Over time, you will tend to find yourself in different roles of leadership. From form captain at school, to the head of a club or society, this leadership can follow you through in whichever career path you head down. But just because you have a title as ‘leader in a field’ or a ‘recognised expert,’ it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have the respect and support from your acquaintances or work colleagues straight away.
To build up trust and respect for yourself, you need to be able to demonstrate your abilities, prove your skills and articulate your goals and ideas well with your team. A leader is “a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal.” Leadership is an art of motivating people to act towards accomplishing a common goal. So what specific qualities should you look to be developing?
One of the most important qualities which is needed of a leader is optimism. An optimistic leader looks for opportunities even in a difficult situation. Despite things going against the plan, a leader never quits. Although an optimist may seem to be unrealistic, they are actually solution-focused, unafraid of failure and great communicators. These are all important skills to develop as a leader.
Rather than analysing issues surrounding the problem, a solution-based approach involves creativity and innovative thinking. You’ll find this to be particularly useful in business and entrepreneurship. There will be constant hurdles which come your way; being able to persist and maintain resilience is the most important skill needed to lead to eventual success. Optimists have better coping strategies for coping with failure and it is for this reason they tend to be able to ‘bounce back’ better from failure and setbacks in life. As bigger risk-takers, the possibility of failure is usually less daunting.
Remember we defined leadership to mean the influencing of a group of people? Well, good leaders will get their energy from people and share the energy they have with people well. They are good at creating and keeping long-term relationships which is fundamental in engaging and motivating each other. To be a good leader, you need to be a good communicator and effective at engaging others to share in your vision of the future.
Alongside optimism, a good leader needs some competence and warmth in them! Though these traits may not be the obvious ones which come to mind, Stephen Richards Covey, author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ said that one must keep educating the conscience in order to develop and grow further. To always be learning and engaging as a leader is important, but to maintain a kind and approachable manner is equally as important.
Researchers have long studied the impact kindness can have on one’s happiness - a quality which improves ability to lead. From the University of Oxford, 21 studies shows that being kind to others makes us happier. And from the University of Warwick, a study revealed that happy people at work are 12 percent more productive than unhappy people. Fundamentally, being kind means you sincerely celebrate the success of others at work. Connection will lead to better ideas and improved relationships. This circles back to maintaining good relationships in order to engage and motivate each other.
A final quality to mention, which is just as important as the first two discusses, is that of good planning and prioritisation. Without proper planning, it is difficult to successfully lead a team and achieve the best results. And to become the best leader, it’s highly recommended to have a solid structure to your plan. That’s not to say that the plan can’t change over time. But it is part of your planning to include room for movement and adaptation as needed. In a fast moving and highly demanding world, it has become common to cut down on planning time. This nearly always leads to negative consequences long term in terms of cost, quality and schedule.
Break larger goals into smaller ones and prioritise them in the way which is easiest to achieve. Discuss ideas with your team and ensure that daily tasks are done to everyone’s best of abilities. Time management and good organisation will provide a good solid foundation for an overall successful, long-term plan.