The top 10 traits of successful leaders

Sean McPheat
Founder, MTD Training
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This article is published in collaboration with Business Banter.

The age old cliché of ‘Great leaders are born not made’ is thrown around a lot in many walks of life, whether you are talking about the manager at work or the captain of your football team. Leadership skills are all so important in everyday life.

Personally, I don’t buy into this. I think that anybody can put their mind to being a great leader: it is all down to motivating yourself individually and being willing to continually improve yourself.

Possessing these top ten traits of successful leaders and putting them into practice on a regular basis will make people not only look up to you as a manager, but also as a leader. Here are the leadership skills:

1. Inspire Action

Admittedly the ability to inspire action is a skill that does take time and practice. Make sure the vision that you have is realistic and set suitable targets that follow the SMART acronym: make sure the targets are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

2. Be Optimistic

Optimism flows from the top down – working with people who are doom and gloom dampens the mood for everyone. Try and deal with negative employees effectively, make them share your vision and try to convey this passion you have. Don’t be too persistent; make them see the benefits of being more positive.

3. Be There

An effective leader is there for their staff and does not berate them for their mistakes. The people who work for you are only human – it is how they learn from their mistakes that matter. Be truthful with your employees and be someone who they can trust. This trust will then be reciprocated and it will make for a lot better working environment.

4. Communicate Clearly

Two-way communication is an absolute essential element for a leader who possess true leadership skills –make sure meetings you have with your staff mean something. Continually review the progress of your staff and in turn listen to any concerns that they may have. Constantly express the goals and targets that the organisation has to ensure that the people in your organisation know what they are working towards.

5. Be Decisive

Not stuttering or flinching when having to make a big decision is the sign of a quality leader – take risks when necessary but do not be reckless. Your behaviour is mirrored in your staff so being reckless with risks can be disastrous if all members of your workforce are doing this. Make informed decisions and do the appropriate research and gather the information that is necessary.

6. Know Your Organisation

You should live and breathe the organisation you work for. I know it has been previously mentioned but you should always be working towards the aims and objectives that the company has in place. As a leader it is your job to create an effective strategy that is adaptable to change and fits in with your employees.

7. Continue Your Self Improvement

Just because you are a manager does not mean you are the end product when it comes to personal progression. In my opinion the learning curve never ends. They say that knowledge is power so if your employee’s see that you are always improving yourself, they will follow suit and it will encourage them to keep learning. Always communicate to your employees that training is always available to them should they want to improve, and this should be allocated within the budget. Leadership skills no matter how good will teach you that you always have room to grow.

8. Act With Integrity

I cannot stress how important trust is in the workplace. You spend weeks of your life surrounded by the same people and if there is no trust there then it will be difficult to operate successfully. If you can be trusted and operate in a morally correct fashion then it is a lot easier for your workforce to look up to you.

9. Have Empathy

We all experience different emotions at work and it’s vital for an effective leader to recognise the emotions that their team are going through. Has someone just closed a big deal? Then congratulate them. Is someone not hitting their targets? Then encourage them. Knowing you are there for them regardless is an ideal trait for a true leader.

10. Be Committed

Mucking in with the team and getting your hands dirty shows a real leading-from-the-front attitude. Asking your team to work late to achieve the company goals while you leave early shows a total lack of togetherness that you will want to achieve.

151111-sean mcpheat leadership motivation quote card

If you are self-motivated enough then you are more than capable of becoming more of an effective leader. Be personable so your staff can relate to you and follow the above traits and I guarantee that you will see an all-round improved performance in yourself and in the people you are responsible for.

Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Sean McPheat is the Founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training.

Image: A Businesswoman is silhouetted. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann.

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