Being a leader is about more than just holding a senior role. The vast majority of us have had the unfortunate experience of working for bad managers during our professional lives. Some of us even know what it’s like to work for a company being led by the wrong people. It’s a regrettable fact of life that sometimes, unsuitable people manage to find their way into senior positions. Most of them aren’t even aware that the people working for them don’t believe they’re poorly qualified for their roles. They live in a state of blissful ignorance.
If you’re a leader, or you have aspirations of becoming one, your ambitions shouldn’t be limited to just holding such a role. Good leaders have aspirations of becoming great ones, and great ones have aspirations of staying great and becoming greater. What separates good leaders from great ones are their personality traits and their values. To become a great leader, you need to either have or obtain the right attributes – and in our eyes, the attributes we’re about to list here are those that every great leader should have.
The first thing any aspiring leader should do is look to those who have already established themselves as successful, well-respected leaders and listen to what they have to say. In the past thirty years, there have been few business leaders as successful as Virgin’s Richard Branson, and if you ask him, the most important trait a leader should have is passion. Far too many people in leadership roles are there purely because they want to make money. The love of money alone isn’t enough to make you a good leader – you need to have passion for the work that you do and the industry that you work in. That passion will inform your vision for the future and provide you with the energy to move forward when times are hard. If you don’t truly care about what you do in anything other than financial terms, you’ll never be able to inspire those around you.
Nobody is perfect. Confidence is a great thing to have as a leader, but arrogance is not. Holding a superior role to the people who work for you doesn’t mean that you know better than them, and nor does it mean you’re always right. Leadership can make you isolated, and sometimes means you can’t see what’s happening at the lower-tier levels of your business. Many people believe that humility is the single greatest attribute any leader can have. Listen to the opinions of people below you, even when you vehemently disagree with it. Take their concerns on board. Don’t just wait for feedback to reach you – proactively look for it, and never stop looking for it. The more you know about the concerns of the people who work for you, the better equipped you are to keep them happy. Happy workers work harder. That’s a basic fact of business.
The ideas in your head – no matter how grand they might be – are meaningless unless you can explain them to others and make them understand why they matter. If your workers don’t understand which direction the company is headed in or why they’re being asked to do certain things, they’ll underperform. People feel motivated when they understand what they’re working toward and what the rewards of good performance are. This means that all of your workers should hear from you regularly, and they should know what your plans are for the coming year, the coming quarter, or even the coming month. Communication doesn’t just mean making grand pronouncements, either. It also means listening and making yourself available. Your calendar shouldn’t only be full of things you want to do – it should also be full of things your staff wants you to do for them.
The next year should not look just like the last one. You should always be reaching for something or working towards a bigger picture. Even if you’re the most successful company within your chosen field of business, there should still be things to aim for. You should have a ten-year plan, a five-year plan, and a one-year plan. Focusing on the present is important, but if you don’t also have your eye on the future, you’ll be caught out by changes within the industry that you never saw coming. Stay up to date with emerging technology changes. Think about the things you’d like people to say about your business. Consider the things your company could do for your community or even the wider world, and work towards them.
Playing safe will only ever get you so far. You’ll never get to the top without gambling. Gambling always comes with risks, but the reason people do it is because of the rewards. A great business leader knows how and when to gamble. That means knowing the odds. Think about the games you’ll find at online slots websites and how the odds are calculated. You might have a lot of fun playing online slots with free spins bonus, and you might make enormous sums of money if you win, but you’re never in control of your own destiny when you play them. You can’t influence what happens with an online slots game after you’ve paid your money and spun the reels. A poker game, however, offers you more control. You know what the cards in your hands are worth, and if you’re savvy, you’ll also have an inkling of the cards your opponents are holding. Knowing the difference between an online slots gamble and a poker gamble is an essential business skill. When the chances of success are high and the consequences of failure are tolerable, it generally makes more sense to take a risk than to steer clear.
You don’t need to hold any special qualifications to become adept at any of the things we’ve outlined above. They’re attributes that any intelligent human being should be able to demonstrate, and you’ll get better at them with practice. You have to be alert, engaged, and aware at all times, but there’s no reason why you can’t do it. Don’t let overconfidence or an abundance of caution hold you back, and don’t get trapped in roles you have no passion for. Life is too short. The world will always need more great leaders – so go out and become one.