Any executive worth their salt has pondered whether they have the “right stuff” to be a successful CEO. When it comes to dynamic leadership, I have observed and mentored under some of the most influential leaders, and have learned a great deal along the way. I noticed that a great leaders can come from various backgrounds; highly-educated or self-made entrepreneurs. However, the one quality they all tend have is a healthy dose of self-confidence; they are purposeful and decisive – even when under a great deal of pressure.
Of course, there are leaders who by some stroke of luck, are appointed to a leadership position without having the usual prerequisite skills. Still, most tried and true leaders who are successful at “leading the troops” and creating vibrant companies know the basics of their particular field and have an inspired vision. Here are essential qualities for most high-achieving leaders.
1. You are fearless. The most successful leaders are not afraid to take calculated risks. They are always looking for new opportunities and are not hesitant to go in a new direction. They are prepared to take risks that may result in failure, and because they are courageous, they get to know what their real capabilities are, and for this distinction the rewards can be great.
Fearlessness is an essential component in the quest for innovation. Highly-accomplished leaders do not wait for opportunity to knock; they seek out new situations by going out on a limb. They are willing to lead by example – inspiring others. Consider Jeff Bezos, who turned Amazon into a mega company. He offered a new way to sell products. His online customer-focused strategy – was risky, but it is now the standard for the online retail industry.
Being fearless takes a great deal of self-belief; you must have a passion in your dreams and be willing to fail. So, what happens if a leader is unsuccessful? He learns from the failure. In this way, failure becomes success.
2. Exhibit charisma. Leadership, according to Peter DeLisle, is the ability to influence others, with or without authority. Charisma may be the one quality that can be tricky to develop. It suggests integrity, respect for your followers, empathy, wisdom, and love of humanity. The result is that leaders have the capability to motivate people to excel.
3. Promote excellence. Great leaders let the members of their team know that they have an expectation of excellence; they anticipate quality from their staff. Great leaders motivate teams to achieve more and encourage them to take an active role in ensuring excellence. Research has shown high expectations are necessary to achieving goals and this kind of leadership promotes greater loyalty, inspired problem-solving and improved efficiency.
Employees emulate what is projected, so it is important for leaders to be mentors, leading by example, in order to inspire their team. Indifferent or unenthusiastic outlook is discouraged; a good leader sets the standard of being proactive problem-solvers encouraging high achievement and helping their team succeed.
4. Have a vision and can communicate their dream to others.
I recently read this apt description of the importance of leaders having vision. It was written in an article by Jeffery Gandz for the Ivey Business Journal and is one of the best descriptions about vision. What Gandz wrote was comedic but really hits home the importance of vision and leadership, this is what he wrote:
One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons shows Lucy, once again, lecturing Charlie Brown on the meaning of life:
‘Charlie Brown, life is like a deck chair on a cruise ship. Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit in the sun. Some people place their chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they’ve been. Other people face their chairs forward – they want to see where they’re going. On the cruise ship of life, which way is your deck chair facing?’
Replies Charlie, ‘I’ve never been able to get one unfolded.’
Unlike Charlie Brown, leaders today must have a vision. There are many stakeholders – employees, shareholders, governments, special interest groups, and the media — who simply demand to know, “Where is this organization going and what is going to get it there?” Everyone who is a leader or wants to be a leader – of an organization, division, department or team – must be able to formulate, articulate and communicate a compelling vision if they are to engage and inspire people to follow them. They must also ensure that their followers find meaning in this vision, the context in which they operate. If followers can find this meaning, if they can grab on to it, hold it in their hands and make it a mental bookmark, their actions are likely to reflect and support their leader’s vision.
5. Are passionate. When all is said and done nothing takes the place of a passionate leader; someone who communicates with excitement and vigor, and by doing so she inspires her team to be the best they can possibly be. Look, we all have to work, so why not work with those who truly have a passion and are motivated to win. A passionate leader challenges their team by putting forth high values and expectations, and giving them the support, tools, training, and the freedom to pursue those goals and become the best they can possibly be.
Leadership is a multifaceted and requires a varied set of qualities and skills. If you possess the five essential characterizes, you may be ready to lead.