Larry Kim is the founder of online ad agency WordStream, and he recently wrote an article for Inc. listing the seven traits of a great leader. Curious to find out how many of them you have? Let’s dig in and see.
Empathy, the ability to understand how others feel, is doubly important in the modern business world. First, it helps you build strong relationships with the people who work for you. Equally important, it allows you to get into the hearts and heads of your customers, so you can better see the products and/or services they need. Quite simply, it’s a great tool for maintaining business growth.
A positive outlook in a manager or CEO, as long as it’s genuine and has at least some basis in reality, can be infectious for those around you. It indicates confidence that things are going to work out well. Of course, being optimistic doesn’t mean ignoring real issues — that’s just annoying and can be frightening to employees. Instead, think of it as an expectation that your team has the necessary talent and tools to overcome them.
To provide a culture in which innovation thrives, it’s important that your staff knows you’re not going to hold a grudge over experiments that fail. After all, nothing kills creativity better than knowing your boss doesn’t appreciate attempts to make things better unless they’re guaranteed to work. An excessive fear of misfires can cripple a business’s evolution.
When a leader cares about the welfare of others, the entire team is made stronger. A leader like this builds up the entire staff by making sure to allocate credit where it’s due, and not always claiming it as his or her own. And, of course, when everyone else looks good, you do too. A strong leader makes the choice to forgo personal glory and power in exchange for a stronger team.
The ability to compellingly articulate your thoughts verbally and in writing has never been a more critical skill to possess. A great leader can inspire employees. Whether it’s a talk that gets everyone excited or a comforting email that helps everyone feel connected, a great communicator can make the difference between a supercharged team and one that’s just going through the motions. If this is an area in which you feel you need some work, it’s worth investing the time to master it.
There’s no substitute for being someone who can be relied on to make sound judgments and not a person who carelessly careens from decision to decision without adequate research or thought. This is someone who takes time to really understand the ramifications of a decision, thoughtfully examining it and making sure that all of the possible options have been considered. It’s an invaluable skill in all sorts of contexts, whether they’re personnel-related or strategic.
You want to be really impressive? Let your work speak for itself. This may take a little longer, but it cements others’ opinion of you with far more solidity over the long run. Certainly going around telling everyone how great you are is obnoxious and risks coming off as narcissism or insecurity. There are poorly managed businesses where being a showboat is the only way to get noticed, but in a healthy company’s culture, modesty combined with excellent work is an unbeatable combination.
How did you do? If you have all of these traits, odds are you’re already a great manager or CEO. If there are areas you need to shore up, don’t feel bad — but you have your assignment. And these seven qualities don’t just signify a great leader, they also describe a human being anyone would be happy to know and work with.