Guest Column: Emmanuel Zvada

What does a leader look like? Think of two leaders, famous or not, whom you admire and respect. What do they do that is so different? Leadership is not a great mystery. Great leaders have specific traits in common. These traits can be learned and developed by you if you want to be a great leader. It is important to note that effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes or actions.
Results speak louder than actions.

Be exemplary

When you are a leader all eyes are on you, watching your every move as you set the expectations of employees. They will look at your willingness to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in an effort to achieve your team goals. They will look at you to see how you communicate at all hierarchical levels and they will analyse how accountable you are when things are going badly. Being a good role model for your team is vital if you want your staff members to be as professional as you are. Lead by example in everything you do at work. It can be very difficult to reprimand a member of staff for something if you are a habitual offender as leader.

Be a good communicator

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A great leader is always a skilled communicator not only as speaker but as a listener, but someone who has the ability to take charge, direct, encourage or stimulate others. To become a great leader, one should be a great communicator. Great leaders are always considered as first-class communicators, they have a clear set of values and they always believe in promoting and inculcating those values in others. It is due to this reason that their teams appreciate them and follow them as leaders. Being a great communicator does not mean great talker. There is a big difference between the two. Great leaders have ability to connect to passions and ambitions while communicating their ideas with others.

Always have integrity

Integrity means following your moral or ethical convictions and doing the right thing in all circumstances, even if no one is watching you. Having integrity means you are true to yourself and would do nothing that demeans or dishonours you. One of the leadership qualities that define a good leader is honesty. When you are responsible for a team of people, it is important to be straightforward. Your company and its employees reflect you and if you take honest and ethical behaviour as key values, your team will follow.

Know when to let others lead

Knowing when to “take the lead” and when to take the backseat and allow your team members to drive results on their own can be one of the most difficult balancing acts a leader faces. Trusting your team to act alone and own their responsibilities can free you from constant micromanaging. But at the same time, your guidance as a leader and mentor is critical to your team’s development and success.

Admit your failures

Failure is the best teacher, as they say, and it is not a crime to admit that you have failed as a leader and give others a chance. If you want to be a great leader, do not be that person with such a strong ego and can’t accept other people’s suggestions, especially when they come from people who are more knowledgeable than you on the subject matter. Admitting your weaknesses will allow you to learn more about yourself and the things you have to improve on. Learning that other people would be better doing the task you are trying to accomplish, or allowing them to take part in your success, or even allowing them to lead is what we call leadership maturity.

Be a servant

Being a servant leader can boost engagement, increase trust and build better team relationships. Committed to serve the needs of others before their own, courageous to lead with power and love as an expression of serving, consistently developing others into leaders and continually inviting feedback from those that they want to serve.
If you hate true feedback from those whom you lead then you are not a great leader.

Make sound, timely decisions

It is imperative to note that when you are a leader you are in a position to make informed decisions quickly and the decisions you make can either affect everyone positively or negatively. To make sound decisions, try to base your decisions on fact rather than assumption, emotion or hearsay and approach your decision rationally. To make sound and timely decisions as a leader, assess the situation, seek out relevant information, weigh options, make judgments and initiate action as required to create a positive outcome. Timely decisions are the ones that are taken at the right time to have the best effect. The best decision taken and implemented at the wrong time is useless. Timely decision-making requires assurance and boldness.

Take responsibility

As a leader, your team will look to you for guidance and inspiration on ways to take the business to new heights. When things happen, whatever they may be, your first duty is to take responsibility for your actions. You should know that taking responsibility for your actions does include taking responsibility for the actions of those you lead. When things go wrong, they will turn to you to take corrective and decisive action. How you respond in times of adversity provides you with an opportunity to show an example of being a good leader.

Pursue self-improvement

We all have strengths and limitations or weaknesses. You build on strengths and find ways to compensate for your weaknesses. No one can excel in everything. However, as a leader, you must at least try to excel in your field of endeavour. You must, therefore, align your strengths to achieve professional competence in your particular field so that you maximise your chances of success. All this takes honesty and integrity to recognise where you are strong and where you are weak and to admit that you need to do something about it. But without honesty, you cannot really attain your full potential and thus, develop your full professional competency. As a result, you are bound to fail.

Give trust to earn trust

When you trust, you send a message that you believe in people and have confidence in them and, in turn they are more inclined to trust you. Trust must be earned because it comes from a conscious effort to walk the talk, keep your promises and align your behaviour with your values. Building trust is worth the effort because once trust is lost, it can be very difficult to recover. Consistently doing what you say you will do builds trust. Keeping commitments must be the essence of your behaviour, in all relationships, day after day and year after year.

For those who are eager to learn more about leadership or who would like to become more successful leaders, start to develop yourself now.

While some of the leadership qualities may be more naturally present in the personality of a leader, it is definitely something you can develop and strengthen over time. Everyone can be a leader, yet only a select few can become great leaders.

 Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and an international recruitment expert. He writes in his personal capacity.