Among the greatest challenges for companies large and small is discovering leaders who can effectively manage and propel the business to the next level.
For startups, the requirement for great leadership is particularly essential because of the fragility of the business.
Even with a great founding entrepreneur to start with, companies eventually need to build out their executive teams. Finding committed and proactive leaders who can assume significant responsibilities across various verticals can effectively make or break a business.
The individuals who join new companies as leaders must be capable of motivating the people around them and coaching them towards achieving actionable goals that drive the business in the right direction.
Here, we examine a number of leadership qualities and character traits that frame great leaders.
The Right Traits
Part of the challenge to discover the right leaders to join your enterprise is properly identifying what their profile should be, and what their primary responsibilities within the company will resemble.
It is good practice to describe in writing the ideal leader and then compare possible candidate to the fictional profile. The closer the candidate, the better suited they are potentially for the role.
When considering candidates for leadership and/or managerial positions, entrepreneurs should consider individuals who display the following human characteristics.
Honestly allows for clarity of communication and harmony between leaders, colleagues and staff in the workplace. As the business matures, differences of opinion will emerge and disagreements will happen. But, leaders who display and promote honesty will ensure that any damaging and negative feelings of anger, betrayal, and contempt do not take hold.
Integrity allows leaders to build trust and confidence among their colleagues and staff. Leaders who display integrity will foster greater cohesion and solidarity among the group and respect from all stakeholders.
Great leaders have the endurance to weather the good and the bad with determination and grace. Endurance demands that leaders have a clear of vision of their objective. They must exercise patience and conviction to keep themselves grounded and foster confidence among their colleagues and staff of the road map they advocate for.
Great leaders must be thoughtful of the people around them. Leaders who are thoughtful, apply the necessary time and energy to understand the needs and challenges of their staff, and are committed to improving the working conditions of the group. By being thoughtful, leaders will accumulated respect and commitment from their staff.
Perhaps above all else, leaders must be strong collaborators. Leaders who collaborate demonstrate to their staff that they are committed to participating in the work demanded of the group. They foster a greater sense of commitment and accountability among all parities, and their proactive attitude promotes a strong team spirit. Colleagues and staff want to believe that leaders have their back and understand the work that needs to be done.
While these traits are fundamental to characterizing great leaders, alone they are not enough to ensure the ongoing or future success of a company. Great leadership must be accompanied with a distinct corporate philosophy and methodology that actively promotes these core human qualities.
Fro companies to succeed over the long term, entrepreneurs are not only tasked with finding great leaders to help them grow the company, they must develop an environment that nurtures the right leadership qualities and habits.
Great leaders are not simply a matter of nature, they must be able to nurture.
Leadership, in it's simplest terms, is a process of guiding and influencing people from point A to point B. To enact the right strategy and effectively lead a group towards a desired outcome the workplace environment must cultivate the right mindset and attitude among all of its stakeholders.
To cultivate the right environment that supports good leadership character qualities, entrepreneurs should practice the following qualities and promote them throughout their company's policies and procedures:
Great managers observe everyone and everything that impacts their business so that they can be attuned to their environment and anticipate future changes and/or conflicts.
Leaders listen to every stakeholder that directly or indirectly impacts their business so that they can be informed and inspired.
Effective leaders set time aside to reflect on their actions, their strategy and their business to discover ways to improve themselves and their company.
Great leaders display unwavering conviction and are unequivocally definitive in their decision marking processes. When a call needs to be made, great leaders leave no room for doubt.
Great Managers effectively communicate their options & decisions in a way that motivates the people around them to believe in their cause and act according to their direction. They also actively discover ways to effectively convince doubters of their perspective and strategy.
Lastly, true leaders possess a creative mindset and allow for creative thinking among their colleagues and staff to discover innovative solutions that solve complex problems which can propel their business to the next level.
Practicing these qualities is by no means easy. But, making them a priority will enable entrepreneurs to enhance the way their company leaders manage the business over time and effectivley motivate all stakeholders.
Moreover, by actively exercising these 6 core practices and balancing them throughout the processes of a company, entrepreneurs can have a good chance off producing company leaders who exhibit the 2 most important character and managerial traits:
1 - Trust
2 - Sound Judgment
Cultivating managers who are trustworthy and respected for their sound judgment represents the foundation of a positive, collaborative and successful work environment.
