Leadership is typically an important skill that is overlooked when businesses seek ways to develop their employees. Business tends to emphasize the development of managers. Employees are provided educational opportunities to learn how to manage. There are hundreds of consultants, coaches, workshops and seminars offered daily that accomplish management training quite effectively. With all these opportunities, there is one skill that typically is not developed - Leadership.
The perception is that a good manager makes a great leader. When researching the studies that have been done worldwide for decades, one would discover that the results indicate that a good manager does not necessarily make a great leader. One would also discover in these results that a great leader does typically make a good manager. What is the difference between being a good manager and a great leader?
Studies have demonstrated that there are six common leadership traits that consistently surface regardless of the parameters of the tests and surveys.
These traits are: Drive and ambition, the aspiration to lead and influence others, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, and thorough knowledge in a particular area – expertise. Are having these traits sufficient enough to be a great leader? They are not.
A great leader must also have the ability to make the right decisions based upon the circumstances. A great leader also recognizes that taking a specific action in one circumstance does not necessarily mean it is the right action to take in another situation. With knowledge, great leaders seek to learn and naturally mentor others both in the work environment and in their community.
Great leaders possess these common leadership traits and more. They are visionaries of the future and communicate their vision with purpose and commitment that convince people they are worth following. To be a great leader one must be intuitive and trust their “instincts” when making decisions. The world moves at a faster pace today, which leaves little time to make decisions based upon reason and logic during critical periods.
Many businesses have placed a strong emphasis on teamwork. Great leaders recognize that this is an opportunity to create a solid environment where all members have an integral part in the decision-making process.
Being empathetic is a key trait of great leaders. Having this trait means being able to “put yourself in the other person’s situation.” Without this characteristic, trust cannot be built and without trust, whether a good manager or a great leader, people will not follow you and give you their ultimate best.
What makes a great leader? Are they born or developed? Like anything else, opinions vary. What is important though is that great leaders are people that strive to gain knowledge and they recognize that as the world is changing, so too are people. A great leader may rise out of nowhere at any moment depending on the circumstances.
How do businesses develop great leaders? One way is to identify those leadership traits in your employees and provide opportunities for them to utilize or be trained on those skills. Then create an environment that encourages growth and continued development. For example, a person that has vision yet doesn’t communicate well might be given opportunities to learn how to more effectively project and implement that vision to others.
Remember: A vision remains a vision until action is taken to implement that vision.
Bonnie Ausfeld, M.A.
Professional Speaker & Career Consultant
Advanced Toastmaster - Gold Level
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