Truly successful leaders have several traits in common
By truly successful, I mean business leaders, who, while busy growing their organization, do not lose sight of (their) people's growth. In short, they are successful in creating happy, high performing teams, departments, and organization through empowering and growing their people
Such leaders are effective communicators. They are balanced - physically, emotionally and mentally. They move with a sense of poise. They're quick in actions and in making decisions, but not hurried in their minds
Getting to this level of leadership takes conscious self effort on the part of the leaders to learn and grow. Such great leaders are rare
Having studied a number of such leaders and their leadership styles, I observed effective leadership traits presented below.
Trait#1 - Great Leaders “Take Responsibility”
Great leaders understand that responsibility is not given but taken. This deep aspect of responsibility reflects in their behavior and actions
They feel a sense of responsibility for each and every person in their organization which helps them develop a personal connection with all. Such sense of belongingness brings the best out in the people as people thrive when they feel truly cared for
This attitude helps build trust, empowers the people who also step up to “take responsibility” in helping achieve the organization goals. The leaders show support by wholeheartedly giving credit to people for success, while taking responsibility for failures
Example: Scrum Master shielding the team when a sincere team effort resulted in failure while coaching team members to learn from it and move on. The same Scrum Master coaches the team to be cross functional, self organize around work and continuously deliver high value through Sprints. When the time comes to get the accolades, the Scrum Master steps to the side and allows the team to feel “they did it”. Such Scrum Masters will be noticed and acknowledged sooner or later
Trait#2: Great Leaders “Serve Selflessly” without a hidden agenda.
Effective leaders are servants first: This attitude aspires them to lead and become a servant leader. Traditional leaders want to establish (‘I am a leader’) leadership first which may or may not inspire them to serve
The servant leadership attitude provides a safe place for the people. When people feel safe, they let go of the fear and trust is established
Servant leadership skills in leaders puts the focus on people and teams (“groups of people”).. The organization succeeds, becomes great as a result of its great people
Example: A servant leader manager works selflessly and earnestly to bring up an employee who is lagging behind others in performance by truly understanding what motivates them and how to stimulate them through the intrinsic motivators of autonomy, mastery and purpose rather than putting them under a performance review and firing them when they fail
Trait #3 Great Leaders “Self Introspect”
Great leaders take some time to daily introspect. They go inwards, review their (recent) actions, behaviors and decisions and what they could have done better and differently to uplift their people and move them forward towards achieving greatness (both individually and for the organizational vision)
This helps the leader to be aware of his or her limitations and to continuously work on those, which benefits both the leader, his or her people and the larger organization
Example: In the book, “How to win friends and influence people”, Dale Carengie notes that people who got most from the book are the ones who kept some kind of log to follow up on their interactions with others and contemplated. What they could have done differently to be more personable and attractive
Trait #4: Great Leaders “Employ Practices” to Daily “Refresh and Renew the Mind”
Leaders move from good to great when they realize the need for practices that help refresh and renew the mind on a regular basis. They develop and evolve a practice (usually learned from a coach) that helps provide “mental hygiene” which empowers them to have a say over their mind. This is a revolutionary concept and often includes breathwork and meditation
These techniques help the leaders stay grounded and centered despite ongoing challenges and situations which enables them to make critical decisions objectively. This is health supporting and brings long term gain for team members, leaders and organization
Example: Many leaders who work at Agilonomics as partners all have a daily breathing and meditation practice. They are not only successful but have grown to lead with empathy and compassion. They also have goals and results to achieve and strive to do so but do not compromise human values in the process. Their employees and followers love them for their humility and being accessible
Trait #5. Great Leaders “Thrive on Feedback”
Successful leadership style includes learning from feedback. Leaders may too feel a pinch of nervousness when receiving feedback, but they use feedback with introspection to become better leaders
Leaders who truly benefit from feedback become good listeners. They don't just take action but they listen, learn and lead. They work to discipline themselves to become great listeners
Example: I know a Servant Leader Agile Coach who has successfully transformed many teams and organizations. On being asked how he had had great success in a short time? “I learn from feedback” was his response. He would ask “What could be done differently for even better results?” to his clients, listen actively and take the suggestions to where he went next
Trait #6. Great Leaders “Balance” Passion with “Compassion and Dispassion”
Great leaders come to realize that uncontrolled passion is not useful and too much (uncontrolled) passion can create frustration in them and anger in others
They balance their the river of passion by confining it within the banks of dispassion and compassion
A river not confined to its banks can flood and be destructive. Uncontrolled passion can create fear and anxiety in the people you serve or work with.
However, passion guided by compassion and dispassion can be a force like a river confined within its banks helps generate power and electricity
Trait #7. Great Leaders have a “strong inbuilt Self Referral”
The self referral helps leaders to filter out the noise from what they're hearing. This could come in terms of feedback or inputs workers are providing during meetings or through other indirect ways. This could also be observed from surrounding situations, the environment and culture prevalent in the organization.
The self referral helps the leader feel empowered and confident. This happens easily with self introspection(trait#3) and regular practice of rejuvenating the mind(trait#4). Otherwise, it( self referral) can lead to guilty
This is where truly successful leaders move from being good to great and their final decisions on critical matters are usually well received by all
Trait #8. Great Leaders “meet people where they are”
They make an extra effort to deeply understand the people, their concerns and needs. This is contrary to expecting the people to step up to understand them (the leaders). This helps build safe work environments, which benefits the people and the organization.
Trait #9. Great Leaders are “powerful Change agents”
They understand that change is like a door that can be opened only from the inside which helps them realize that no one can really change anybody!
This allows them to let go (of command and control) and instead knock (on the door of change) with a sense of concern and an attitude that influences the change. The change that thus results is long-lasting and well received.
Trait #10. Great leaders “create happiness wherever they go”
Traditional leaders believed that:
People are happy because they're successful …
They were wrong
Great leaders know that:
People are successful because they are happy!
Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, write’s in his book (Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the work in Half the Time), happiness is the only future looking metric
Responsible leaders know that If the happiness of individuals, teams and people is down today, it will impact the performance and quality of work tomorrow
They take responsibility for owning their people's happiness and build organization around values that align people, their passion and purpose to organizational goals
Truly great leaders are rare but they do exist and are visible. They are like a breath of fresh air amongst many so-called leaders who are about results and numbers. Strong Servant Leadership is the strength of great leaders and motivates them in creating greatness in others. Such leaders are self driven, continue to grow in noble values and nurture the seeds of greatness wherever they go.