leadership

Ten characteristics of a leader

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How often have you sat in a team meeting and thought: that person has leadership qualities? I do it all the time with my team.

Throughout my career it has not been uncommon for those I have deemed to have leadership potential to reveal to me that they were once school captain or captain of a sporting team. That indicates that those
In my experience leaders are:

1. Decisive There is nothing worse than a leader who flip-flops. For better or worse, the best ones dive in, choose a course and go for it.

2. Deliberate Everyone makes mistakes, even the most accomplished leaders. When it’s clear that the course taken is the wrong one, they deliberately and openly alter the plan and everyone follows them down an alternate path.

3. Delicate Strong leadership isn’t about yelling at the front of the pack like a crazed banshee, often the strongest messages are delivered in the most sensitive way. Great leaders are high on empathy and aware when members of the team are feeling overwhelmed. They start most one-on-one meetings by asking: “How are you?”

4. Dreamers I want my leaders to have big ideas and, yes Tony Abbott, they should be coming up with ideas above their station. If you want me to invest my career and energy in your vision then make it worthwhile. I want to feel like I’m part of a team that’s making a big difference.

5. Detail-aware Leaders I have enjoyed working for have understood the balance between big picture and micro-management. They can talk detail on the numbers but don’t feel the need to double-dip in the process of team management.

6. Diversity-focused If you understand the drivers that lead to strong teams and positive business outcomes then you will be leading a team of diverse individuals who challenge thinking and the status quo. They will represent both genders, but also have come from vastly different backgrounds.

7. Full of desire Leaders who love what they do are infectious. And that impacts the culture of an organisation. One of my earliest leaders was a man who lived and breathed publishing. My conversations with him lifted me to a whole new level, every time. I always left his office feeling that I could do the impossible.

8. Driven Leaders who demonstrate a commitment to the business, above and beyond the call of duty, are the ones with teams who do the same. That doesn’t necessarily need to manifest itself in hours at the office but more an overwhelming sense of connection to the strategy, culture and people. The company can sense their presence even when they may not be physically there.

9. Devoted to the outcome A truly great leader knows where the business needs to go and assembles a crack team to get the business there. The next generation of leaders feel ownership for the outcome if they have had their fair say in how to get there.

10. Dancers There is something wonderful about witnessing a leader dance their way out of an adverse situation by flipping it to their advantage. This takes real skill and an advanced understanding of people management.

What else should leaders be?

This piece first appeared at Women’s Agenda.

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