5 Key Characteristics of a Great Leader
December 29, 2016 | by David Moncur
Becoming a great leader isn’t something that happens overnight. It requires experience, perseverance and a certain set of skills. However, through my own experience as a leader and observing other leaders, I find that there are five key characteristics that empower great leadership.
01 | ORGANIZATION
Productivity is entirely about one’s ability to organize and prioritize. As principal of my company, I have a million things flying across my desk all day, and without the ability to identify which tasks are urgent and important, I would never get anything done! On a daily basis, I take a look at all the things I’m needed for and select the 1-3 things that will make the most impact, and do those first.
I see it like this: there are four quadrants of “work”, with importance on the x-axis and urgency on the y-axis. In quadrant one you have “urgent and important” work, in quadrant two “not urgent, but important” work, in quadrant three “not important and not urgent” work, and in quadrant four “urgent, but not important” work. To me, success is operating somewhere in quadrant two, with “urgent and important” work already taken care of.
02 | ENERGY
Great leaders have the power to energize and inspire the people around them. It takes passion, personality and a powerful presence in order to command a room, and you’ll find that you get back what you give out. If your demeanor is lively and excited, the people you are talking to will start to respond to and manifest the level of energy you’ve established. If your demeanor is dull, you’ll be struggling to speak to a room full of bored faces.
I always try to prepare myself for any group or peer interaction by being cognizant of the other energies in the room, as well as the energy I want to create. Sometimes it’s my job to set a serious tone, other times I need to get clients intrigued or keep my team on track with a high priority project. No matter what your emotions or motivations are at any moment, by focusing your energy in the right way, you can inspire the experiences of those around you.
03 | CONFIDENCE
People will always listen to and follow the people they have confidence in. Gaining the confidence of others really boils down to being able to gain a deep understanding—and that requires doing the right research and asking the right questions. Too many people go into a meeting or pitch with the intent of responding to instead of gaining understanding of the other party—but that’s a rant for another day!
In order to gain the confidence of clients, employees and others you should work to understand them. Ask lots of questions, test your assumptions, discover underlying motivations and overarching goals, so that when you’re done, you really get it. Additionally, it helps to be clear about your vision, systematic about your approach and optimistic about the results. That’s what exudes confidence!
04 | CALM
Often the person who ends up in charge is also the calmest person in the room; they are the one who is not only confident, but also cool and collected. My own ability to manage the chaos of my business (and my life) and remain calm honestly comes from years of experience. Having dealt with countless tight deadlines, aggressive clients and difficult circumstances across my career, I can handle a lot.
Over time, you learn how to react in different situations. The first time something unexpected happens, your brain isn’t quite sure how to react. But after you’ve experienced the same thing a few times, it doesn’t phase you as much and you know what to do. Each time you successfully remedy a situation, try to make a mental note of exactly what you did and repeat it in the future. Besides experience, I find the other key to keeping calm is remaining objective, which brings me to my last point.
05 | OBJECTIVITY
Quick critical thinking is perhaps the most important leadership skill to have. It’s important to be logical and decisive, with the ability to think quickly on your feet. Being able to focus and look objectively at what needs to take place in order to achieve a goal will be the factor that sets your path to success. I often find that when problem solving, people tend to limit themselves by having preconceived notions of what a project can be or has to be. Instead of looking at the limits, they should be looking at how to strategically change the parameters of a project in order to properly align resources, time and goals.
Beyond being able to be objective about a project or situation, it’s also important to be able to be objective about yourself and your own work. I’ve learned to look very objectively at myself, which is something most people can’t do. I can take criticism, find flaws in my own work and separate my emotional connection to something I’ve created in order to analyze it in a logical way. Because I know that by taking on an outside perspective, I can identify the root of the problem and the right way to counter it.
All in all, these key leadership characteristics are attributes we all have inside of us, and need to keep working on. Being empowered is about unlocking your own potential and being a great leader is about pushing that potential to the limits. Remember that greatness is not something you simply achieve, it is something you become.