Although many leaders assume the role of a manager, it is important not to confuse leadership with management. Management is process-focused and involves accomplishing business goals and tasks by directing the actions of others, while leadership is purpose-focused with the ability to unite others towards achieving a common vision or goal. Leadership is more of a quality or skill rather than a job description.
A leader is someone who influences the behavior or actions of others and has the confidence and drive to succeed. A good leader has the ability to see potential and gifts within their staff and establish roles accordingly. Most leaders also have a common set of critical skills and qualities.
Being a visionary is arguably the most important quality for leaders to possess. The ability to see through and around the current state of a company or industry to develop innovative plans with clear goals and purposes is one of the hallmarks of a great leader. This ability to envision newer, better ways is what inspires others to follow and to sometimes push themselves beyond their comfort zone to achieve.
Strong communication skills are also an important leadership attribute. Good communication helps share a vision, inspire others, build relationships and foster consensus among staff. Good communication also means listening. Great leaders often spend more time listening than speaking, which helps them build rapport and trust and often leads to insights that can only be provided by the people who are closest to the work.
Leaders should also be approachable and team-oriented. By making themselves available to their team and demonstrating that they are not only willing but interested in alternative viewpoints, leaders establish a strong sense of teamwork and a collaborative environment. Acknowledging the contributions of others and providing recognition and appreciation for a job well done leaves employees with a sense that they are valued and appreciated.
Leaders are also decisive, setting a course of action without wavering. They have the confidence to make decisions, often without all of the facts at hand, in order to move a project or effort forward, even in the face of challenges.
Since leaders can only achieve their vision by harnessing the power of their team, delegation is another key skill that good leaders should have. The great leaders allow managers to manage their projects and teams as they deem appropriate. In addition, leaders inspire trust and a sense of autonomy by setting realistic tasks and goals and then empowering team members some latitude in accomplishing the work.
Resolve isn’t often a quality associated with leaders, but this is what helps effective leaders guide a team or organization through rough times and crises. The ability to set an appropriate course of action amidst chaos, stay calm and guide a team through difficult times is often what sets great leaders apart from good ones.
Leaders have the capability to drive positive change in an organization, which sometimes extends well beyond the walls of a company to influence the industry or even a culture. Great leaders are committed to lifelong learning and skill building, all the while never losing focus on their own personal vision.
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