My husband and I were having dinner the other night and sat next to a mother and daughter who were traveling from a different country.
We struck up a conversation with them and they asked us for recommendations for local attractions, restaurants, and other site-seeing favorites.
Ironically the conversation led to our (US) political environment. I found it interesting that a visitor to our country was interested in our politics. Does anyone talk about anything else?
Anyway, they asked lots of questions about those who are leading our nation and the perception of an ability to lead.
The conversation allowed me to reflect on the characteristics of great leaders – whether that be in school, business, or government.
What Is Leadership?
Leadership is one of those terms that is often used interchangeably with other management terms but is defined as: the ability to lead; an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.
The term leadership is used in many forms to describe many things but is ultimately the act of leading people in a certain direction.
The following are some leadership behaviors that successful leaders demonstrate and develop through their own professional journey.
12 Characteristics of Effective Leadership
Effective leaders are able to influence others to get things accomplished.
They help others see what needs to be done and show them the path forward.
Anyone can be a leader – kids can be leaders.
Did your mom ever say, “She’s a bad influence on you”?
That means that a person has the ability to influence our thoughts and behaviors – sometimes that influence is bad.
Leaders can influence us in ways that we sometimes are not even aware of. Positive influence is what quality leaders strive for.
2. Help Others See the BIG Picture
Leaders are big picture thinkers and can rise above the urgency of the day-to-day and understand things from a broad perspective.
They see all the pieces to the puzzle and have the ability to share the importance of each piece with employees.
For instance, a great leader will explain the why behind decisions and clarify confusion about the process.
When leaders communicate the BIG picture they get people excited about where they’re going and the process of getting there.
3. Gives Others the Benefit of the Doubt
Effective leaders always give others the benefit of the doubt and believe the best in people.
A true leader first gathers all the facts before drawing final conclusions.
It’s amazing how one-sided a situation can look, and how very different it seems when you have all the information.
For instance, let’s pretend you have two employees who are having conflict at work. It is important to hear both perspectives before drawing conclusions.
Take the time to ask questions and make sure you have all of the facts when dealing with employee issues.
My husband always says there are three sides to every story. Make sure you know all the facts before making judgments.
Leaders have credibility with those they lead. What this means is a leader says what they mean and does what they say.
They are the same no matter who they are around and are honest with their communications and interactions with others.
Their personal integrity is the same whether they are at work or on the little league baseball field.
They are credible (worthy of belief, trustworthy) people.
For instance, let’s say you have a manager who puts on a great act at work. However, off-hours, they post questionable content on social media. This is an example of someone who is not consistent in their behaviors.
Leaders are gifted teachers and master the art of coaching others in personal and professional development.
They teach leadership principles and help others develop their own credibility.
These leadership teachers help others identify areas that can be improved and coach them on how to make those improvements.
For instance, let’s say you have a new supervisor. This inexperienced member of staff lacks the experience of dealing with a difficult employee.
A gifted leader will share personal experiences and offer suggestions for responding to daily challenges.
6. Master Delegator
This includes allowing others to make mistakes and helping employees learn through the process.
Making mistakes is the best way to learn and allowing others to learn from their own errors is an invaluable lesson.
7. Empower Others
Taking chances is part of the development and learning process.
Developing leaders need to be comfortable taking risks and learning from mistakes.
Leaders are gifted at empowering (to enable or permit) others to take responsibility and risks.
For instance, let’s say you have a new manager who has never managed a budget.
Empowering others may mean allowing the manager to make budgeting decisions for their department.
Leaders have a high level of integrity and adhere to honesty, moral and ethical principles.
They demonstrate these behaviors to others and do it consistently.
Their behaviors are the same regardless of the situation they are in or the people they are with.
9. Trust and Respect
Trust is earned. Leaders are able to gain trust and respect from others by behavior consistency.
Their behaviors are predictable and consistent which helps employees know what to expect.
People trust them because they have earned trust by their consistency in professional behaviors.
10. Team Players
Work does not get done in silos. It takes teams of people to get the job done.
Leaders are team players and work with others to get things done.
They operate out of a win-win philosophy and help others come to an agreement and encourage collaboration in tasks.
11. Celebrates Successes
Teams work toward common goals and when those goals are complete there is reason to celebrate!
Effective leaders are able to recognize success and help their team celebrate those successes.
This is a critical component in team function and development.
12. Have Right Priorities
Leaders have a good understanding of their personal priorities and are able to keep all aspects of their lives balanced.
Leaders understand the importance of setting personal boundaries and giving families as much focus and attention as their professional lives.
Why are quality leaders so important?
Leaders guide every aspect of our lives. School leaders guide our academic development; business leaders steer the direction of a company; and government leaders influence the direction of our nation.
Leadership behaviors are important because it is the principles of leadership that steer this ship of life that we are riding. We all hope that our leaders are able to move us in the right direction!
Have you had any leaders in your life who have influenced you to get you to where you are?