Here’s the deal. Outstanding leaders are not carbon copies of one another. There is no copy-and-paste template you can use for achieving success. However, when you look at leaders who have made things happen and have done well at it, there are undoubtedly a few things they will have in common.
If you’re looking to improve your own leadership skills, you’d be wise to check out the list below and see if there’s anything you’re missing or that could be improved upon. And before you say, “I’m already doing everything right,” have a look at the first item on the list.
1. They keep a growth mindset.
No matter what level they are operating at, they know there is always room to grow. They probably work with a coach or mentor because they know they still have plenty to learn. Speaking of learning, they are never burdened by it. On the contrary, they are energized by the prospect of growing their skill set. They study and model after other successful leaders but not to the point where they are strictly copying them. They read books often. The growth mindset applies to both them as individuals and to the businesses they are leading.
2. They keep themselves in tune.
Outstanding leaders know the importance of physical, mental, and emotional health. They make it a priority to stay on top of these needs in a holistic way, understanding that the whole person does the job. They build in time for rest in order to avoid burnout, and while they may not always achieve perfect balance, they know how to make time for the priorities in their life. A mindful approach to living allows them to have a high emotional IQ and to better relate to their peers and direct reports.
3. They have a sense of purpose.
Going through life on autopilot is NOT a characteristic of successful people. Leaders who are in touch with true intentions and goals are far more effective than those who are not. Understanding purpose usually goes hand-in-hand with passion, and this guides them to take action (even in the face of fear). This sense of purpose also leads to greater authenticity. People feel more connected and more likely to follow those who are authentic.
4. They know their strengths and weaknesses.
Not only do they understand what they are good at and not so good at, they know what to do with that information. They maximize their strengths and use them to everyone’s advantage. They delegate the rest to others. Knowing weaknesses also provides them insight on where they need to grow. Outstanding leaders are confident, for sure, but they are not arrogant.
5. They have focus and clarity.
Great leaders know the power of goal-setting. They write down their goals, make a plan, and stay focused on what matters. Their goals may change, but not without a valid and well-thought-out reason. Priorities are made, and time is seldom wasted on non-priority tasks. They are prepared every day, usually getting ready for each day at the end of the previous one. Time management is a strength.
6. They bounce back from failure.
First off, they aren’t afraid of failure. In fact, they know failure is essential for growth and learning. They find the lesson in it and move on. You may know this as resilience. The dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to recover readily from adversity.” We also talk about resilience as flexibility, like a rubber band. It’s a nice image. However, instead of imagining we return back to our previous form, let’s say that every time we bounce back, we get stronger and stronger. Less likely to break. More likely to soar. This is what outstanding leaders do.
7. They know how to communicate effectively.
With all the communication human beings do from day-to-day, you’d think we’d all have it mastered. The painful truth is that many of us do not. Communication is an art and a skill. It’s something we don’t always do well, but something we can indeed improve upon. An outstanding leader is clear. They listen fully and make eye contact. They may be busy, but they remain approachable and receptive to what others have to say. They know that amazing ideas can come from a variety of sources. Feedback is given to direct reports, but it’s always constructive and helpful. Praise, when earned, is given generously.
8. They employ creative thinking.
In a business setting, if we limit ourselves to linear, rational thinking, we miss opportunities. It lacks perspective and often causes us to fall behind. A great leader knows this. They use creative problem solving. They think outside the box. They generate concepts for products and services that no one else thinks of, and they may even have unique rituals to get them into the creative mindset. They know the dangers of too much comfort as it applies to an organization’s relevance in this day and age, so they seek to nurture new ideas on a regular basis.
9. They keep themselves accountable.
Outstanding leaders take ownership for their work — both the good and the bad. They have systems and networks, and they keep their word, to themselves and to others. Often, you can find great leaders in a mastermind group with other leaders because they understand that a regular meeting of the minds will keep them moving forward on their goals.
10. They are a guide to others.
Let’s not forget that leadership is leading. Great leaders guide their people, providing a direction and showing them the way. Just as they are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, they also help others understand theirs. They know how to bring the best out of each person, and they help them improve where they need it. They are the head of the team, but they are also ON the team, performing their role as one role of many. This gains them respect from peers and direct reports who trust their guidance and always feel cared about.
Getting better in your role as a leader is a journey. The most important thing is the willingness and commitment to actually taking the steps necessary for improvement. Work towards your improvements one step at a time, and you will no doubt grow into the outstanding leader you want to be.
“The person who goes the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” –Dale Carnegie