I've been thinking a lot lately about leadership and exactly what it takes to be a good leader.
What are the real-world situations where these traits come to life? A good leader…
- Is willing to take on risk when others are too scared to fail, knowing that if it doesn't work out, they'll learn from the experience and build on it. You have to be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone in order to grow as an individual, and leadership is no different. You’ll never grow as a leader unless you push yourself. Sometimes that requires taking on risk. Being able to navigate and assess risk is part of being a leader whom others will follow.
- Trusts others to do their jobs but is still willing to jump in and lend a hand when needed. It’s the perfect blend between being “hands off” and micromanaging. A good leader delegates a task knowing that the person to whom it was given may circle back with questions or ask for assistance when the workload is too much to bear alone. And when that person does, the leader engages right away. It may be by helping someone to prioritize, asking questions to direct next steps, or giving feedback and more information so the person can keep going on their own. When a leader acts this way, they’re doing more than moving the work along. They’re helping set up the next generation of leaders.
- Puts aside their own ego and selfish desires to succeed to make sure that everyone around them has the same opportunity to do so. There is a reason that we distinguish between “boss” and “leader” (even though that person may also be the boss). A “boss” will delegate responsibility and manage those beneath them in order to accomplish their own goals and definition of success. A “leader” guides the way for their team to accomplish a goal together, and although they too may reap individual rewards, others that they walked with along the way will also gain theirs in turn.
- Initiates open and honest dialogue about progress and new ideas—or things that are holding a team back. You can’t successfully grow your team, your business, your organization’s mission without hearing input from others. There is no one way to do something, and being one person, you will never know every little piece of the puzzle that makes up the entirety of the business. You may think you have a good handle on it from 30,000 feet, but you’ll never really know unless you’re willing to listen to those who are actually doing the work on the ground.
A good leader is not necessarily…
- The loudest person in the room. Some individuals listen more than they speak. Listeners can absolutely be good leaders.
- The person with the best ideas all the time. Just because a leader comes up with a good idea doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. A leader makes the ultimate decisions on how to move forward, but ideation is a group activity. Good leaders allow their teams to deliberate on options when circumstances allow.
- The person who has been there the longest. Time and wisdom often travel together, but seniority alone does not make a leader. I personally have seen some amazing leadership skills from kids who haven’t even hit high school yet. I would put their abilities on par with—if not above—those of some previous supervisors I’ve had. Sure, a junior’s leadership skills will be rough around the edges, but if they’re willing to learn (which, if they’re a good leader, they will be), then they might just surprise you if given the chance.
Whatever your vantage point, personal experience or professional status, you’re going to see examples of both good leaders and those who are still on their way. In times when I have been fortunate enough to lead others, I have done my best to think critically about what it takes to be a good leader and to work every day at being that person. There’s always room to grow, perhaps with VJ. Learn more about our team culture.