For Part 1 of Characteristics of the Most Successful Leaders click here.
Woodrow Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
Great leaders enrich the lives of the people they serve, both personally and professionally, and that is why people follow them. They inspire and challenge everyone around them to do what they don’t want to do so they can get what they want to get. Ronald Reagan said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets people to do the greatest things.” In this series, we are sharing the 30 characteristics of the most successful leaders and this month, in part 2, we will share the next 10 of those 30 traits:
11. Great Intentions
The best leaders have the best intentions, not just to make money, but to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve. These intentions fuel their passion and persistence in a deeper way because they know that if they win, others benefit. They are most proud of the impact they have on others — they feel good by doing good. These great intentions fuel their drive and give them a natural, infectious energy that they bring into everything they do.
Great leaders recognize that the only way to be trusted is to be trustworthy. They are honest; they say what they mean and mean what they say. They deliver what they promise and if they mess up, they are fast to apologize and do everything possible to make it right. Great leaders recognize that the truth has a power to it and that lying, even “little white lies,” aren’t little, because they are attached to something very big — a lie. Lies deteriorate trust while truth builds trust, so the best leaders engender trust by being honest.
13. Positive Habits
Human beings are creatures of habit and great leaders become creatures of great habits. They develop positive habits in how they think, speak, eat, act, live and work, and these positive habits, executed over time, deliver positive outcomes. Success isn’t achieved in one big step; it is a result of many small steps, done well, over and over again.
14. Focus on Solutions
“Followers think and talk about the problems. Leaders think and talk about the solutions,” said Brian Tracy. Leaders have more influence because they spend their time focusing on what they can influence rather than wasting energy on things that are outside of their control. Colin Powell said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
15. Forever Student
John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Great leaders are forever students who are addicted to learning, growing and improving in all areas of their life. They are curious so they ask a lot of questions and learn from a lot of people and circumstances. The best students view every person they meet as a teacher and every circumstance as a classroom. As a result, they are always developing and improving themselves and those around them. They also recognize that the best way to learn is to teach, so helping others grow also helps them improve. People who are learning and growing are better at their jobs, happier, more confident and get better results.
16. Everyone Counts
Great leaders recognize that “everyone counts,” which means they believe that everyone has an intrinsic value beyond their tangible contributions as workers. As a result, they are deeply committed to the personal and professional growth of each and every person they serve. They dedicate the time and energy to invest in their teams, helping them with their jobs, family, finances and personal problems. That is why their people will “run through a brick wall” for them, because they care.
Servant leaders keep it real. They don’t portray a perfect persona, but instead are strong enough to admit and express their weaknesses and to apologize when they mess up. This is another reason why employees and customers trust them because they are authentic. Their “realness” is refreshing, and it helps others feel comfortable being themselves.
18. Hard Working
Vince Lombardi said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” The most successful leaders work really, really hard. The truth is, most leaders are not very balanced because they work so hard, so their personal and family life often suffer. The most successful leaders work smarter to balance their professional and personal life, which inevitably makes them happier and more productive at work and every other area of their lives. This is holistic success. This is accomplished by attracting and developing the right people, plans, processes and tools so their business is less dependent on them or any one individual.
19. No Quit
Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Great leaders never, ever give up! They fail forward, they learn from their mistakes and they begin again, and again and again. After we refuse to give up and instead chose to persevere through the storms of doubt, fear and failure, that’s when the miracles happen.
Great leaders are servant leaders who are aware that, ultimately, it is not all about them. They focus their energy on helping others and they get deep satisfaction from solving people’s problems and making everything better for their customers, employees and everyone else they serve. Their selfless nature engenders trust amongst their team because they feel valued and appreciated. It also sets the example for their team to selflessly serve their customers and one another.
The greatest leaders are not solely interested in making a living; they are driven to make a difference. They are not just interested in success at work; they seek success in life. As a result, they build healthier cultures and more-productive businesses that generate a bigger bottom line and a happier workplace for themselves and the people they work with. I hope that these leadership insights help you improve the impact you have in the lives of the people you work with.