This question is as old as the hills. Smart people have written many books and articles on it, and the Internet era has supported the topic, trying to answer this question at numerous blogs and websites dedicated to leadership.
Despite the tons of information available, can you give a definition of a good leader?
Let’s try to define leaders by qualities and skills that make them… leaders, actually.
A Leader’s Characteristics
One can find dozens, even hundreds, of articles on leadership and must-have qualities for people who want to be good leaders. Some of them are good and some of them are rubbish not very good, but most of them try to explain the difference between a leader and a boss because many people consider these roles synonyms.
Those people are mistaken.
A leader can be a boss, but not every boss is a leader.
Lee Colan’s article for Inc.com clearly explains the distinction between being a leader and being a boss: it shares a list of 10 characteristics to help you determine the difference between bosses and leaders. According to it, a leader’s characteristics include:
seeking solutions; coaching; inspiring performance; encouraging; taking “we” instead of “me”; listening more than talking; identifying natural gifts.
They all have a place to be. The problem is, opinions differ: different resources share their lists of qualities that make a leader, and very often these qualities and characteristics vary greatly. Check Forbes’ top 10 qualities that make a great leader and compare them to those from Inc.com: they have only one item in common, and this is the ability to inspire.
Is there any one-size-fits-all list of a leader’s qualities to write down or bookmark? The mission seemed impossible, but I had taken a shot to create it and make it short and comprehensible. There are only seven items in this list (please, don’t ask why seven!), and they are my vision of a good leader.
So, you are a leader if you are:
1) Responsible: you are not afraid of taking a personal responsibility for failure.
2) Open-minded: you communicate and interpret other people clearly.
3) Confident: you exhibit an air of confidence (don’t confuse it with arrogance!), which is important because people will look at you on how to behave.
4) Approachable: you listen to others and can identify when help is needed.
5) Helpful: you share experience with others, helping them improve skills and become better.
6) Caring: you guide your team in difficult situations and demonstrate creativity when it’s better to think outside of the box.
7) Fearless: you are not afraid to handle difficult situations and make hard decision.
A Leader’s Skills
Yes, right qualities are good to have: they make you a person who can become a brilliant leader, not just a boss for your mentees. But what about the particular skills a leader should have? Are there any?
And here my list comes again. Five key skills for leaders to check and get (don’t ask why there are five items in the list! I have a soft corner to odd numbers):
8) Planning: ability to plan work would be a good practice for leaders; people will follow you if they see you know what, when, and how to do.
9) Organizational skills: organization is the integral part of every leader’s work; if you don’t have a skill to organize work around, you’ll hardly succeed as a leader.
10) Writing skills: writing skills are very important for a leader to have, as they help to collaborate with clients, customers, and mentees; moreover, professional writers can help to compose and edit your correspondence to make it sound professional and inspiring.
11) Public speaking: it goes without saying, a leader should know how to speak. Right words, arguments, and verbal devices are very powerful instruments to get what you need and make people trust and follow you.
12) Time-management: a leader should know how to use time effectively to get more things done. This skill takes time to develop, but the process goes faster if you follow few strategies listed in guides and manuals on time-management.
Question: What qualities and skills should a person have for you to consider him/her a leader? Do you agree with those mentioned in the article?