12 February 2014

Last week, I came across an interesting infographic about what today’s leaders need to achieve growth and success for their business. Whilst I think it takes more traits than the ones they have listed in order to make a truly great leader, the ones they did mention definitely resonated with my own experience of learning from the people whose leadership qualities I most admire.

Why some people succeed and others fail is something that will always fascinate me and I think it’s a fine balance. Reading the infographic, the key skills that stand out to me personally are: being able to embrace change, lead ethically and empower others at every level. Why? Because change is something that can often trip up an otherwise successful business while being unethical will disappoint and demotivate the people you’re supposed to be inspiring and, ultimately, empowering people makes them feel valued.

Change is a difficult one to get right as people often tamper with things that are already working well. To quote Jim Collins, “Any great and enduring human institution must have an underpinning of core values and a sense of timeless purpose that should never change.” Yes, you should adapt to the changing face of the industry you’re in otherwise you’ll fall behind the times when you should be aiming to stay ahead of the curve. However, it would be a grave mistake to try and keep up to date by giving up on your values and changing your overarching purpose.

When it comes to being ethical, I couldn’t agree more. You can’t inspire people to embody certain values if you don’t do it yourself. I think you could even argue that you can’t inspire people full stop if you’re not doing things in a fair way. Take apprenticeship schemes, for example. In my opinion, if you’re talking about the importance of investing in future talent then you can’t take on a load of young people and pay them next to nothing or have them at your beck and call. That some companies still do this is a disgrace.

This brings me to empowering people, and this is something I cannot recommend highly enough. Micromanagement is an outdated practice. So instead of breathing down someone’s neck, give them ownership over something and understand that while they might make mistakes, if they’re the right people, they will learn from it and they will flourish.

Which traits do you think make a great leader and who are some of your favourites?

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