At the end of June 2015, I had the pleasure of spending the week volunteering with Boy Scout Troop 358 at Summer Camp at which I attended several leadership training seminars. It struck me during this time that the success of the organization is directly attributed to effective leadership which inspired me to want to write a bit about what makes a great leader in the context of the effectiveness of an organization. If we just adopt a few of the core values present in some of the best leaders I’ve encountered and teach those to our respective teams, we might be able to really make a difference in our companies in terms of how the company is perceived and in the enjoyment which our employees find in their jobs.

Your company works because of the people who make it great. Developing leadership skills within those in every position — from entry-level to executive — is critical to the success of your organization. What’s amazing is that there are so many examples of poor leadership demonstrated daily among stakeholders in organizations in every industry. You may or may not have experienced first hand what a poor leader does, but if you have ever had a bad experience in terms of poor quality, complacency, bad service, or bad communication, you can trace the lineage of that flaw, in most cases, to someone who was in charge but executed poorly as a leader.

Some Traits of Great Leadership

  • Humility – Whether you are a sole-proprietor or you run a multi-billion-dollar business, you aren’t working alone. Yes, you may be plugging away in the wee hours of the morning which bleeds into your night by yourself, but you have other stakeholders with which you work to produce what you do. Your vendors, the hardware and software with which you work, and even the American system of business help you to do what you do in addition to any member of your team. The best, most effective leaders I’ve met are those who give credit where credit is due. When someone in charge hogs the spotlight, it causes the others to question their place and their value.
  • Loyalty – When the chips are down, great leaders don’t jump ship and they support their team. Also, they don’t simply thin the herd to avoid conflict. However, that seems to happen in the workplace where layoffs, firings, lack of advancement, and short-term contracts seem to be the norm in many cases. The proverbial “buck” is passed, and people are let go or made to feel that they are worthless. By standing by your team through the good times and the bad, you’ll find that your productivity will increase, your people will work without fear, and overall job satisfaction will be at its highest. Offer training to those who may need additional skills, but be in their corner.
  • Courage – A great leader is not afraid to make mistakes. Moreover, it’s important to encourage calculated risk to the rest of the team. We learn from mistakes… that old saying rings true. When we simply succeed all of the time, we get complacent and prideful, and we oftentimes miss ways in which we could have grown and done things better. Inspire others to be courageous. Risk and discomfort are essential to the growth of any organization, and we need the courage to do the right thing to advance.
  • Vision – So many bosses simply don’t see the big picture. They claim to be “big picture” people, but that just a buzz word for them. A strong leader knows what they want to see, know where they are and where they need to go, and they prepare themselves and their team by communicating their vision and “infecting” the rest of the team with their vision. Even those leaders who aren’t at the “top of the food chain” can see where the company needs to go, and they can and should courageously work to realize that vision in the best interest of the company.
  • Tenacity – Being wishy-washy won’t cut it in any organization. One must be flexible and be able to roll with changes, but, at the same time, a true leader knows the course of action to achieve the goals residing within the vision. The leader may veer as a captain navigates rough and rocky waters, but he or she keeps the eye on the prize and works toward reaching the destination.

I know there are a great many other traits of leadership, but what I have found is that these five qualities have been those who have been present in those who have inspired me… and they are also those qualities which have lacked in the poorest of leaders. What other traits have you experienced?

No so great leadership cartoon