Being a great leader is more than being in a leadership position. It is what you do once you are in a position of leadership that determines your success and effectiveness. One doesn’t have to look far to find examples and demonstrations of great leadership (or not so great leadership). Why, just Google ‘examples of great leadership’ and take your pick of articles highlighting some pretty amazing individuals.
Whether at a grand big brand level or within a smaller organization, great leadership can arise among us irrespective of company size or even formal professional role. Perhaps your mind has already drifted to that boss or colleague you admire who, time after time has a special ability to lead a team to success.
So, what do all great leaders have in common? Our list may surprise you. Here are just a few ways great leaders separate themselves and achieve superior results (and admiration):
1. They Put People First
Leadership doesn’t require heroism or grandiose acts. The best way to win the hearts and minds of people is through simple acts of appreciation and kindness. Some of the best leaders are down to earth, honest and heartfelt – doing the right things in the right way at the right time. They are people-centric, taking into consideration how every decision will impact trust and loyalty, drive engagement, and establish stronger connection. Putting people first is key to building a resilient organization.
2. They Set Their Ego Aside
Great leaders are those who care less about asserting themselves and are more interested in building the social and intellectual capital in their organizations, suspend elitism and actively foster sharing of ideas. They believe that brilliance can be cultivated, and are willing to get their own egos out of the way to allow others to rise up, effectively harnessing the brainpower of the team. These leaders listen more than they talk. They ask good questions. They bring people together in an environment that unleashes their best ideas, and then step out the way.
3. They Treat People With Respect
Demonstrating respect doesn’t just benefit you, it benefits everyone around you. No leadership behavior has a more significant impact on employee commitment and engagement, which is why the greatest leaders share this immovable respect for their employees.
A study of nearly 20,000 employees around the world, conducted by Harvard Business Review in conjunction with Tony Schwartz, confirmed that respect had the most significant effect on employees—even more important than recognition, appreciation, communicating the vision, and providing feedback. Respect rated even higher than opportunities for learning growth and development. Employees who feel respected are 55 percent more engaged. They also report 56 percent better health and well-being. Eighty-nine percent report greater enjoyment and satisfaction with their jobs, and 92 percent report increased focus and prioritization. Those who feel respected by their leaders are also more likely to stay with the organization than those who believe respect was lacking.
4. They Never Compromise Integrity
Success will come and go but integrity is evergreen. Integrity means doing the right thing in every moment, even when nobody’s watching. Doing the right thing requires courage and discipline, and appreciating that doing the right thing may have consequence. Building respect and integrity can take years, but it only takes one word, one action, to lose it.
For this reason, maintaining a strong sense of integrity is one of the primary defining pillars of great leadership. Without it, a leader is no sturdier than a house of cards.
5. They Connect People to Purpose
Great leaders know that it’s not enough just to have a clear purpose. They understand people at every level of the organization must live and breathe its values, mission, and vision. After all, your vision and values is what you stand on, what guides your daily actions and behaviors, informs decisions and ultimately determines what you focus on. It is the lighthouse that calls every person forward and calibrates each individual. That, in turn, determines the direction your organization takes.
Therefore, if people aren’t playing by the same rules, behaving according to the same standards, and fully bought into what’s important, then they begin to navigate in different directions, resulting in inconsistency and lack of alignment results. Great leaders know how to connect people with the purpose or an organization and help them see and contribute to the bigger picture.
6. They Get People Excited for the Future
It can be a challenge to get employees excited for future changes, because change is something that naturally makes many people feel uncomfortable. The success of any change comes down to your ability as a leader to inspire the vision – to get people excited about the future, and engage them in being part of the transformation.
When change is framed as an opportunity to create a new possibility, it leads to an exciting outcome. People become less resistant, less fearful of the uncertainty. Great leaders clearly express the potential payoff or reward for each individual and help them see how they will win. Because for the greatest leaders, good isn’t good enough and they want to inspire their workforce to strive for greatness – to challenge and stretch themselves to reach their highest potential.