Great leaders can make a project, company, team or group successful. Poor leaders can destroy the talent in the team and make a real hash of whatever they are trying to achieve. Look at Manchester United under Jose Mourinho. Jose was once the great leader, leading Chelsea to success after success. He was the self-styled ‘special one’. Yet when he took over at Manchester United it was a different story. He was sacked and his replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seems to be doing a blindingly good job. Same team. Different leader. In this post we're going to look at 9 leadership qualities that'll make you an amazing leader.
There are plenty of people who have copious views about why the special one became the special needs one. I have no opinion. I’m a self-professed football ignoramus. I did once go to a West Ham game when I was 8 years old and was taken on a jolly to watch Brazil v France at Germany 2006 but I saw more of the bottom of a stein than I did any real football action.
I’ve heard it reported that the players didn’t like playing for Jose and so didn’t play their best. It could be argued that some deliberately played worse even than that. But once Jose had gone they suddenly found form again. I can’t speak for what Jose did and didn’t do as a leader but what I can do is give nine traits that an exceptional leader displays on a consistent basis:
Being open-minded and welcoming towards all types of people at all levels, qualifications and experience, new ideas, change, other ways of working, new technology innovation, and failure. It’s really important to be adaptable, take all the input from every person and innovation. This shows that it’s about leading a team to a successful conclusion and not about ego and self-serving. Being open-minded and welcoming failure shows a level of emotional intelligence towards something from which others can learn and improve. If we never fail how can we ever learn?
Great leaders understand the people who they are leading. Displaying a kindness and respect towards everyone in the team is critical to building trust and engendering a culture where people understand each other and how to work collaboratively together.
If you’re told how to to your job the chances are you won’t own it or look for ways to improve. If you’re told what needs achieving and your’e given the context for why it’s important it’s more likely you’ll feel empowered, do your best work and achieve better results. The best leaders set a vision and then empower their team to do what they are already really good at doing, without interference or undermining.
Your team members are no doubt fantastic at what they do, but they also need support from time to time. Support for the task at hand, wanting a sounding board or advice on which direction to go, or support on a professional or personal matter. Supporting the team is a fantastic quality. After all, the leader can’t succeed unless the team does, so ask yourself who actually works for who!
Have you ever done a brilliant piece of work only for your boss or colleague to put their name to it? Like they did the work. They take the credit. And just how did that make you feel? The best leaders know that it is the team that succeeds and that the strength is in all contributors doing what they do best in a supported environment. That is why brilliant leaders will give all the credit to those who do the brilliant stuff. Imagine seeing your colleague being credited like that. Wouldn’t it inspire you to achieve something remarkable too?
Experimenting is at the heart of good leadership. If you stick to what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. So, experimenting with the process, the combination of team members on sub projects, innovating a new product or way of getting to the goal is critical.
A former boss once said ‘Make decisions quickly. If they turn out to be the wrong ones then make another decision quickly and change course’. Talented leaders are able to assimilate information quickly, taking it from all areas and people, and then make decisions. The clarity and common purpose the team gains from having certainty from decisions is immensely powerful.
There’s no point having a vision or strategy and keeping it to yourself. As a leader you need your team to buy in to the goal and the purpose behind it. The best leaders communicate often, making sure that everyone understands what’s required, by when and, most importantly, why.
If the goal is to complete a project in two months then a gifted leader will focus on all the things that make sure it happens to its best possible outcome on or ahead of schedule. To get defocused by working on another project or two at the same time means less focus and attention on the real prize. Relentless focus is key to great leadership and enabling a team to achieve their common goal.