People are always fascinated by exceptional leadership, inspired by those who seem to rise out of the sea of everyday mediocrity with an ease most can never hope to attain. Most never get there because it takes a unique and strong combination of personas to be a great leader: a visionary, a communicator, a motivator, and an achiever.
A Virtual Visionary
A visionary sees things in the future that others may never imagine, as if they actually exist. Throughout history there have been many such singular persons of vision. Some wanted to fly and some who imagined vehicles that would run on fuel. Some dreamed of space travel. Some envisioned worldwide communication from a handheld mobile device.
Visionaries change the world.
To succeed and grow, an organization must be led by a person with that kind of vision. Leadership requires a determined individual with a tenacious spirit who won’t take no for an answer and always aims for the pinnacle. Even if that goal isn’t realized, a great deal of progress is made in the right direction. A visionary instinctively knows which road to take.
A Creative Communicator
The ability to communicate is an essential element of great leadership. If people are to follow with loyalty and support, they have to understand their leader’s message. The ability to communicate well, however, should not be confused with charisma. A leader may have a dynamic personality that can mesmerize and move a crowd but if the communication is flawed, the followers can find themselves in the midst of a bad outcome. Many a charismatic leader has arisen throughout history to carry a nation in a tragic direction.
A creative communicator has to be saying the right things at the right time. A creative communicator must also be a great listener. The best leaders listen to their people and have their ears on the current trends and expert opinions of the thought leaders that surround and advise them. A guest post in the Harvard Business Review blog calls listening “the most overlooked leadership skill.” Listening requires an openness and receptivity to new ideas. There’s a tendency to forget we have two ears and one mouth. This means that we should receive (listen) twice as much as we transmit (talk).
Sometimes leaders strike out on their own and take risks that find glorious success – and those decisions are hailed retrospectively as genius. Usually, though, it’s a poor leader who moves ahead with risky decisions and ignores or neglects to seek the input of trusted mentors and colleagues.
Presentation skills are also key for great leaders and an important facet of the creative communicator persona. It’s still true that seven of every ten people are afraid to speak in public. A creative communicator should be able to express passion for the work, explain the procedures to be followed, and negotiate expectations with those who will accomplish the work.
A Masterful Motivator
Great leaders are masterful at inspiring their workers to excel, to produce at levels higher than they might imagine possible. An excellent motivator knows how to find what excites each individually and spurs them on to do their best work. Not all are motivated by the same things. For some, the motivator is money – a bonus or a raise in pay or fringe benefits.
However, recent research has shown, perhaps surprisingly, that job challenge and satisfaction and competing for recognition outweigh money as motivators in the workforce. People really want that pat on the back, the positive and public feedback they receive from their managers for a job well done.
An Agile Achiever
Finally, an excellent leader get things done. Accomplishment requires agility – the flexibility to change course and try new ways of getting to the goal. The leaders that achieve the most are the ones who are able to make adjustments when they need to. Sometimes the people labeled high achievers only look the part. They are actively engaged in all kinds of busy work – but is all that activity actually productive? A great leader’s time is spent on activities that contribute to the objective and move the whole process closer to fruition.
Great leaders have a clear view to the future and the ability to explain that vision to their followers, listen well to their input, motivate them to get on board, and ensure that all cross the finish line together.
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