“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. “ - Anonymous
Leadership demands many qualities from people who are in positions that require them to lead. As business leaders we face many challenges.
One of the common one is uncertainties at work, which could be due to uncertain external environment such as political instability, policy changes, shift in social preferences, shut-downs, climate changes, ethnicity intolerance etc. While all these are not strictly related to the business, yet they impact the conditions under which we do business.
Similarly the work force today has different set of needs compared to what they wanted a few years back.
The third angle is stake holder expectations. They are changing too. All this requires leaders to manage change effectively, strategically and successfully.
So what Leadership qualities you must have or develop to be a successful Leader?
One of the qualities is that of resilience. Today’s tough environment requires leaders who are resilient and steady.
Most of the times, we don’t hear this attribute being discussed when we are listing out key leadership skills. However, resilience is a key attribute that is required to be built and displayed by leaders in today’s dynamic and unpredictable environment which is prone to intense change.
The first association we have with the word resilience is perhaps flexibility and adaptability. However well we might plan and predict the future, the fact is that life often intrudes on our plans! Thus a good leader should have ability to handle situations as they come.
Matson, Best and Garmezy have described Resilience as the capacity to maintain competent functioning in the face of life’s major stressors. Resilience can be built up by having strong convictions and belief in the flow of life and the grace of the universe.
2. Be prepared for uncertainties and handle them well
All of us are perfectly capable of handling situations that we know will crop up and for which we prepared. It is the unknown and uncertain challenges that cannot be predicted which make most of jittery. In a leadership position there is no excuse for being unprepared to handle.
Good leaders either develop or have a gifted ability to see situations as they emerge and deal with them with courage, positivity and creativity. Future challenges are still in the realm of the unknown. So while a good leader cannot predict each and every situation, specifically a demanding situation, however he can build his capacity and capability to handle these as they come. This is one of the most important leadership qualities you must have.
3. Ability to Bounce Back
Dynamic leaders have the ability to “bounce back” from a frustrating situation and move ahead. In a business organisation, we often have ups and downs. There could be a bad season causing a big hit to the growth. May be sales have been low for a number of months. There could be competitors fast catching up with what was earlier our differentiator. Another challenging situation for the leadership could be that the key talent is leaving to join competitors and the list of examples of challenges could go on.
The quality of leader should be to manage one’s negative emotions during these periods of difficulty. A good leader will have to win over his annoyance, helplessness and frustration on one hand and consistently maintain a positive outlook and work to overcome present difficulties on the other hand.
This can happen if we re-frame “setback” as feedback. A leader cannot afford to “give up” when experiencing tough times. It is at these times that the teams under the leader look up to him for inspiration and direction.
4. Emotional Strength
In the face of difficulties and challenges, there is no room to sit and cry. No one will truly sympathize with us nor should you expect to collect sympathies. How we manage ourselves and the messages we give is critical. Having good emotional strength is, therefore, also the ability to bear and recover from disappointment and failure. Many Millionaires have gone bankrupt in the past. However it is their qualities like inner strength, resilience that gets them to bounce back.
How to develop Emotional Strength
It all starts with the mind and our thinking. You need to develop the ability to be comfortable with both successes and failures. No one likes to fail. As leaders we are also not hired to fail. However there are times when no matter how hard we try, we don’t get to where we want to be. At these times, developing the perspective of accepting the current situation without having excuses for it helps a lot. Seeing failure as an opportunity to improve, do things in a different way rather than seeing it as a personal shortcoming is important.
During difficult times, keeping your thinking positive and optimistic is extremely important. It is so easy to get into a “victim state” and find justifiable and not so justifiable reasons for why things are not going the right way. At these times, you need to develop a “hero” attitude, an attitude of “can do’ and moving on. This helps you to bounce back from a tough situation and invest your energy in looking at the future. Staying in the past immobilizes us and drains our energy. That emotional energy can be used to learn from the pas and plan for the future keeping the lessons learnt at the back of our mind.
5. Flexibility and Adaptability
Perseverance is an important skill of leadership if you want to reach your goals. This comes from the traits of flexibility and adaptability. There is no fun or achievement in giving up when you hit the first bump on the road. Yet one should not try to hit or destroy the bump, thereby wasting one’s energy unnecessarily.
