9 essential qualities that will help leaders stand out

There are certain qualities that every business leader should have. But every single leader out there is most likely to possess those. So as an individual or organization, what traits can help you enhance leadership skills to become more successful than others? That is what I plan to cover in this article.

9 essential qualities of a leader

If you are a business leader, you can use these to improve your individual leadership skills. If you are an organization or business, leverage these to build a high performing enterprise through superior leadership.

So here we go

1. Compassion and empathy

Emotional Quotient (EQ) is considered as important as Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in today’s world. Compassion and empathy form a part of EQ and can help leaders improve their credibility and integrity among their team members.

According to the whitepaper Empathy in the workplace – A tool for effective leadership, published by William A. Gentry, Todd J. Weber, and Golnaz Sadri, empathy is one of the key skills required for a manger’s success. Also according to Bass (1985), transformational leaders need empathy in order to show their followers that they care for their needs and achievement.

2. Clarity of thought

Clarity of thought is about knowing the what, why and how of business and business related activities. According to leadchangegroup.com, clarity gives a leader meaning, direction and synergy. It also defines focus and success.

A leader should be aware of the probable consequences of a business decision. Further, he should be able to identify and map the interdependencies between people, process and technology. Having clarity of thought can help a leader achieve this. Following are some of the other benefits of clarity:

  • Improves confidence and logical abilities
  • Helps to carve out root causes faster when a crisis happens
  • Saves time while putting together thoughts and ideas

3. Inspiration

You might have observed that all the legendary business leaders had an unmatched ability to inspire their employees. Be it Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos from today’s business world, or Henry Ford or Walter E. Disney from the 20th century.

Building a sustainable business requires creating an employee pool which is motivated and inspired. The more inspired the employees are, better will be the team’s outcomes. Hence it is the responsibility of a leader to create an energetic workforce filled with enthusiasm and commitment. He/she can resort to methods like establishing flexible work policies, providing learning opportunities, frequent interactions, etc. to achieve this.

4. Market and industry knowledge

You might wondering why this one has made it into the list.

Staying well updated of the trends and development in the industry will help leaders to devise their strategy and business plan to meet the market needs. With rapidly changing technology, industry disruptions have become more frequent than ever. We live in a world where a doctor can diagnose medical conditions using an AR (Augmented Reality) gadget.

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Also, market knowledge will help leaders to assess where their competitors stand and how fast they are growing.

5. Strategy and planning

Every leadership role demands strategic intent. This is one of the key traits that differentiates a leader from other employees.

For a leader, devising a strategy or making a plan happens at two levels – organization and team. If you are a C level leader, your efforts will be mostly driven towards organizational strategy. Other leaders need to focus on their teams as well. For his/her team, the leader’s responsibilities include laying out a strategy roadmap, setting goals and milestones, clearly defining roles and responsibilities, budget allocation etc.

At an organizational level, the leader’s contribution will be in terms of overall business goals such as areas of investment, markets to target, sales planning, business improvement, process optimization etc.

6. Crystal clear articulation

Communication skills are a necessity for a leader. But that’s not enough. Leaders also need to have good articulation skills. Some have the innate ability to do it. For some, it needs to be developed.

According to Simon Stapleton, a business change consultant and mentor, being articulate could possibly be the most important business skill you can develop. For leaders, this will be a crucial skill as they interact with a multitude of internal as well as external stakeholders regularly. As per Forbes, 61 percent of a CEO’s’ total communication is face to face.

So, good articulation can make a clear difference in a leader’s success.

7. Collaboration

Just like doubles requires different skillsets from singles in tennis, a leader – as opposed to a normal employee – needs to be a good team player, who can bring together various team members with different background, mindset and attitude, to work towards a common team goal. He should be able to seamlessly work with hos employees to produce the desired output.

A leader also has to work with external stakeholders such a customers, analysts, audit firms, and sometimes even media. In such situations, a leader has to cooperate and collaborate with them to improve his company’s position in the market and the public.

8. Out of the box thinking

All of us have biases. And we tend to think in the same old direction even in new circumstances. But a leader has to be creative. With innovation driving most of the new business in any industry, old school thoughts and reinventing the wheel are not going to work.

Leaders need to bring a fresh perspective to their organization that would help them differentiate in the market. They have to explore how things can be done differently to improve business benefits. A good practice is to invite ideas from the team members and ask them to come up with a plan to implement them. This will in turn motivate and engage the employees better.

9. Talent recognition and judgement

Forbes states that recognition is the number one thing employees say their manager could give them to inspire them to produce great work. It is a must to build a loyal team that would actively contribute to improve not just individual performance, but the whole team’s performance. Apart from the usual performance appraisal, leaders can have reward programs in place to encourage employees to perform better. These rewards need not be always monetary. Something as simple as an Awards Board that displays the name of the best employee every month can act as an action of appreciation.

Business leaders should also have abilities to judge the right talent. Different people have different talents. It is for the leader to identify those, and allocate the right task to the right person.

All of the above qualities can be developed, but the individual needs to display the drive and open mindedness to change his views anchored on his experience if required.

What’s your favorite quality among the nine? Leave your answer in the comment box.

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