What does it take to be an outstanding leader?

I have written over a hundred articles for my blog. The majority of articles have been focused on leadership. You might, by now, have guessed that I am passionate about the quality of leaders today. I have read hundreds of articles, books and commentaries describing leadership and what it takes to be an outstanding leader and there are many varied views on the subject. Some claim that a great leader possesses particular characteristic traits; others expound that it is embodied in the leader’s personality. I have gone as far as to indicate that it is how the leader behaves towards his team that is of most importance. Whatever your view, I think you will all agree that outstanding leaders all share the following:

  1. A clear vision: Leaders are able to paint a picture of the future that is both abstract (providing the imagination) and concrete (providing the incentive to climb on and drive to achieve it).
  2. A strong mission: Leaders know what their mission is. They have a clear understanding of why their organisation exists and they ensure that every member of their team understands and identifies with the mission.
  3. Expert communication skills: Outstanding leaders are natural communicators. They have the ability to easily and effectively convey ideas and abstract concepts such that they quickly and completely capture the imaginations of their audience.
  4. SMART goals: Leaders set goals that are aligned with the mission and vision but that are achievable and measurable so that their team knows they are being successful in their drive to achieve the vision.
  5. A high degree of competency: Leaders are be seen by their internal team and their external team (advisors, stakeholders, customers, etc.) as highly competent leaders or as experts in their field. If their competency is in question then it will be very much more difficult for them to be respected, admired and followed. Clearly a leader’s competency can grow with experience but in the initial stages it is often necessary to rely on their technical expertise in the field.
  6. Strong Interpersonal skills: Successful leaders are naturally comfortable relating to the people around them. They easily create rapport regardless of whether they are introverted or extroverted. They are seen as approachable, likeable, motivational and comfortable in their position which makes it much easier for their team to interact with them
  7. A strong team: You can’t be great at everything. If you were, you wouldn’t be a leader because you wouldn’t need a team to lead! Strong leaders understand this and build strong teams around them with experienced and capable individuals that augment their skill set. I firmly believe that this is what sets outstanding leaders apart from others. The difficulty some fledgling leaders have is that they struggle to admit they lack particular abilities and therefore flounder when creating their team.
  8. A “can do” attitude: Success is built on achievement and achievement is the strongest motivator. Leaders that lead and direct with a clear vision and attainable goals are able to achieve their goals. When leaders are successful their credibility increases and the level of motivation across their team increases.
  9. A strong ability to inspire: Everyone needs someone to look up to for direction, guidance, and motivation. The leader needs to be that person. Usually strong teams are comprised of highly self-motivated individuals. However, there are always times when inspiration is required and the leader must possess the ability to deliver that inspiration through their words and deeds.
  10. A driving ambition: Resting on your laurels is bad for morale and leadership credibility. The whole team needs to be constantly striving to achieve and nothing drives this behaviour more than the ambition displayed by their leader. When the leader is seen as someone who works to achieve ever higher goals their team will be encouraged to do likewise. Conversely, if low performance is acceptable to the leader then the team will reduce their performance.


Do you share these views or am I speaking complete nonsense?

Have I missed anything?

How do you measure up as a leader?

About Peter Borner

Peter is an entrepreneur and successful business leader. Currently leading a consultancy firm specialising in technical diligence for M&A and advising global firms on IT consolidation and migration to consumption based costing through the use of Cloud Technologies.

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