July 2, 2018
Moving up from a managerial role and becoming a leader can be a daunting shift for many people. After years of doing, organizing, and monitoring, we are rewarded with expanded leadership roles for our efforts and successes.
There are many skills and competencies that leaders possess, some of which we may already be using. The rest can be learned through mentoring or with a leadership training class, with continual practice. However, rarely are we offered ongoing guidance on what it takes to truly lead.
Leadership traits can usually be narrowed down to five key areas:
Clarity. In simple terms, be clear about who you are, what you want, and why you want it. To lead others, you must have a strong awareness of self, including your values, priorities, and vision for the future. When you have clarity within yourself, you will be able to influence and inspire others to action because your personal commitment and drive will be apparent to everyone you encounter.
Confidence. While it is imperative to have clarity about who you are, you will only be able to make an impact if you have confidence in your ability to reach your goals and those of your team. If you don’t have self-assurance in your own skills and talents, it will be difficult for others to trust your leadership.
Arrogance is a major detractor in a successful leader, but timidity is equally dangerous. A confident leader can make definitive decisions and either stand by them or change them as additional information becomes available without intimidation or endless second guessing.
Communication. One of the biggest causes of strife within most organizations is poor communication. The ability to communicate effectively is possibly the most important key to successful leadership. However, that communication works in two directions, both in sharing ideas and listening to input from others.
Leaders must be able to communicate the bigger vision in a way that others can understand and then execute, while also remaining open to receiving input and feedback from their team, peers, and superiors. Leaders who are not able to incorporate both aspects will struggle in reaching their goals and in developing professional relationships.
Collaboration. If people say they can do it all alone, chances are they are not leaders, or at least not effective ones. While leaders are often the ones out front pushing the agenda, the reality is there is a team of people working with them to make sure the final output works as planned.
True leaders have the desire and willingness to work with others, even in challenging circumstances. Even in situations in which one has considerable experience and skills to achieve an initiative, a leader will solicit others to contribute to and implement the plan. Involving others supports the professional development of individuals on their teams and frees up the leader to focus on more strategic objectives.
Carry through. Leaders inspire trust by doing what they say they are going to do. Expressing the desire to reach a goal means nothing if you do not actually follow through on the responsibilities you take on as a leader. Whether it is sharing knowledge, communicating openly, or supporting and coaching your team members, if you agree to it—do it. Not only does that reflect your personal integrity, it also helps to build an overall environment of trust.
While there is no one perfect method to becoming a successful leader, if you are authentic and clear about who you are, show confidence in your abilities, communicate and collaborate with others willingly, and follow through on your commitments, you will be well on your way.