Qualities of a Great Leader

When I read Nan Palmero’s MySA blog posting on his thoughts what makes a great leader, I was inspired to write my own thoughts on leadership. Many of us have different views on what we believe to be necessary qualities of true leaders (although attitude will almost always be one of them). I think every leader should have the following 5 qualities :

Willing to engage
I believe that leaders have to be willing to go out and meet people, get to know them on a personal level and be able to find a unique quality in that person that can be used to have a positive impact on others. I think often times, persons in high level positions don’t see the importance in engaging with others at various levels. You cannot be a leader without followers. You create followers by listening, understanding and helping.

Doesn’t get hooked on titles
One of my favorite books is “You don’t need a title to be a leader” by Mark Sanborn.  When someone asks you where you want to be in 10 years, your answer shouldn’t be “I want to be a CEO of a company” or “I want my company to be #1 in the industry.” What matters most is how you get there. If you do all the right things, you will be put into a position to lead. One of my favorite quotes from a leader was from Lanham Napier, CEO of Rackspace. When Rackspace went public, they hosted a large employee event to announce the news. I joined my husband for the event. When Lanham went up to speak, one of his comments really stuck with me. He said something along the lines of  “Rackers, I do not want to walk through the office and see the stock ticker on your desktops. If we continue to provide Fanatical Support to our customers, the numbers will speak for themselves.” Focusing on the fundamentals and doing what is right for the customer is what will drive them to be a leader.

Regardless of your skill level, experience, the number of people you know, you can never be a good leader without having an optimistic outlook on life. You may end up in unfortunate situations, someone may have burned you, you may not like everyone you meet but if you cannot find an optimistic outlet, it is almost impossible for you to succeed. You may be able to get by in the short run but you will never be able to endure leadership in the long run.

Brings others with you
Being a leader is not about you, it’s about everyone around you. It’s finding ways to bring out the best in others so that they too can lead. One of my favorite quotes was from Obama when P. Diddy  interviewed him 4 years ago before he was president. Obama was talking about celebrities and other high profile individuals like P. Diddy and said this: “There are a lot of brothers and sisters out there that are doing well but aren’t thinking about the folks being left behind. And if you can’t reach back and pull some folks up with you, then you shouldn’t be in the position you are in right now.”

Always willing to learn
Leaders should always be accepting that they don’t know everything and should look forward to learning from others. One of the most inspiring stories for me was that of Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. He was a high school drop out and although extremely successful, he started “realizing that his success as a high school dropout might convince other teenagers to quit school (something he later admitted was a mistake).” So he became a student at Coconut Creek High School and earned a GED in 1993, at the age of 60 yrs!

We are never too old to learn.

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