The question of what makes a good leader, especially in the business world, has been the subject of much debate. One could point to any number of important character traits or skills as the key to competent leadership. However, the reality is that leading well requires a blend of characteristics that enable your organization to achieve key milestones indicative of success.
Consider successful leaders in history – Henry Ford, Winston Churchill, Bill Gates, George Washington, Andrew Carnegie, to name a few. What do they all have in common? Their personalities, their methods, and their motivations were all unique. Yet, they arrived at the same destination. They had the ability to inspire others around them to achieve political, business, and technological goals.
How did they do this? Let’s examine the key characteristics that enable leaders to achieve success regardless of their industry or position. These are some of the top traits that executive recruiters look for when evaluating the resumés of c-suite candidates because they are often indicative of leadership potential.
1. Communication – Have you ever met a successful CEO that stumbled over their words or failed to express ideas clearly? This is a rare flaw for most leaders. The ability to confidently and effectively speak with individuals from a variety of different backgrounds is an essential skill. Executives direct projects and communicate directives from the board to employees and coworkers, they are the company’s face to stakeholders and shareholders. Excellent communication garners the confidence and trust of these people.
Exceptional communication requires listening skills as well. Knowing when to speak, when to listen, and how to listen helps reassure others they have your full attention and that their concerns matter.
2. Emotional Intelligence – Employees may perceive top executives as distant and cold if their interactions with them are limited to addressing problems or doling out assignments. A leader that possesses empathy and demonstrates an interest in coaching and mentoring employees breeds a relationship of trust and loyalty within the organization. Employees are more likely to be engaged if they feel that leaders are aware of and support their efforts in winning the day-to-day battles.
3. Accurate Self-Assessment – Effective leaders know who they are and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Humbly realizing their imperfections, they willingly accept advice and assistance when necessary, relying on the expertise of others to come to the best solutions. Interactions with others are tempered by their ability to exercise self-control to overcome any natural tendencies to jump to conclusions, become frustrated, or pass judgment too quickly.
4. Bravery – Leadership roles are not for the faint of heart. When issues arise with employees, projects, or investors, they must make difficult decisions. Ignoring problems and hoping they will resolve themselves allows issues to fester, stagnating important projects and initiatives. Leaders need to be prepared to have difficult conversations and proactively address problems as they arise to keep the company on track.
5. Willing to Delegate – An executive’s purview is limited. While they oversee much of the business, they must rely on others to execute their vision and goals. However, delegating is more than moving tasks and appointments off one to-do list onto another. By allowing others to step forward and take responsibility, leaders enable others to grow and acquire new skills. It helps all to feel their contributions are necessary. Leaders delegate most effectively when they exhibit trust in those to whom they delegate, leading to better decision-making, project ownership, and autonomy. It helps to build employees’ self-confidence.
6. Learning Agility – Many individuals are gifted learners. However, fewer possess the ability to incorporate new information and apply it to unique or unfamiliar situations. Business leaders faced numerous unexpected challenges during the pandemic with no clear-cut solutions. Solving these problems and those that will arise in the future requires drawing upon not only their knowledge but those around them as well. Assimilating this wealth of knowledge and applying it to develop new solutions defines a pioneering leader.
7. Integrity – No leader can successfully garner support if they say one thing and do another. Great leaders show a high level of commitment to being honest and fair in everything they do. This integrity in an executive allows employees to feel safe at work. They can let their guard down, knowing they will not be blindsided by a sudden change of policy or position. Employees who feel at ease are more likely to take chances, expressing contrasting opinions and new ideas that can lead to innovation and growth.
Effective business leadership requires a unique combination of qualities to build trust with employees first and then inspire them to apply themselves and their efforts to ensure company success. While there is no specific combination that works every time, there are key indicators to watch for when searching for a new manager or executive for your organization. With over 24 years of experience finding the best c-suite leaders for companies across the state of Utah, Diestel’s skilled recruiters can help you identify the applicant with the best leadership qualities to join your organization.