Entrepreneurs should never forget that individuals want to work for leaders who will look out for their interests. Part of what makes a great leader and entrepreneur is placing the needs of others, and of the company above their own.
Leaders who exhibit a track record of consistent good judgement will convince all stakeholders that their strategy and approach will yield positive outcomes.
Becoming a trustworthy leader should be among the primary goals of all executive leaders and entrepreneurs. In some respects this means valuing the process of leadership over it's potential or actual outcome.
This reality brings to mind a great proverb from Lao Tzu:
To lead people, walk beside them... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next the people hate... When the best leader's work is done the people say; we did it ourselves!
Achieving this respected status is not easy. It demands from leaders extraordinary discipline, regular practice, a clairvoyant understanding of what is expected from superiors, colleagues and staff, and a unshakable vision of what needs to be achieved.
Determining Leadership Talent
With the right leadership character traits and the environment to support them established, the real challenge then becomes choosing who among potential candidate can be the right leader for your company.
Discovering the right leader rests on determining what motivates the individual to excel at their job and participate in the broad vision of the organization they aim to join.
To illuminate what motivates an individual demands asking them pointed questions, some of which may include:
A. What motivates you to do the work expected of you?
B. Why are you interested in joining our company?
After the interview is complete, register the candidate's answers and determine wether or not they complement the working philosophy of your company, and your vision of the future.
The truth is, individuals work for one underlying reason or motivation at a given time.
These motivations typically include:
A - The Love of the Job
B - The Team
C - The Position
D - The Job Security
F - The Compensation
G - The Path Towards a more Significant Role
To produce the best possible work environment that sustains a positive organizational atmosphere, a strong sense of teamwork, and which produces quality work, entrepreneurs should search to find leaders and individuals who are motivated by either:
A - The love of the job, or
B - The team
These individuals will proactively seek ways to assimilate with the group, collaborate on all endeavors, contribute positive energy to their work, and put the objectives of the enterprise before their own.
While individuals are typically motivated by only one aspect of work at any given time, there can be instance when potential leaders are driven by 2 aspects of the role.
But, entrepreneurs should be aware that these occurrences are mostly the result of good luck.
Nevertheless, executive leaders should be sensitive to the realities of employee motivations, and acknowledge that individuals are generally driven by one specific aspect of a job over the rest.
Over time, and as a business grows, it is important that executives systematically, and strategically remove individuals form their organization and leadership team who work for any of the following motivations:
A - The Compensation
B - The Job Security
Both these motivating aspects of work are essentially self-serving, and represent impediments to effective leadership.
Individuals who are motivated by compensation and security can damage meaningful efforts to cultivate a productive and collaborative work environment, which over the long term, can damage the ability of the group and business to succeed.
It is important to keep in mind when hiring that the best least demonstrate the quality of placing the needs and objects of others before themselves.
One of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs and businesses leaders face as they grow their company is finding like-minded people who fit into the corporate culture.
To produce harmony in the workplace, it is essential that company leaders share the same beliefs about how to approach their responsibilities and execute the work that needs to be done.
However, there is crux.
To be innovative and flexible in a dynamic market, businesses require change, disruption, and different thinking.
While like-minded colleagues are valuable, executive leaders must also be conscious of the real need to have stakeholders of diverse backgrounds and and of varying mindsets within the workplace to maintain an innovative edge.
A diversity of perspective and experience can meaningfully help a business discover new solutions to develop and insightful methods to improve the company's processes.
Entrepreneurs should recognize that there is a big difference between managers who agree rarely but work together, and managers who agree rarely and perpetuate conflict.
Effective leaders are able to find consensus because they recognize that different perspectives are needed for the group to succeed.
As they say in Singapore, you want to find people who are "same-same but different". Not "same-same" or "different".
This crucial insight illuminates the final desirable leadership trait entrepreneurs should seek for among candidates, and which people rarely identify:
The best executive leaders and managers are individuals who are confident in their beliefs and approach to their responsibilities. But, who are also humble enough to recognize when the perspective of another individual and the strategy they are proposing is the right or better approach to achieving positive results for the group.
When it comes down to it, the secret is balance.
The greatest managers know when to tap into all of the aforementioned qualities and practices to leverage their strengths to effectively lead their team.
They stay focused on the company's vision and constantly seek ways to better leverage their professional capacities to improve the abilities of their team, because they understand that leadership, like success, is a journey.
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