What Makes a Great Leader?

What Makes a Great Leader?

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It’s the question for which every generation seeks an answer – what makes a great leader? What’s the magic combination of qualities that are going to generate innovation and send profits soaring? 

What’s the answer? Well, it depends on whom you’re talking to and their definition of successful leadership. Some espouse a model based solely on financial outcomes, while others place a high value on creating and sustaining relationships with clients, customers and staff. 

What’s the right answer? Again, it depends on the desired outcome. If the bottom line for leaders is that people do what they tell them and deliver only what is expected – then their measure for great leadership will differ substantially from those who value innovation and out of the box thinking. 

Google, a company that relies on the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams, has made providing staff with a supportive environment a top priority. For an organisation like Google, continuous improvement is critical, so they spent a decade conducting internal research into what makes a great leader. 

Findings were based on two key measures, manager performance ratings and manager feedback from Google’s annual employee survey. 

Guess what made the top of the list!

  1. Is a good coach.
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator – listens and shares information
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
  9. Collaborates across Google
  10. Is a strong decision-maker

There’s a clear emphasis on what have long been considered soft skills; empowering others, active listening, and building relationships, as opposed to the traditional hard skills; the practical application of specific technical knowledge, processes and procedures. 

What I find fascinating is that they looked at the leadership displayed by managers. Leadership isn’t the exclusive purview of CEOs and directorates. We need leaders throughout organisations, even if they are only leading themselves. 

As the insightful social researcher Brené Brown, PhD., LMSW put it;

“A leader is someone who holds her –or himself accountable for finding the potential in people and processes.” 

Let’s look at that list again. I love that the number one quality of a great leader is the ability to be a good coach. Coaching is the ability to see the potential in others and draw it out. It’s not about knowing and imparting all the answers; it’s about providing the environment and opportunity for team members to bring their best to the table and find innovative solutions.

The goal for leaders is to release people employed for their expertise to collaborate, innovate, and work as a team!

Great leaders are not born, and they don’t necessarily have it all together. The best leaders are people who humble themselves and take the time to learn the art of leadership. They’re life-long learners who value having a coach as much as they relish coaching others. 

The bottom line is that if you want to become a great leader, you can. If you’re going to get the best from your team, it starts with you. 

It’s why I became a Leadership Coach; because I want to work with people who want to be great leaders. If this sounds like you, let’s talk.

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