What separates good leaders from exceptional leaders? If you were to poll 100 random people, I am sure you would get a wide variety of answers to that based on personal experience. The 5 things I am going to share with you are based on my own experience. You may not agree with all of them and might even have others to add to this list. These 5 things are the leadership qualities I have found that take leaders from good to exceptional.
#1 - They serve others.
I have discovered that exceptional leaders excel at this. They always put others first and they are motivated by the mindset of "how can I serve you today?" These leaders never see others as a tool but as a gift and they treat them with care and respect. As a result, they have highly engaged and motivated employees with an extremely low turnover rate. It doesn't matter how talented you are, how many years of experience you have or how smart you appear. If you don't have a servant's heart, you simply can't excel as a leader. You may "get things done" but at great expense to others and ultimately, to yourself. If you want to go to a new level in your leadership today, start asking yourself how you can serve those around you. You will be amazed at the results.
#2 - They ask questions.
Your job as a leader is not to have all the answers. If you did, you wouldn't need others and therefore, would have no one to lead. Your job is to help your employees answer questions themselves. This is done by asking questions rather than telling them what they need to know. Asking questions challenges others to learn and grow. Giving them the answers, or telling them what they need to do, stifles creativity and growth, and you end up limiting your team to your limited ability or experience in the long run. Asking questions releases others to take the initiative and rise to the challenge. This will also get your team highly engaged and motivated.
#3 - They let others lead.
Nothing kills teamwork faster than micromanaging. A micromanager believes he is the only one who can do the job right. They are self-serving and are afraid of asking questions for fear of others doing a better job. Exceptional leaders accept that they don't have to be the smartest person in the room. They understand that there will always be someone who can do things better than they can. In fact, they tend to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented than they are. If you go on vacation and things fall apart, you have failed as a leader.
#4 - They publicly praise others.
Publicly praising your employees creates trust, respect, and loyalty because it tells them that you truly value them, not just what they do for you. I have worked for a few leaders over the years who only gave negative feedback. When you did something wrong, they were quick to let everyone know that you screwed up. However, when you succeeded at something, they were eerily silent. These leaders were clueless as to why they couldn't keep employees very long. When it comes to feedback, remember this important leadership principle - Praise publicly and correct privately.
#5 - They don't try to be perfect.
Leaders who spend their time trying to prove how great a leader they are end up showing how insecure they are. Leaders who admit they aren't perfect end up showing how authentic they are. The latter builds trust. The former builds contempt. If you study the road to success of any great leader, you will find that it is not paved with gold but is full of potholes. Failure is not something to be avoided but embraced for it is the best teacher. A great leader is not someone who has never fallen down but someone who got back up every time he fell and then moved forward. Remember this important principle - Excellence is the goal, not perfection. An exceptional leader knows the difference between the two.
I am sure you could add many more things to this list. The five I listed are some of the most common characteristics I have seen in the exceptional leaders I have had the privilege of working for over the years. I don't know if you noticed, but most of these principles are relationship oriented. They have to do with how you relate with people, not just personal attributes. You simply cannot be an exceptional leader without first being an exceptional people person. Great leaders possess much more than just a wealth of knowledge, experience, and know-how. They are great with people - not just some people, but with everyone. They are real and authentic. They relate well with others and connect deeply with them personally.
If you are struggling with your leadership, perhaps it isn't more training or education you need but better people skills. Take more time for the people that you are leading and you will be amazed at the results.
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