11 Meaningful Qualities of a Great Leader

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A symbol of a leader lighting light for the people

Great leaders are born, not made.’ At least that’s what they say. Across history, we have all seen or heard of great leaders, the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. These were individuals who were bigger than the political parties that they represented. Of course, many of the leaders serving as presidents, governors, mayors and elected representatives are competent people. But only a few qualify as remarkable. To understand what really made the likes of Gandhi so prominent that history has been able to forget them, we look at some 11 meaningful qualities that these outstanding individuals possessed.

  • Awareness – true leaders will understand the difference between a boss and a worker, and this understanding will inform their actions, image, and communication. They will conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from everyone else. Certainly, this is not to suggest that they are better than everyone else. It’s just a certain way of retaining the leadership objective perspective regarding everything that’s going on in their organizations or jurisdictions.
  • Empathy – outstanding leaders will praise in public, but resolve problems in private – with genuine concern. They will guide their citizens through hard times, and steer their employees through all sorts of challenges. They are always on the lookout for new solutions that are likely to lead to long-term success. Instead of taking it personal or blaming others when a problem manifests, they explore sustainable solutions and focus on progress.
  • Decisiveness – there’s no being an effective boss if you can’t make a decision when one needs to be made. Most, if not all, leadership positions entail making tough choices. In certain times, there will be a need to make difficult decisions in a timely manner, to safeguard the wellbeing of the organization or political space that they govern. When a need to exercise authority, firmness and finality that won’t please everyone, extraordinary leaders will not understand.
  • Accountability – accountability brings dignity to leadership. A boss should be accountable for all his employees, and their performance as well. It’s their responsibilities to follow up and pick any outstanding issues that need to be addressed. If someone is not following office procedures, it’s the leader’s duty to take charge and iron things out. If the organization fails one way or the other, the boss is completely accountable. The buck stops with him or her. And when things go well, they are keen to give praise.
  • Confidence – all the best leaders are confident people, and their confidence is contagious. That’s why their employees, followers and other people below them naturally feel compelled to follow them and seek their advice. When challenged, they won’t just give in too easily, because they know that their opinions, strategies, and ideas are well-informed and based on hard work. But that’s not where it stops. When proved wrong, they are willing to take responsibility and promptly act in order to improve the situation.
  • Optimism – good leaders emit positive energy. They easily communicate, are intrinsically helpful and truly concerned about the welfare of others. They always seem to have a solution, and really know what to say in order to reassure and inspire. They tend to avoid pessimistic thinking and personal criticism. Their objective is to gain consensus so that folks can work together and efficiently, as well as live harmoniously.
  • Focus – successful leaders will stay organized and plan ahead. They conceptualize multiple scenarios and evaluate the impact of decisions, while at the same time keeping an open mind on alternative strategies and solutions. This way, they are able to craft routines, processes and strategies that lead to results. They communicate their plans to key players for execution.
  • Honesty – intense leaders will treat people the way they want to be treated. They believe in being ethical, reliable and honest. And they embody these qualities so overtly that others will not doubt their integrity. They avoid spin control and openly share information.
  • Inspiration – an effective leader will inspire. Think about Sir. Richard Branson. His zero-to-hero (rags to riches) story has been a source of inspiration for millions of young entrepreneurs around the globe. Nelson Mandela inspired a generation, and so did Mahatma Gandhi. Truly outstanding leaders motivate people to give their best. They communicate concisely and clearly. They set the bar high but provide the support needed to accomplish goals.
  • Persuasiveness – most, if not all, of the greatest leaders, have been people who can deliver a good speech. They know when to talk and when to stay quiet. They are innately able to read public opinion and react accordingly. Their ability to persuade helps move things forward.
  • Temperament – a true leader can be identified during a moment of crisis. They will be able to handle the immense and erratic pressure that manifest during troubling times. They manage through uncertain situations, and provide endless inspiration to their followers!

Take a break, close your eyes and visualize the greatest leader you know in your life. Do you find that they have all (or at least most) of these qualities? Do you now realize what makes them so different and outstanding?

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