It’s great to have a vision of where you are headed, but it’s equally important to identify and understand the possible factors that can slow down or speed up its accomplishment. Foresight helps you plan adequately for the future.
The best way to predict your future is to create it.(Abraham Lincoln)
4. READING AND RESEARCHING
It might sound like a cliché to say that “leaders are readers” especially in this our time and age. Sometimes, it can even sound overemphasized. But that statement is true and will remain true as long as acquisition of knowledge demands an active participation of the learner.
Successful leaders are lifetime students and learners. Read my articles on this subject here.
Related Post: THE 3Rs for success
5. Risk-taking Attitude:
Leaders are expected to make informed decisions – based on statistics and best practices, which is fine. But how do you make informed decisions that are based on statistics where statistics do not exist? For example, you want to change the direction of production of your company but there is no readily available data or even a precedence to give you an insight.
So, successful leaders know the figures, the statistics behind what they want to do but their decisions are not solely informed by those. If everyone based their decisions on just what is obtainable, then there won’t be trailblazers.
Related article: The failure mindset of successful people
6. Character and integrity:
Successful leaders have character. Talents and gifts are the prerequisites to ascend to the throne but character is what keeps you there.
You may through inheritance or networking end up in a position of leadership, but only character and integrity will keep you there. Several companies have collapsed out of bad leadership – stemming from bad character.
Successful leaders don’t command respect by threats, they earn respect and trust through honesty and keeping to their words over time.
Crooks can pretend for a while and seem successful, but they crash faster than they climbed.
Related article: Character, an essential quality.
7. Building follower-ship:
Proverbs chapter 14 verse 28 reads “in the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.”
Your success as a leader largely depends on the number of people who genuinely follow you and your vision. Therefore, to become successful, you must consciously build loyal followers – loyal to the vision and to your leadership. And they must see themselves as potential leaders with a possibility to climb the ladder as well. The quality of these subjects is very important too.
If your absence leads to the collapse of the process of how things should run in your organisation, then your leadership needs a review.
Let me also add that you need to understand social and emotional intelligence to be a successful leader.
8. Ability to Listen to understand:
You can’t aspire to become a great leader if you don’t listen to understand. You must listen to understand before seeking to be understood. This is one of the ways to build trust and follower-ship in an organization.
Yes, you’ll make the final decision on what direction to go. But listening to your team makes them feel important and their opinions valued.
No one man can successfully run an organization. No single person can think, strategize and implement a plan. You need people, and to have them, you must listen and genuinely consider their inputs. After all, we all want the community, business or institution to succeed despite our different perspectives.
One more good thing about listening is this: you’ll see other sides of the picture you didn’t see before. And sometimes, this could be life saving. The Good Book says that “… in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14.
9. Building a team and encouraging teamwork:
Talents can win games but it is teamwork and intelligence that win championships. An African proverb says “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
Lebron James, no matter how talented, can’t take the Lakers past the playoff if he played alone. Granted his ingenuity or that of Lionel Messi could be fundamental in winning games, but when they fail to play with a team, losing is certain.
So, a successful leader has the ability to harness everyone’s potential without making anyone feel inferior or neglected. Building a team can be quite tasking as a leader.
Having all the elements you need in your team is hard, and making all of them work for a common goal even harder.
Also, a leader should not entertain any fear that he/she knows less than his/her followers. Once that fear sets in, diminishing returns also does as you’ll begin to make decisions based on sentiments rather than facts.
You’re a leader for some good reasons but it’s unlikely that being the best in the team is one of them. Knowing your onions matter, but feeling threatened because some of them know better in a given area than you do is fatal.
People management is a skill set that a leader who desires to be successful must possess. So, alone you can do so little; but together you can do so much.
Related article: The old yellow lantern and the wick
10. Willing to Serve others:
People choose different leadership patterns or styles. While each may have its advantages and disadvantages, one leadership philosophy that stands out is the servant leadership.
This doesn’t mean being fragile and flexible with standards or values, rather it is the same pattern Jesus Christ taught and employed during His days on earth – He washed their feet, ate on the same table, same food and drink. He showed humility, empathy, love, support and interest in their personal affairs. They were able to relate as friends with him.
No matter what sphere of leadership you’re into (community, institutional, business etc), there are ways to integrate stewardship or servant-hood into it. It could be as simple as getting a tray of coffee for everyone, giving someone a lift, genuinely asking to help a co-worker, going to their offices instead of calling them to yours and other gestures. The important thing is that they are done genuinely.
Successful leaders are never chronic pessimists. If you don’t have faith, you can’t move mountains. And seeing that you’ll face several mountains as a leader, it’s obvious optimism has to be learnt and re-learnt.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times of discouragement coming from failures and disappointments. But maintaining a positive outlook on life is essential for a leader. This is because, as the Bible puts it, “if you strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter.”
So, if a leader is discouraged and gloomy, it’s impossible to motivate the rest of the team. There were times when the pains and agony of death were so much on Jesus that He took three of His disciples to pray privately.
On getting close to his point of prayers, he left the three of them and went farther away to cry and agonise. He could have cried before them, but what’s the need of complete breakdown and display of vulnerability before his followers.
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This doesn’t mean that a leader must always be strong and never show signs of being human (read weakness). But you must strike a balance, else you show too much that it becomes difficult differentiating who is encouraging and who needs encouragement.
As Martin Luther Jnr once said, “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” So, have faith for all things are possible to him/her that believes.
Successful leaders are neither excuse makers nor blame shifters. People who always have an excuse for not doing something or doing it wrong hardly become successful leaders. They spend much time explaining away their failures than actually putting in work to get something accomplished.
You have to be willing to take a tough decision and take responsibility for the outcome, whether good or bad. This quality when displayed by the leader encourages other team members to take responsibility for their actions too.
They’re able to follow rules and guidelines while aiming for growth and expansion. They find a balance between following procedures and thinking outside the box.
Also, successful leaders hold themselves to high standards. They have a yardstick against which they measure themselves. They have values or principles or individuals that hold them accountable. They’re also accountable to their vision.
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