What Are Key Leadership Qualities You Can Emulate Today?
John is a successful businessman, but is having trouble finding his footing in his new role. Unlike his previous position, he is now the manager of a large department, where his employees are constantly coming to him for direction and advice.
Though he is knowledgeable about his industry and enthusiastic about his chance to lead his team in an exciting new direction, he is struggling to convey his mission and goals in a way that his employees can connect with. Instead of feeling confident, every day he believes his employees are losing faith in his leadership abilities – a fact that makes him increasingly nervous.
John’s experience is not unique in the business world. Maybe you have been promoted, only to instantaneously feel unsure of yourself in your new leadership role. Perhaps you have held your position for years, but are seeking out help to improve your leadership style.
Here are three of John Maxwell’s 21 essential traits all leaders should have.
No matter how many years of experience you have, it is never too early or late to begin emulating essential leadership qualities. Now is the time to take steps to improve your leadership abilities.
John Maxwell, a best-selling author, professional speaker, and pastor, has written many leadership books about how to become an effective leader in the workplace. So if you’re a manager or aspiring leader, learn to embody some or all of Maxwell’s 21 traits.
Vision: It’s what leads YOU
As one of Maxwell’s most important traits, vision is what essentially leads the leader. It is what fuels the fire within you, driving you forward toward your target goal. Without a clear vision, you and your team will lack the necessary spark needed to keep moving ahead and avoid stagnation and complacency.
However, vision is more than just outlining target numbers or goals for your company or department. It involves you painting a picture that everyone on your team can emotionally connect with.
Have you ever been on a team that works and works … but never gets ahead? Or maybe you and your co-workers completed your daily or weekly assignments, but never felt like the end result of your hard work had any value? In either of these scenarios, your boss or team lacked vision.
Vision is not only the energy that fuels you to lead, but also what inspires those around you to reach for more. If you want to create a vision your employees can emotionally connect with, here are a few steps Maxwell says you need to take first:
- Establish your credibility and passion: Most people won’t follow you as a leader wholeheartedly unless you embody a vision they can respect and truly believe in. Yes, your employees may get their jobs done functionally but don’t expect them to get excited about their team’s direction or trust you, unless they know that you care about the work they are doing. If they see your passion and determination, they will begin buying into your vision.
- Build up your relationships: Do you actually know your employees? On the other hand, do they even know you? If you have not taken the time to build up your relationships with your employees and co-workers, they won’t willingly believe in your vision. Essentially, if they view you as a distant boss who only cares about the job and not the people who do the work, they won’t follow your vision.
- Wait for for the right time: As people say, timing is everything. If your company goes through a merger and you begin jumping into a new vision right after massive layoffs, you will be met with blank stares and resentment. Work first on connecting with your team and establishing your passion and credibility, and then begin sculpting your vision.
“Without communication, you will lead your team alone.”
Communication: It’s how YOU explain your vision
Communication is one of the most essential traits any good leader possesses. While you don’t have to be an outgoing extrovert to effectively communicate with your team, you do have to clearly and consistently convey your vision to everyone – from the lowest-level employees all the way up to your CEO.
As Maxwell states, without communication, you will lead your team alone. To be a great communicator, you must simplify what you say, convey your passion to your employees, live and believe what you say and prompt your employees into action.
Essentially, you need to state your direction simply and enthusiastically in order to motivate the members of your team. Furthermore, if you don’t embody what you preach, they will see right through you and not buy into your overall vision. If you want to sharpen your communication skills and be the leader you were born to be, here are are two tips Maxwell says you should consider:
- Don’t be afraid to step back and listen: Being able to communicate effectively as a leader involves listening to the innovative ideas of your employees and co-workers. While your head may be full of dynamic information and thoughts, your team may be able to collaborate and make your vision even better than it was before.
- Master the three C’s: Clarity, continuity and creativity are the three tenets of effective communications. For example, while you may work in a highly technical or niche industry, don’t try to impress your employees with overly complex or “puffed up sentences.” You won’t build relationships with your employees, like we mentioned above, by talking down to subordinates. With continuity, remember that while you may be passionate about your goals, you may need to state it multiple times for your team before they get on board. Meanwhile, when you do reiterate your vision, do so creatively, in ways that appeal to each unique member on your team.
Character: It’s what DEFINES you
What core values or beliefs guide you in your daily life? Maxwell defines character as the foundation on which leaders build their ultimate success. They are the essential values you hold and emulate in both your public and private behavior.
“Leadership is about constant growth.”
While you may have character, actions are what defines this trait to your employees. For example, too many times you may have flipped on the news to see the latest scandal. Some public official was caught taking bribes, having an affair, violating the terms of his or her office … the list goes on. Though these officials may have initially had integrity or even tried to emulate it, they lost sight of their original foundation and failed to guide their behavior based on that character.
For those of you hoping to embody your foundational character in your daily life, here are a couple concrete ways Maxwell says you can ensure that you are a character-driven leader:
- Put ACTION behind your words: You might talk a big game or give passionate speeches about your vision for your team, but if you fail to back up these words with action, your team will lose faith in your leadership ability very quickly. Essentially, if you say, “we will complete this project by the end of the month,” but don’t do your work or support them in theirs, they will not feel the need to buy in to our overarching vision.
- Make the hard decisions: No one loves making difficult decisions, but if you are to keep steady to your original vision and become an effective leader, you must uphold your core values. There will be times when you have to make a hard decision, where it may be easier to give up on your foundational beliefs, but you must be true to your character and take the harder path. It may not be simple, but your team will respect you for staying true to your character and your team’s vision.
Whether you are the CEO of your own company or working your way up the corporate ladder one step at a time, never feel like you have arrived. Leadership is about constant growth. Never feel like you have nothing left to learn, because this might not be the case. Adopt the belief that you can always become a better person and leader so that you won’t stay stagnant in your job or in your daily life.
If you are looking to improve your leadership ability today, with the help of a skilled business coach, you can begin creating your own concrete steps to emulate each of these essential leadership qualities.
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