leader

Becoming a Great Leader: 8 Key Traits

21 Jul 2016 - 6 min read

As a leader, quite often, you are put on a pedestal. You become a figure of both admiration and criticism. Sometimes it may feel like being Atlas, the ancient God of endurance and astronomy, but instead of being sentenced to hold up the sky, you have to hold up top company priorities, cultures and practices. What may appear simple to the eye of the observer is, in fact, the end result of years of sacrifices, obstacles, challenges, errors, efforts and more. Sometimes there are the disappointments from the past, or the annoying “what if…” questions. Still, this is part of what shapes you as an exceptional leader. After all, there is more to it than simply getting the job done. You work with teams and clients – you have to balance their requirements with the objectives of the company. You hire people – make sure you won’t squander their talents. You want to create – then, you should go through changes and constant updates of what you do in order to find the right niche and build something meaningful in the end.

Many lessons can be taught. Many examples can be given. Great leaders will continue to be great. Ordinary leaders will continue pursuing greatness. And really, what makes a good leader is the use of operational management skills. Here is a list of some of the best traits that will help you transform from a manager to a real role model and trendsetter.

To be a leader means to be a “depositor” in other people’s successful developments

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Invest in others for people are the most important assets. Being a great leader means being an artist who masters the art of motivating and inspiring with both actions and words. All in all, “the highest purpose of art is to inspire. What else can you do? What else can you do for anyone but inspire them?”. So go ahead, organize a teambuilding, a company meeting, a training, or just a conversation. Deposit values. Exercise good judgment. Advocate good practices. Show people how to take advantage of the forces that are always in play there.

Work with the right mindset. Solve for the long-term.

You are not setting an example for the moment. Therefore, your business goals shouldn’t be focused on the present. Well, some of them may be, but at least not entirely. Assess the situation at the current moment. Resolve for the situation that may come. Look at the bigger picture and try to imagine the outcomes in the future. See the impact you will make, the footprint you will leave and the effect you will cause. It is about longevity after all. Some impressions last forever. An image of a leader with the right mindset can exist for even longer.

For you to grow as a leader, it may require your company to grow up first

When we say “grow up”, it doesn’t necessarily mean to become bigger in size. It means becoming bigger in ideas. After all, the maturity of the company largely depends on the maturity and depth of all of those ideas that you as a leader incorporate into existing enterprise ecosystems. A truly grown up company, respectively, is the one that has a rational leader, determined to make a difference. Be that through various initiatives, projects or inspirational events. Examples falling under this category are our NGO “With Love for Bulgaria” that aims to help underprivileged children and adults, as well as our free Web Academies in Plovdiv and Stara Zagora.

Be ingenious. Be brave. Experiment. Create. Time is fast enough to catch up with your innovations

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Even if you feel you are ahead of your time, don’t take a step back or slow down. Think of creative geniuses like Francis Ronalds, Jules Verne, Bernhard Riemann and many others. Even though they are people who may not be categorized as company leaders, they still represent this type of role models whose progressive inventions inspired future generations. So be bold and keep on going this way. “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”. Great leaders often come with ideas that are too advanced for the time being and attitudes which are forward-looking, to a great extent. It’s not about starting off strong. It’s about continuing on strong.

Do not just be there for yourself. Be there for the other person and then be there for the team

Develop an individual out of each employee. Then take that individual and turn him into an expert. Gather them together and build a team that will trigger successful stories on a daily basis. The power of the team depends on the power of the individual. The recipe isn’t that hard to remember. Create a level of selflessness and be ready to sacrifice – your time, energy, patience. Sometimes being altruistic means being vulnerable in one way or another. Or maybe even self-exposing. Go ahead and share your own mistakes. Be courageous and face inconvenient truths with respect and understanding. That will be a valuable lesson for the rest of the people working in the company.

Digest the choice of candidates. The best ones are those who contribute to business with answers and not questions

The history of a company is written by the people who are in it. The image of a company is maintained by the people in it. The success of a company is brought by the people in it. It is of a great importance, then, to hire smart people with the right set of personal characteristics and broad professional skills. As former Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed out “it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

You think you have exhausted your abilities? You haven’t.

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Another characteristic of an excellent leader is the ability to take on bigger roles and responsibilities. The transition from being a manager to being a leader or a corporate role model happens by not being afraid to dive in the deep. Always try to improve yourself as a leader. Exceed your capabilities because this is the right way to acquire new ones. Keep the process going, keep the engine running. And think outside the box. A successful leadership management is built by exposing someone’s best potentials to new challenges, new functionalities, new projects, new markets, new clients, new products, and even new sectors.

Have the straightforwardness, the ambition and passion to outshine competitors

What’s important when trying to be a good leader is to be able to distinguish the fields you can excel at and the fields which are not really part of your expertise. Sometimes attempting to win all the games may leave you with Sudoku that has too many numbers scratched out, a jigsaw with wrongly adjusted pieces somewhere in between, or a chess game without a queen. Prioritize your diversities and you will be able to surpass the competition quickly and more efficiently. Have the competence that will make you effective at work.  In other words, put emphasis on your ability to collaborate more proactively, make market insights, assess your strategic orientation objectively.

In conclusion, as an employer, one needs to be a strategic thinker. A man with a vision. A missioner. A planner. Or, at least, someone who is reliable, motivational, helpful, understanding and practical. As a person, one needs to be humane and able to recognize that everyone has a story to create and a story to tell. As a leader, one must try to add a line or two to that story and have their positive contribution to the final piece as well. That’s what matters. Help people reach to conclusions that will outlive the time spent with you. Be the role model you would like to follow yourself. In the end, a true leader, or manager or whatever adjective one decides to attach to that person, is an influencer who empowers.