Adaptability means being flexible when things or circumstances change. An adaptable person is one who has an open mind and is willing to try out new ideas and approaches. We live in a dynamic world, where changes take place too fast and too often affecting our working independently or as part of a team, and to carry out multiple tasks or projects. A person is regarded as adaptable if he is able to manage multiple assignments and tasks, set priorities, and adapt to changing conditions and/or work assignments.
It is about having the smartness and clever planning to pursue the goal by changing the path when we encounter difficulties and road-blocks. This is where positivity and conviction come in.
If you have chosen a path that is in accordance with what’s good for people and the business, you are bound to succeed. Even difficult goals can be achieved and we can do it.
The ability to improvise is also an important aspect that calls for flexibility and adaptability. Improvisation is the skill of dealing with “what is” in the best way you can.
Adopting a flexible approach to work and life is more likely to enable us to achieve success than maintaining a rigid outlook or set of beliefs.
6. The skill of relationship-building
Building quality relationships quickly which last long is the important basis of business success. Successful leaders don’t just build relationships to get benefited from it but they nourish the relationship. A good leader will always respect the other person from the bottom of his heart and be genuinely interested in the other person. This is the cornerstone of building business relationships.
A good relationship is like a invisible force that holds the team together. It works as the catalyst in improving the functioning of teams, partnerships, and managing relationships. Even with the best products and business practices, you still need strong relationships to succeed.
7. The quality to create a motivated work culture
An inspired culture motivates the team to perform at their best. One of the most important assets of any enterprise and every business are the employees and its culture. An organisation which has the inspired and motivated environment breeds talent, growth, development, and creativity. It influences the employees to together create a system of shared passion and commitment.
As a leader, your business style, work culture and the employees are a reflection of you. If you decide to make honest behavior and ethical working a key value, your team will follow suit.
Whatever ethical plane you chose to subscribe to, others will follow sooner and more than you expect. Since you are responsible for a team of people, it is important to raise the bar of values and core beliefs even higher. This will get attached to the brand and business you represent.
Promote a healthy and ethical office culture, and encourage your team to live up to these standards. By emphasizing these standards, and displaying them yourself, you will hopefully influence the office environment into a friendly and helpful work place.
A successful leader knows that he cannot accomplish everything on his own.
Delegation is an important ingredient of successful leadership style. It is both the art as well as the ability to delegate. A good leader will smartly balance the jobs and responsibilities which we he needs to carry out himself and the others which need to delegated to his team members. This will help in creating an organized and efficient business organisation.
Once again, care and discretion needs to be exercised in delegation. You can give away anything to anyone. A leader will know the talents and interests of people around him/her, thus delegating tasks accordingly. Delegating tasks to the specific individual is one of the most important skills you can develop as your business grows. This means that you need to provide opportunity and environment for the people under you to grow.
Secondly, one of the key qualities you need to develop within yourself is trust. If you don’t learn to trust your team, you might never progress to the next stage. It is important to remember that trusting your team with your faith is a sign of strength, not weakness.
A Leader’s Formula of Success
Since no two individuals have exactly same set of circumstances or challenges, one can’t plan for everything in advance.
Hence, there is no ready formula for the future. All that you have is your existing abilities and a mind ready to experiment and take on things. Developing the ability to “play” and “being ready” will help you to take on situations for which you may not always have a game plan in place.
This is where plans don’t help! You can only do this if you are confident in your own abilities and have belief that you can do it.
Your leadership style should be that you are willing to try and not be too much worried about the failure or how you will be seen if you don’t succeed. Just trust your abilities and take the plunge.
Irrespective of the outcome, you face the situation and act in the situation. This adds to your experience, makes you wise, builds your perspective and skills for the present and the future. To improvise, you need to be a flexible and be comfortable exerting a variety of choices. Rigidity or response and improvisation don’t go well together!
As leaders, having resilience helps us with your personal leadership journey and your role in building inspiration in our teams to continue to work for the goals you have set. This is all about building leadership skills and leadership qualities.
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