Entire libraries have been written on the subject of leadership, because it is such a critical and crucial function of almost all of life. From families, to businesses to nations and even military engagements, success almost always rises and falls on great leadership. While there are many different styles of leaders and not all great leaders lead the same way, there are certainly some traits and qualities that invariably set great leaders apart from mediocre or even bad ones. These traits can often be summed up in a single word. Here are three single-word traits that all great leaders possess, regardless of leadership style.
Probably the first and foremost quality of all truly great leaders is humility. Contrary to popular opinion however, humility is not in any way the lack of ego, since ego is often the driving force behind most great accomplishment. The truth is, that some of the world’s best leaders are and have often been accused of being selfish, vain, conceited and arrogant – and not always falsely. Humility is not the lack of confidence, it is a lack of arrogance. There is actually only a very fine line that separates great leaders from complete egomaniacs. Time is often the only thing that truly reveals the difference.
While some may find it a harsh statement, the truth is, you are either growing or dying. Period. Conversely, however, too much growth or growing too fast can also be just as detrimental. Great leaders have to be people of vision, they always have to have a clear idea of both where the company, group or team is headed and also how to get there. Just having a vision is one thing, however, but getting a team on board with that vision is another.
A leader may see vast opportunities in new technologies like network virtualization, but it doesn’t do them a lot of good unless they can communicate that vision in such a way that it gets others excited about the possibilities as well. Novice leaders often make the mistake of believing their job is to have a vision and implement it. Not true. A leader’s job is to have a vision for where the company, group or team is going and inspire the company, group or team to get there.
Great visionaries often make great leaders, but only if they temper that vision with a great deal of patience. Visionaries are those that see possibilities and potential – which is a great trait for a leader to have. But they also have to know how to inspire their people and to recognize that their people are not always going to move at the same pace as them.
In any group, there are always going to be those who are highly cautious at best and sometimes downright fearful and others who always want to charge in with guns blazing Very often, both of these types are both a valuable and critical part of the team. The art of leadership is the ability to set a pace that accommodates both the slowest and the fastest in the group. Very often, this pace is highly different from the leader’s own pace and that is where the patience comes in.
The truth is, it is incredibly challenging to get an entire group of people working and functioning together as one single unit. Often, it requires a lot of stops and starts and almost constant managing. Even when teams finally get moving together and just seem to be getting on the same page, tiny little fractures can occur that can slow down, stop or impede progress entirely. While it may be tempting to simply scrap the whole project and disband the team entirely, great leaders somehow find the wherewithal to dig down and get things up and running again. Generally, through some combination of humility, vision and patience.