Leadership Tips: 4 Traits That Make a Great Leader
Great leadership is more than about what it means to be human than what it means to motivate and drive people.
When you’re thinking about how to really engage employees, most of us don’t immediately think about our leadership style. Most of us try to present more opportunities for employees to give feedback. Whether you’re leading a family, class, team, or an entire company, leadership is about inspiring others to achieve certain outcomes—and it’s about being responsible for how engaged those who follow you are.
Defining What Leadership Really Is
A lot of people believe that leadership involves inspiring people, aligning people with a goal, and then activating people to take action. While these are critical skills for leaders, true leadership doesn’t just end there.
Leadership also includes knowing the people they’re leading, what their strengths are, and their weaknesses. Leaders should be aware of their own weaknesses and the weaknesses of their people. But it’s when leaders focus on strengths—both in themselves and their people—they can truly ignite what makes their organization competitive. Great leaders tap into these strengths.
Yet, popular thought says that leaders shouldn’t have weaknesses, and that they should develop these weak areas in order to be successful. The best leaders don’t follow popular opinion, however. They are willing to look at the way things have always been done and search for better ways to succeed. And for many great leaders it’s about acknowledging weaknesses and using strengths to make up for them.
Four Important Leadership Traits
The past two years have shown us all that people are looking for more than a “good communicator or motivator.” A recent poll shows that what people are really craving from leadership are trust, compassion, stability, and hope.(1)
Building trust is the foundation for great leadership. A leader who is honest, clear, and predictable in their behavior is someone people can trust. Without trust, people become uncomfortable and aren’t confident in their leader so it’s the top trait and one of the most important things great leaders focus on.
A willingness to listen rather than be heard is another trait of a great leader. This demonstrates compassion to followers who feel their leader really cares about them as human beings instead of just assets meant to perform. Compassionate leaders are also willing to share their own struggles and accept the same honesty from others.
Great leaders can demonstrate that their people can count on them. These leaders create space where people feel psychologically safe, like they can depend on their leader to answer questions, hear their ideas, and address their concerns. Communication and emphasizing the current moment are keys, keeping people grounded in the here and now.
While stability focuses on the here and now, hope is about the future. People need to see that their leaders have a clear direction for the future in mind. They want to have faith that their leaders are guiding them in the right direction. When leaders communicate hope, they can help followers feel more enthusiastic about the future.
So, along with being able to align people and get them moving in the same direction toward a desired outcome, many want to know their leaders are trustworthy and are willing to demonstrate humanness. And as a leader, your time is best spent when you’re honing your existing skills rather than worrying about what you’re bad at—your mojo lies in your strengths.
- Effective Leadership: How to Be a Better Leader, Gallup Leadership Report, January 2022.