I was watching former US President Barack Obama speak at a global event the other week, and I was struck by how charismatic he was.
Whatever you think of the Obama administration’s time in office, there’s no getting past his mastery of language and the stage presence he possesses.
Some people have this in spades, don’t they?
That ability to connect with people and charm those they encounter, whether they’ve known them for five minutes or five years.
I once read that another former US president, Bill Clinton, had a similar charm.
He could make the person he was talking to feel like they were the only person in the world that mattered.
It’s quite a gift and one that often propels people to the very top of organisations.
But it doesn’t necessarily make them great leaders.
To be called a great leader in my book you need a lot of other important skills.
Here are a handful of the most important ones:
YOU’RE NOT MOODY
It may sound strange, but a steady temperament is the mark of a great leader.
You may feel anxious or angry, but you keep your cool and you don’t take out your emotions on staff.
We’ve all worked with people, or watched them in action, who are constantly blowing up or getting in bad moods.
When this happens, staff will avoid the boss with a bad mood for fear of upsetting them.
A crucial line of communication is then broken, which means things get missed and mistakes are made — this is very bad for business.
YOU’RE A CHAMELEON OF SORTS
Great leaders don’t play favourites with staff and they treat everyone equally.
You may have more in common with some staff than others, but you’re able to approach all team members with the same openness and fairness.
You’re also able to adapt your tone and behaviour to suit the different work environments you find yourself in.
You can draw upon your inner negotiator in a tough meeting just as easily as you can adopt a softer approach to a staff member in need.
You can be persistent and firm when you need to be, as well as forgiving and compromising when the situation calls for it.
Part of being a great leader is realizing that a full range of behavioral skills are required to be successful, and often you need to put aside your personal views and opinions and act in a way that’s best for business.
YOU LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Great leaders don’t tell, they show.
They make a point of leading by example and sometimes this means going first and walking the gang plank ahead of the team.
If you expect your staff to work long hours, then you should too.
Make sure all of the expectations you set out for staff are ones that you follow yourself!
Otherwise you run the risk of being called a hypocrite — the very opposite of a great leader.
YOU TAKE ON RESPONSIBILITY
Great leaders don’t shy away from difficult decisions.
If a colleague comes to you with a problem, don’t file it away in the too-hard basket.
Back your staff, too, when they face unfair criticism.
Don’t take sides in office disputes, but do take steps to sort out any issues swiftly and decisively.
And don’t forward on problems to your assistant or second-in-charge because you don’t want the responsibility of big decisions.
This is an extremely important point.
A lack of decisiveness can really hamper an organisation.
Great leaders need to learn how to make decisions quickly.
These are decisions you may later regret, but there’s only one way to guard against making a bad decision and that’s to never make a decision!
So, it’s better to make a decision that doesn’t quite go to plan than to flip and flop and never get anything done.
But most of all, and maybe this is more important than anything I’ve written about leadership so far, you have to be a great communicator.
None of the above traits mean anything unless you can communicate with staff and that involves everything from the running of the office to your passion for the business.
I’ve a theory that a lot of leaders fail not because they’re terrible people, but because despite their best intentions they struggled to communicate the passion they feel for what they’re doing.
Learn how to express yourself clearly with others and the world’s your oyster.
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