What Great Leaders Do

By Joel Garfinkle
Chair, Executive Coaching, N2Growth

What does a leader look like? Think of two leaders, famous or not, whom you admire and respect. What do they do that is so different? What traits do they have that help them excel at a high level? Leadership is not a great mystery. Great leaders have specific traits in common. These traits can be learned and developed—by you!

As a leader, you need to understand the specific traits that will help you achieve a high level of leadership success. Here are ten tips to help you identify what you as a leader must do.

Look again at the two leaders you identified. Go through each one of the points listed below and notice how they do each one.

  1. Great leaders lead by example with an overriding guiding vision or purpose. They possess an unquenchable passion for successfully implementing the vision of the company regardless of the disapproval of those individuals who fail to see the bigger picture. They don’t waste time worrying about day to day responsibilities or problems. Instead, they focus on where the organization needs to go.
  2. Great leaders know how to be themselves and are proud of who they are. Because they are comfortable with who they are, they are able to do what they need to do and say what they need to say with conviction — and without caring about what anyone else thinks.
  3. Great leaders have the ability to inspire confidence in others. They can clearly and concisely communicate their message to motivate those around them to greater heights of achievement. People will do more for leaders they respect than they would do for anyone else.
  4. Great leaders are never self-serving. Unlike the star employee, they aren’t focused on proving themselves but are focused unconditionally (and not selfishly) on what is best for the organization. They put their vision for the company above their own interests.
  5. Great leaders rarely question themselves. Instead, they listen to their inner voice and trust it completely, allowing it to be their guide with each step they take, even as they move in directions that no one has gone before. To be a great leader, you must believe in this voice and trust that it will always be there to guide you.
  6. Great leaders know when to take advice. They value support from others and bring others into their circle who can provide the counsel they need. They realize how large their tasks are and find the resources and people they need to generate support, which is vital for success. Coaches, mentors, and other respected leaders are a part of their support team.
  7. Great leaders possess the foresight to move ahead, even in the most questionable times. They take risks and realize the importance of moving forward—daring themselves and others to venture out in new directions. They realize this is part of their responsibility and not something they can turn their backs on. Once they realize the vision, they rise up to the occasion and take the necessary risks required for implementation.
  8. Great leaders love what they do and communicate their passion to others. They exude a passionate energy that rubs off on others around them. They have a light, effortless, and clear persona that is projected to everyone they meet because they are so in tune with their work. Others feel this and want to be a part of the vision that the leader is bringing forward.
  9. Great leaders learn to lead by following. They trust those who are in authority above them and are loyal to them. They are inspired by the vision that is being passed on to them and may even notice themselves liking and wanting to be more like their leaders and managers.
  10. Great leaders never quit. They embrace and overcome any obstacles, personal or otherwise, that stand in their way. Thus, they need to do the necessary work on themselves to prevent anything from holding them and eliminate habits that are keeping from being the best leader possible.

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