Successful leaders are not impressed by titles. They possess subject matter expertise and tools that produce results – but they also understand the importance of developing relationships. They build a positive culture that has lasting impact within organizations they serve.
Strategic planning skills, resilience, and confidence strengthen with time and practice. They flow from a commitment to these attributes of all successful leaders:
1. Successful leaders have a personal vision and mission.
Visionary leaders know who they are, where they’re headed, and what they want to do to reach their goals. They have a clear sense of purpose. They are guided by what Napoleon Hill called a definite chief aim. Their goals flow from their core values. They prioritize goals based on their importance, urgency, and alignment with their personal – and organizational – vision and mission.
A clear vision and mission allows a successful leader to recognize opportunities. Where others are threatened by fear of limitations and lack; a successful leader with an abundance mentality sees possibilities. They inspire others to find value in and buy into an organizational vision and mission. Directional clarity inspires confidence.
2. Successful leaders set personal and organizational goals.
Effective leaders set short-term and long-term SMART personal goals. They create systems of organization and time management that maximize productivity and prevent procrastination. They prioritize tasks. They develop strategic plans with deadlines and clearly define expected measurable results. They use data to track progress and make improvements.
Exceptional leaders manage stress and create balance in their personal and professional lives by establishing strong personal boundaries. Balance empowers successful leaders with clarity of thought so they can focus on their goals.
3. Successful leaders have strong communication skills.
Author Doug Larson maintains, “Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” Listening is an important leadership skill. Successful leaders understand that communication relies upon a steady flow of verbal and nonverbal exchanges of idea and information among all members within an organization.
Successful leaders link job expectations, performance, and tasks to specific goals. They implement effective evaluative processes for evaluation and review and provide clear, consistent feedback to all organizational members. When employees struggle to meet demands, successful leaders privately meet with them and clarify expectations as soon as possible.
Strong leaders create safe systems of conflict resolution that establish trust. They do not allow small issues to roll into difficult problems because they address concerns as they arise.
4. Successful leaders are role models.
Effective leaders have high expectations of themselves and others. They hold themselves accountable and take responsibility for their own mistakes – and they expect others to do the same. They create consistent policies and procedures and communicate them to all members within their organizations. Their personal conduct is a reflection of the policies and procedures they implement.
5. Successful leaders adapt to change.
Leaders have successful tools for coping with personal change and, as a result, are equipped to guide others through times of uncertainty. Effective leaders can assess a situation’s complexity and choose appropriate courses of action. Strong leaders often sense disruptive change before it occurs and are ready to collaboratively gather key members within the organization to create swift plans of response to challenges.
6. Successful leaders welcome opportunities for creativity and innovation.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Innovative leaders recognize when change is needed and fearlessly look to the future for new ideas. They are willing to take risks and connect with those who are willing, knowledgeable, and skilled enough to experiment and encourage creativity within their organizations. They include others in brainstorming and solution-finding conversations.
7. Successful leaders encourage teamwork and collaboration.
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual,” said Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers. “People who work together will win.”
Strong leaders, like strong coaches, inspire teamwork and collaboration. They successfully rally teamwork within organizations to the extent that they:
- Communicate well-defined vision, mission, and goals.
- Identify the unique skills and talents of every member on the team.
- Support individual growth of each team member.
- Identify ways through which individuals successfully pursue their own goals in ways that reflect the vision, mission, and goals of the organization.
8. Successful leaders inspire and motivate others.
Strong leaders understand that relationships with employees, volunteers, and stakeholders are critical components of building successful organizations.
“Employees who feel valued and appreciated, who feel like what they do makes a difference, will feel invigorated to push harder to achieve success for their company,” states Deep Patel, entrepreneur and contributing writer at Forbes.
Effective leaders empower others with opportunities to share their expertise and skills with others. Confident leaders feel no need to compete with others. They want to serve others and the greater good of the organization. They eagerly embrace opportunities to help organizational members see how their individual contributions benefit the organization as a whole.
9. Successful leaders are life-long learners.
Strong leaders have an insatiable appetite to learn new information. They follow thought leaders and experts in their fields. They read. They are familiar with best practices and current research.
Successful leaders create opportunities for others within their organizations to learn and grow through quality training and high content professional development. They invite subject-level experts – as well as skilled individuals within their organizations – to provide in-house training and presentations. They provide educational opportunities and encourage individuals within their organizations to continue their own learning.
Unfortunately, many individuals do not believe they need mentoring once they are promoted to a leadership position. Every successful leader I know – as well as professional musicians, speakers, actors, and athletes – recognize the only way they can grow as a professional is through the advice and guidance received from a seasoned mentor and support system.
If you want to be a stronger leader and do not have a mentor, find one. Ask yourself:
- Who has leadership knowledge and skills I admire?
- Who has leadership knowledge and skills I want to learn?
- Who holds a leadership position I hope to fill one day?
Make an appointment with someone who possesses leadership knowledge and skills you want to emulate and arrange to meet with a mentor on a regular basis.
Many successful individuals also meet regularly with a network of leaders in similar fields of work or study. A support system can provide you with effective means through which you can ask questions, address concerns, and receive meaningful feedback from others who understand your leadership experiences.
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A manager lights a fire under others by focusing on outcomes. A strong leader understands the value of strong relationships as they contribute to building a positive culture within the organization. They inspire and motivate others by lighting a fire of passion for their work and applaud their personal contributions.
As a successful leader, your vision is a torch that lights the way for others.
In what ways can you sharpen your leadership skills?
A successful leader knows How to Inspire Teamwork and Collaboration with these skills.
Show others How to Write SMART Personal Goals.
Create a tribe of colleagues that offer wisdom and support. Use these tips and learn How to Find Your Tribe.
Steer others out of a mentality of lack and consider new possibilities. Try these tips from Escape the Scarcity Mentality Jungle.
Get specific and clear about your direction. Write a Personal Purpose Statement.