1. Leadership is influence.
Exceptional leaders influence decisions, enthusiasm, actions, possibilities, confidence, beliefs, direction, and culture. Influence is what an exceptional leader does, and it shows up in myriad ways. The tactics can and will change; the definition will not.
2. Leadership is not a talent.
Leadership is a skill and a craft. It can be learned only through a unique combination of study and experience. When people describe a “talented” leader or a “born leader”, they’re either mislabeling the leader’s hard work or they’re describing the leader’s charisma. Of course, charisma and leadership are mistaken for each other very often, but they’re not at all the same. Charisma is to leadership what a fresh paint job would be to a car. It can make for a more appealing presentation, but the actual performance will come from some deeper and more powerful place.
3. Great Leaders Understand Personality Temperaments
It’s amazing how much time leaders and managers spend thinking about incentives and promotions and how little we spend learning to understand temperaments and what motivates different kinds of people. A leader who does not study temperament theory will not be able to lead a broad group of diverse people. This will be the lid on their leadership potential. Do you know how to influence every type of person? Do you know what makes them tick? You should, if you want to lead diverse teams effectively.
4. Great Leaders Continue to Learn
The best leaders, the most effective leaders, and the leaders with the most upside all get this. We all need to see ourselves as people who are actively improving. Show me a leader who thinks he or she has nothing to learn, and I will show you someone who will be obsolete in a matter of a few years (if not already). This is a persistent misunderstanding of ineffective leaders; they just don’t understand that when you quit working on yourself, you’re admitting that you have no upside. The work-in-progress leader is an attractive leader who will gather skills, insights and followers very quickly. Since you are reading this, this is you!
5. Great Leaders Are Self-Aware
This is the only leadership trait on this list that often gets worse for leaders with lots of experience. New leaders are often too self-aware, and this self-awareness naturally recedes to a healthy (and effective) level with time. Experienced leaders, though, can totally lose touch with the crucial importance of self-awareness. There are experienced leaders who never even consider how they’re being perceived or the impact they may be having on their teams. In the worst cases, this lack of understanding can undo a lot of good work and severely stunt the leader’s effectiveness. Besides, no one likes someone that does not understand how to share energy with those around them.
6. They Are Thermostats, Not Thermometers.
The best leaders know that they’re responsible for the environment. They’re not just there to quantify and understand what is happening with their teams or organizations; they exist in their roles to create and maintain a high-performance environment. The thermometer is there to tell the temperature, but the thermostat is there to set the temperature. Max DePree said it best: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” That reality is a complex mixture of personalities, objectives, and challenges. Exceptional leaders know that it’s their privilege to influence these variables in lasting and meaningful ways.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog!