March 2, 2017: This is an initial draft of the qualities that make a good leader. This philosophy will grow and change, and I am documenting it here so that I can track my progress and the ways in which my ideas on leadership evolve over time.
Quality leaders recognize that their leadership ability is always developing. To me, the most essential qualities of good leadership include things that I look for in colleagues in general, such as empathy, reliability, and flexibility. However, leaders should also possess some qualities that a colleague may not necessarily have.
Leaders need to have an understanding of the organization as a whole. Good leaders understand how key decisions are made, and they know what departments or people they need to win over in order to make things happen. This awareness of how the organization is managed and governed is essential for a good leader to be able to help their team contribute effectively to the organization’s goals.
Vision is another quality of a good leader. This involves knowing what your team’s current strengths are, and an awareness of your team’s potential. A leader with vision can picture how their team’s strengths and abilities fit in with the organization, and also how the team can help the organization transform and grow. Vision also involves knowing how to help your team reach its potential and having a set of loose plans or action steps to help individual members get where they need to be skills-wise to elevate the team as a whole unit.
Leaders who excel are also innovative. They look for ways to change processes and policies to make them more efficient and effective. Those ways could involve implementing new technologies or management strategies to help their team achieve more, or to help the entire organization be more successful. Innovative leaders help the organization as a whole to accomplish its goals faster and with less wasted resources – whether those resources are time, money, or personnel.
Hand in hand with innovation is risk taking. Innovative leaders are open to trying new things and taking some calculated risks. This also involves a degree of tact and awareness to know when a risk is worth taking. Leaders mitigate the negative consequences of failure when taking risks by doing so in ways that don’t irreparably damage their team, organization, or reputation.
Finally, quality leaders understand that they themselves are also part of their team. Leaders rise and fall with their teammates – when the leader succeeds, the team succeeds, and when the team fails, the leader also fails. That said, good leaders have high interpersonal awareness – they know how to encourage and motivate the individuals who make up their team to perform at their best. They maintain productive relationships with everyone on the team and know how to utilize each person in ways that make the entire unit successful.