No organisation can rise above the quality of its leadership. Because leadership is a position that must be earned day in and day out, there are important personal choices that both new and experienced leaders must make on a regular basis.
Effective leaders are, first and foremost, effective people.
Personal ethics cannot be separated from professional ethics. Therefore, the character of the leader is essential. The following 10 characteristics are critical criteria for leadership:
1. A high standard of personal ethics
Honest Abe Lincoln, who walked miles to return a customer’s change, is a classic example of how personal ethics are reflected in professional conduct. Decisions made under pressure and/or temptation separate the great ones from the impostors.
2. High energy
Great leaders are not exhausted from dealing with petty issues. They know right from wrong as well as the difference between what is truly important and what is merely interesting.
The ability to work on priorities is equally important as setting priorities. Many brilliant priority lists end up in the landfill of life. The difference between setting priorities and working them through is the difference between a dreamer and a doer.
The willingness to take risks and accept responsibility for the outcome is a consistent quality among effective leaders. An organisation will be no bolder than the leader.
Committed and dedicated hardworking leaders will eventually develop dedicated and hardworking organisations, regardless of who they start with or the experience they bring to the job.
Unorthodox leaders have an urge to create and do not have the patience to wait for the phone to ring before acting. Effective leaders are innovators who get bored easily and prefer shaping tomorrow to repeating yesterday.
7. Goal orientation
Great leaders have the goal orientation to make tough decisions. Goal orientation produces a drive and energy that shield us from the pain of the task. Keeping an organisation focused increases efficiency.
Genuine enthusiasm is contagious. People look to their leaders for enthusiasm. The inspiration level of the organisation is directly proportionate to the enthusiasm of the leader — be it high or low.
Level-headed people make realistic leaders who respond to problems rather than simply react. A leader who can stay cool under pressure inspires confidence among those in the organisation and empowers them to do the same.
The desire to help others succeed is the mark of a truly great leader. Synergy is created when a leader truly invests his efforts in the success of others. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care about them.”
Whether you are trying to increase your own effectiveness as a leader or are trying to develop leadership talent within your organisation, keep studying the characteristics of those you consider to be great leaders.
Remember that leadership is an art, not a science — and the difference between a genuinely effective leader and a short-term motivator can be found in the personal decisions an individual makes when choosing how to live his life.
Long-term commitment to the principles described above will produce an effective leader and, over time, an inspired organisation.