In his book, “Winning: The Answers”, Jack Welch states, “When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”, a simple but enlightening statement and one which many leaders would do well to ponder. During a rather challenging time in my career, I ended up discussing with a colleague the difference between good leadership and good management. Interestingly they said they would jump out of the trench and follow a good leader into battle, but a good manager… ???
Since then I have often thought about what I believe makes a good leader and, through reading various views from numerous sources, I settled on these characteristics:
They are inspirational visionaries.
Good leaders create great visions; then they motivate and inspire their colleagues to deliver. They may or may not be charismatic or great public speakers, though so much the better if they are. Some will inspire by example; some may have a rather understated demeanour; but they will all communicate and demonstrate their passion and ownership of the vision.
They execute strategically and tactically.
Great leaders exploit their organisation’s strengths and opportunities, address its weaknesses and protect it against external threats. They deal with the big issues but are often bottom-line oriented and extraordinarily committed to results. They thrive on detail and the best leaders understand the make up of the business and the market. They are the ones who will ask the question you hoped no-one would ask.
They are persuasive excellent communicators.
They speak from their heart on important issues and engage with their peers to demonstrate, through the use of logic, reason, emotion, facts and the force of their personalities, the strength of their case. They can motivate by persuasion and rarely if ever need to resort to intimidation.
They are decisive and always demonstrate a high level of integrity.
Good leaders make decisions quickly, sometimes when all the facts are not yet known. They have an ability to evaluate the risks and differentiate between situations where further planning / thinking is required as opposed to binning the idea, permanently or temporarily. Once they have taken that decision they provide their full support to the individuals who are tasked with delivery. They are direct and straightforward, set clear expectations and hold people accountable. They do not avoid difficult situations, rather they tackle the issues head on, and ensure they address the real issues.
They understand balance and recognize talent.
Most of all great leaders can and will adapt and act accordingly. Comments such as “I just wish they would take a decision” and “he/she is not listening; he/she doesn’t understand” are less evident and instead you hear “I don’t always agree with him but I understand why he took that decision”. Their ability to tailor the way they handle situations according to the circumstances will be recognised and respected. They are most comfortable when surrounded by talented people who they can trust and therefore empower to deliver.
In a previous blog, I talked about Jack Welch’s view that you must surround yourself with people who are smarter than you; however, in my reading for this blog I came across the quote which I used as the heading of this article. Professor John Sullivan of San Francisco State University hits the nail on the head when he says “Stars don’t work for idiots”.