What makes a great leader?

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In the latest UK200Group blog post, Anne Cowley, Director, Baines Jewitt Limited discusses what she believes are 8 key qualities of great leaders.

Anne Cowley
To say the year 2020 was extraordinary is an understatement, not only for the UK, but for the world as a whole. As well as the worry of staying safe; caring for loved ones; looking after the needs of clients and embracing new ways of working, most people at the helm were thrust under the spotlight. Whether directors, scientists, business owners or politicians, people looked to ‘those in charge’ to help make sense of it all and understand what they should do next.

Given Boris Johnson’s announcement on 4th January, which plunged England into another national lockdown, it is evident that we are still in a state of flux and there is still a long way to go until things are under control.

We all know the issues of balancing the safety of the population and the health of the economy, so I don’t want to dwell on that. Instead, I would like to explore the notion of ‘what makes a great leader?’

Although several prime ministers have been singled out in the media over the last few months for their effective handling of the COVID-19 crisis - namely Jacinda Ahern of New Zealand; Erna Solberg of Norway, Sanna Marin of Finland and Mette Frederiksen of Denmark – it is probably too early to make assumptions that countries led by women have fewer coronavirus infections and deaths. There are, however, likely to be some common traits regarding their leadership styles.

I have therefore digested a number of articles about leadership, along with my own observations, to draw up a list of 8 key qualities of great leaders:

1. Vision
As well as the here and now, as a great leader you need to be able to visualise what the future will look like. You also need to communicate a tangible vision to motivate and inspire others. By setting out your desired destination, you can define goals for the next 5, 10 or 15 years, as well as map progress against it.

2. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as tune into and influence the emotions of those around you. Core competences associated with emotional intelligence include empathy, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. If you have a high level of emotional intelligence, you are likely to stay calm under pressure, be empathetic with colleagues and have the ability to resolve conflict.

3. Integrity
Integrity in leaders relates to being reliable, honest and trustworthy. You also need to practice what you preach, set a good example to others and hold your hand up when you make a mistake. As a leader with integrity, you will build trust in your employees, which can have a positive impact on them working harder, performing better and having greater company loyalty.

4. Proactive
Taking time to plan ahead can help you to avoid problems further down the line. Although there will always be unforeseen situations which are beyond your control, by identifying areas of potential risk, you can look for ways to reduce any negative impact. Planning up front and taking a proactive approach reduces the frantic ‘snowball effect’ which can drain valuable time and resources by having to fire fight preventable situations.

5. Decisiveness
It is said that decisive managers make better leaders, as they are able to execute plans and achieve goals. As a good leader you will ascertain what information you need to make a good decision. You will also identify and gather critical information from colleagues, other representatives and appropriate reports, so that you can make informed choices.

6. Empowerment
Empowerment in leadership involves allocating autonomy and giving responsibility to others. By including input from your colleagues and giving them greater discretion in decision-making, it shows you have confidence in their abilities. This in turn helps with problem solving and encourages personal and professional growth. It will also make you more approachable and the work of others more meaningful.

7. Clear communication
Great leadership involves great communication. To be a good communicator, you need to be a good listener and respectful. It helps to know your audience, which will allow you to focus on giving clear, meaningful messages. The power of non-verbal communication needs to be considered too. As well as having a positive impact on your team, being a good communicator will have a positive impact on your clients too.

8. Positivity
Having a positive attitude is contagious. The disposition of a leader will rub off on those around them, so it’s a good trait to tackle the challenges you face with energy and positivity. Building a culture of positivity within your organisation can help build great working relationships and enable your organisation to thrive.

Tags: UK200

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