A good business leader might be able to develop a corporate culture that gives employees appropriate support, they may be able to propel sales and increase profits or commit to sustainable business practices — but a great leader does all these things and more.
Great business leaders tend to be driven by a core set of values, which influence their behavior and decision-making for the better. Those interested in becoming great leaders should reflect on their core values and consider developing some of the following that is typical in high-level leadership:
Vision is the ability to imagine and plan for the future. It is one thing to have imagination, which can help one picture all sorts of fanciful outcomes. It is another to have vision, in which one uses knowledge, skill, wisdom and experience to predict a more accurate and yet optimal future potential. A great leader can have a vision for their organization — and communicate that vision to those around them — but they should also have personal vision to drive their achievement.
Empathy shouldn’t be a requirement for a great leader; it should be a requirement for any leader. Unfortunately, the ability to understand others’ points of view is sorely lacking in a good number of powerful leaders. Great leaders are often generous in their empathy, using it not only to develop positive relationships with their peers and employees but also to help match strengths and skills to roles within an organization.
A great leader understands that they are human, don’t know everything and can certainly make mistakes. Humility drives leaders to think critically about decisions and ask others for input. It also ensures that leaders strive to continue learning as much as possible, perhaps through an online leadership course that fits into a busy schedule.
Often, the term “passion” can seem nebulous — what is it to be passionate about a career or leadership? For great leaders, being passionate about their work involves a combination of excitement and determination. They love doing the work involved in being a leader and strive to do that work to the best of their ability.
Great leaders exude respect: for themselves, for their colleagues, for their organization. In return, great leaders demand respect from those around them. Respect is not something that leaders can earn without first showing it to those around them and continuing to show it every day in every action they take. Additionally, leaders should strive to root out any disrespectful behaviors within their organizations.
Many organizations require leaders to move as quickly as possible in everything they do, but there is value in leaders who demonstrate a sense of patience. Patience allows leaders to take in more data and make wiser decisions and work diligently toward noble long-term goals that require incremental progress. Even better, leaders who have patience are less likely to crack under the stress of their high-stakes positions.
Even the greatest of leaders is likely to experience some degree of failure during their career. However, it is not the failure itself but how a leader responds to that failure that matters. Great leaders demonstrate resilience, or the ability to recover from difficulty, not only to make inevitable disappointments less impactful but also because how they react will influence how their teams react when confronted with hardship.
There is a reason we revere Honest Abe and young Washington who could not tell a lie. Honesty builds trust in others in a way that other virtues cannot replicate exactly. Great leaders understand that honesty does not entail telling everyone every bit of information but rather that it prevents one from intentionally and maliciously deceiving those around them. Honest leaders tend to build transparent organizations, which are beneficial for dozens of reasons.
Leaders should hold their employees accountable, but it is even more important that leaders hold themselves accountable. A great leader assumes responsibility for their actions and the actions of those they lead. This means that leaders get the credit when projects succeed, and it means leaders are willing to admit when projects don’t go quite as well as expected.
What separates the average leader from a great leader are the values those leaders hold dear. Placing a prime importance on these values will help a leader gain loyalty, trust, admiration and success, regardless of the team they lead.