3 Qualities I Look for in a Great Leader
I have always been fascinated with leadership. It’s amazing to me how people will naturally get in line to follow one leader as opposed to another. Some leaders are brash, some are quiet, some are loud and others are soft spoken. What are the deep character traits of a leader worth following?
What are they doing that the rest are not?
How do I do that?
In this article, I talk about the 3 leadership qualities that mean the most to me.
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They Focus on the Process to Get the Result
There is a weird dynamic here because a good leader needs to be results driven. At the end of the day, a leader either got the job done or he did not. So how does it make sense that in order to get a result, you need to not focus on the result?
What I have discovered is that the leaders who actually achieve their goals by the deadline they set for themselves, are the ones who focus on the process.
The day to day. The act of “getting better.”
One of the things I appreciate so much about good leaders is that it is always honest. There are ways to game the system, but in the long run, the leaders who deserved to win will always stand at the top.
That’s why the process is so important. It is the awareness and the repetition and the mundane acts of habit that eventually translate into massive results. A good leader is patient enough to know this. They have enough self control over themselves so that they avoid chasing quick wins and instant gratification.
This is why I am such a fan boy of Seth Godin. The fact that he’s written a blog post every day for almost 8 years. The fact that it is his process, and not the “huge success of any particular piece of work” that has elevated him into one of the brilliant minds of our industry and one of the strongest leaders in the history of marketing.
Successful leaders are absolutely results driven. But their result comes from process.
They Stay Cool Under Pressure
Before my marketing agency transitioned to a remote company, we were fully operated out of South Florida. Since we were all working out of the same building, we would have staff meetings every Monday.
About two years ago, my partner and I went through some real challenges. To make a long story short, some events took place that were entirely out of our control, but had a serious impact on our business.
We were in a jam. Through no fault of our own, we were suddenly over staffed and lost about a third of our revenue. So what were we going to do?
In our Monday staff meeting, I was explaining the circumstances to our team. I let them know what we were up against. We put a quick plan together for how we were going to close more deals and how we were going to double down on the business we had.
After the meeting, I asked everyone how they felt.
“Yeah Tim, we’re good. You always stay cool and you always figure it out.”
The moment came and went, but I knew at that moment that I had established myself as a trustworthy leader for my team. My emotions were under control and the team knew that we were going to be fine. It was a big deal.
I’ve put a lot of thought into this character trait over the years. I’ve struggled in the past with letting my fears and my anxiety take over. I know how difficult it can be to stay cool under high pressure situations, so I always admire when men and women have the capacity to remain poised and in control in those moments.
It always is amazing too me how much that “invisible energy” actually matters. You can’t measure these leadership qualities in the same way that you can measure if someone shows up to work on time or if they put in the hours.
But somehow, as human beings, we know how to identify the people who can keep it together. We gravitate towards them. We chose to follow them because they make us feel something. They make us feel safe in an unpredictable world.
When you are calm, you are more able to make rationale choices, to see a situation for what it is and you are able to communicate the message that we all want to hear. The message that “everything is going to be okay.”
They Build Up the People Around Them
When I say that a good leader will build up others around them, I don’t mean it from an emotional cheerleader standpoint. I mean it from a much more technical standpoint.
I was part of a company once in which the vice president quit to start his own company. The president of the company came to us and confided to us that our VP was leaving. You could tell he was upset about it, he felt like he had put so much into building his VP, just to have him quit and start his own competing company.
We were talking about it and someone asked “what happens when you spend all these resources on your people and they quit?”
The president said “what happens if I don’t?”
I always remembered that.
A good leader will go above and beyond to improve the skills, the character and the competency of the people below her. She will do this knowing full well that in many cases, the resources spent will be “wasted.” Amazingly, a good leader won’t see this as a waste, but rather she will see this as an investment.
I can relate to this personally. It’s always been in my heart to build up my team and my employees. As I look back over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of money and time in doing this. In most cases, it didn’t work out. Maybe an employee was terminated or maybe they quit or maybe they even found a different position in another company. It can be frustrating and in some cases I admit I felt as though I was taken advantage of.
But on the flip side, look at what it has produced. I am constantly amazed by the quality of people I am surrounded by. Over time, the winners will stick together and true teamwork and excellence can be developed. But you can’t get to this point without investing in people.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out. I get that. But in the long run, a good leader isn’t afraid of the “what ifs” but rather focuses on the “what could bes.”
A good leader isn’t afraid of uprisings, they aren’t intimidated by those below him. A good leader is excited to build up those around him because he assumes he can learn something from them.
When I started writing this, I thought I was writing about myself.
As I got further along, I realized that I was talking about a select few men and women who I have gravitated towards. The more I separate myself from it, the more I can see how much these character traits mean, because they are exactly what I look for in a good leader.
To me, it’s always been these three qualities that are the most attractive. People will naturally gravitate towards the one who makes them feel the best. Ultimately, that’s the measuring stick.
Because a leader without any followers is walking alone.