How are some people able to effortlessly lead and inspire others, whilst other meet with constant criticism and failure? What are the qualities that we should look for in potential leaders? If we ever find ourselves in the position to offer leadership, what are the factors that will help us lead more effectively?
The following characteristics will help us estimate the leadership ability of others and become a better leader ourselves.
Inspire not Command
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tsu
The best leader will inspire their followers. They will lead, yet people will not feel that they are being led. If we direct people through issuing proclamations and directives, we will come up against opposition and resistance. The most effective leadership is to help others feel they are working from their own initiative. To inspire our fellow workers in this way, it is necessary to lead by example and offer encouragement where appropriate.
Have Confidence and Belief
Confidence and belief are essential for effective leadership. The nature of the human mind is to doubt and expect the worst. Unless a leader can maintain a clear vision of where they wish to go, others will not follow. If a leader has an iron will and tremendous self belief, they can inspire others very powerfully to pursue the ideal.
Be willing to admit Mistakes
A good leader needs the strength to ignore criticism. However, many leaders make the mistake of thinking this means that they can never admit they are wrong. Actually, this stubbornness is usually the result of their own ego. They do not want to admit their mistakes because they feel this would make them look stupid. However, to persist with the wrong strategy, just to try and prove ourselves correct, is the worst thing a leader can do. A leader should ignore their ego and change course if events prove different to expectations. People appreciate a leader who can admit their mistakes, but if we keep making mistakes all the time people will lose faith in our competence.
Delegate where Appropriate
“Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower
A good leader cannot do the jobs of several people. A leader who tries to control absolutely everything, will get bogged down in minor details. It also displays a lack of confidence in others. People need to feel valued and given responsibility. A good leader needs to be able to delegate to the right people and intervene only at critical moments.
Learn from Others
A good leader should be constantly learning and improving. We should learn from our mistakes, but also we should read the counsel of experts. It is a mistake to feel that all we need is a strong will. Good Leadership requires wisdom and a humility to learn. A leader who thinks they know everything, is destined to get into trouble. Leadership and learning are synonymous.
“Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men — the other 999 follow women.” -Groucho Marx
To be a real leader, at times, we need to sacrifice our personal comforts and desires. A leader needs to be able and willing to put the interests of their people first. If we are primarily concerned with our own affairs, it is not possible to be a true and powerful leader.
Emphasise Good Qualities in Others
The best way to gain the loyalty and support of others is to appreciate their efforts. This should be sincere and not just at times when things are going well. A good leader will instinctively seek to draw out the good qualities of other people. This is much more effective than trying to point out and correct their weaknesses. A leader will also take time to offer gratitude for the efforts of others. This is particularly important at times when things are not going as planned; it is at times like this that people need appreciation most.
Detached from Criticism
A good leader is not autocratic, but, at the same time they need to have the strength to pursue strategies, even if temporarily unpopular. A good leader should be able to listen to criticism without getting emotionally upset.
It is a mistake to feel that we are always right. Any display of ego creates feelings of inferiority and superiority. In the long run, this undermines our effectiveness as a leader. If we are proved right, do not spend time reminding people it was our idea. A good leader, is concerned with the well being of their project / group, and not with their personal standing. Also, humility does not mean false modesty, it means working quietly without demanding recognition and praise; this quality is quite rare amongst leaders.
Be Prepared to Follow
To learn the art of leadership, we also need to learn the art of following others. If we can listen to others, people will respond in similar fashion and will be willing to follow our advice. We cannot expect to always have others be at our beck and call. If we demand others always follow us, people will not be attracted to our style of leadership.