A leader is someone who, by their personality and skills, inspires others to be the best version of themselves. While leaders may display different types of leadership styles, they all hope to achieve the same goal: motivating the team that they lead to be better and to do better.
But what makes one an excellent leader? To many, leadership comes naturally and stems from an innate ability to take control of a situation and seek the best possible outcome for all parties involved. For others, it’s a special talent nurtured and grown every day.
To learn more about what kinds of skills or abilities are worth pursuing or nurturing, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council to share some of the most unique and surprising traits that they think excellent leaders possess—and how they help. Here’s what they said:
I have always found the best leaders to be those who know how to relate to everyone. It sounds obvious, but not everyone has this trait. Being able to be in a room and connect with everyone on some level is not the easiest to come by. And it’s important because if people feel like they can relate with their leader, they will stick with them through thick and thin.
While being genuine, ethical and charismatic are all great skills for a leader, the one trait often overlooked is maturity. Making informed and enlightened decisions, giving advice that helps empower others, and refusing to let emotions rule are all signs of a mature leader. Maturity is a way of building trust. It comes not with age, but with mindfulness and accepting mistakes as learning tools.
The ability to bounce back from tough situations is ideal for a leader because it provides the confidence and security that the team may need to keep going. Being resilient also means coming up with other solutions, which can encourage the team to do the same.
A great leader knows how and when to take blame and accountability for their team. Ideally, team members are accountable for what they are doing individually, but when a leader steps up and shares in that accountability when things maybe didn’t go so well, it helps the team improve for next time.
5. Thirst for Knowledge
A thirst for knowledge is important if you’re a new employee, but it’s also important for leaders to learn, too. As a manager or owner, it’s vital that you continue learning about your industry and personal interests. The desire to learn can give you an advantage when growing your company and managing your staff.
Being able to handle change well makes any leader more efficient. This means that they can handle massive changes in the team, direction and business model very well. I don’t really care if someone can handle something they have already tackled before and have experience in; I care if they can handle something that they have never experienced before.
While it’s important for a leader to make decisions and stand by them, it’s also important for a leader to second- or even third-guess their decisions. A level of insecurity allows a leader to give each decision the rigorous vetting it needs, and it encourages them to consult other team members before pulling the trigger. Although paradoxical, insecurity is an essential leadership trait.
Being humble through your success is vital to staying down to earth and being pleasurable company. Letting it get to your head is unattractive in a leader, whose attitude will rub off on his or her team. When you recognize that everyone on your team is just as valuable to the company’s success as you are, you’ll reap the benefits and encourage productivity.
Simplicity helps you connect with your team at all levels. If you are overly complicated, sophisticated or fancy, it might not work well with the team. I like to be simple yet highly visionary and approachable. It really works for my small team, as they can understand me easily and stay connected.
Ask your team where you can help. If you have hired great people, ask them where you can provide resources, perspective and help to ensure they are successful. Some leaders do not want to “get their hands dirty” or do the hard work, which can create resentment. When you are willing to roll up your sleeves, you set an example of collaboration and initiative that fosters both trust and engagement.
11. Sense of Humor
Having a sense of humor gets you through difficult situations and stressful times. It helps build rapport and trust with your team, who see you more for who you are versus just being an imposing “boss.” From presentations to staff meetings, I use humor to put everyone at ease and create common ground.
Contrary to a common misconception, introverts make very good leaders. They are reasonable and persistent, and their ability to carefully analyze every situation can sometimes bring incredible results. Also, introverts would rather listen than talk, which means that they take into consideration various points of view and then put more time into critical thinking.
Many say they would prefer to be realistic, but practicing positivity is good for business. If you’re a negative leader, it’ll spread throughout your company like wildfire. People will think that this kind of attitude is what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, but this is wrong. Good leaders radiate positivity and encourage their team through bringing them up instead of tearing them down.
Have you ever had a boss that was enthusiastic about the work they did, regardless of what it was? Enthusiastic leaders are great because they encourage a positive attitude, and that kind of behavior is contagious. Good energy is contagious and puts everyone in a good mood so they’re prepared to work efficiently and encourage others to do the same.
To be a good leader requires a combination of good traits; one trait is not enough. But among all the traits, I believe a leader should have stability in both emotion and passion. When the company encounters any difficulties, the leader is the one the crowd looks up to. Being stable does not mean being stubborn. Being stable means that the leader, who is the foundation of the company, is calm in any storm.
—Yifei Yin, Human Heritage Project
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