It doesn’t matter which path you took to get there, whether you climbed the corporate ladder or began your own business—the journey to leadership is anything but a walk in the park. A leader will experience several hills and many, many valleys. A true leader is made in the valleys and is able to guide the business back up the hill. It takes much more than a job title to be effective.
A successful business leader must possess quite a few traits. He or she must be able to help a team meet or exceed the organization’s goals, conveying a clear and concise vision and a passion to reach it. A true leader understands that some of the best virtues of leadership entail attentive listening. Finally, a great leader must display a strong knowledge of “CPR.”
I recently read an article titled “The Rise of Creativity as a Key Quality in Modern Leadership” on Forbes that made a very intriguing statement. Author David Slocum had this to say: “To speak of a creative leader, or manager, is for some a paradox: creativity is chaotic and unrestrained while leadership is orderly and controlling, and setting the two together makes for an uneasy, potentially volatile combination.” However, creativity is quickly becoming a desired asset in today’s industry. In fact, the 2010 IBM CEO survey revealed that creativity is the most important leadership quality.
Creativity is not only essential in getting new companies off the ground, but on every level of business leadership. Today’s economy is becoming more and more innovation-driven. Life cycles of products and services are being shortened significantly. Competition has transitioned to who can generate the best and highest number of ideas. Leaders are expected to be imaginative guides for the enterprise. Therefore, it’s no wonder that creativity is widely considered one of the most imperative characteristics for business leaders.
Successful leaders rarely become that way overnight. Many times, the difference between those who are successful and those who are not comes down to perseverance. It does not matter how vivid your vision is, how passionate you are, or even how positive your attitude is. Without the drive and determination to persevere through the rough waters that you undoubtedly will encounter, all those characteristics are going to waste. A successful leader will not let intermittent failures prevent reaching whatever goal he or she has in mind. “The ultimate measure of a man (as a leader) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Finally, a successful business leader must be realistically optimistic. These two qualities are often separated, and leaders are expected to be one or the other. However, a healthy balance of the two makes for a very desirable trait. What does realistic optimism look like? First, the leader will be able to ask the hard questions: “What is working? What is not working? Do you know the numbers that matter to your business?” A great leader will see the real answers, whether encouraging or discouraging, and determine the direction to head in order to improve. Secondly, a great leader can set realistically optimistic goals and relay them, along with the passion to achieve them, to employees. We are all motivated by a vision. Your employees want to know they’re working toward something significant and honorable. However, instilling a vision in your staff is not enough. They must see you as a leader who is in touch with reality. They want to see you hike up your sleeves and get dirty when needed.
A great leader is always thinking of ways to not only better the business, but better himself/herself as well. No effective leader has avoided the troubles and trials of the business world, but is instead sculpted in these times—and shines when he or she arises seemingly unscathed. What characteristics do you admire about a leader in your life?