By Lolly Daskal
If you ask people what separates great leaders from the rest, most will tell you it’s intelligence, confidence, charisma, strength, or something similar. But over my many years of coaching leaders around the world, I’ve come to realize that what separates great leaders from good leaders comes down to certain skills. Here are six of the most important:
A great leader embraces feedback: Leaders who stand apart from their peers are those who embrace feedback. Most leaders—like most people—become defensive when they’re given feedback. But leaders who welcome feedback understand that surrounding themselves with agreement leaves no room for the challenges and pushback that drive change and growth. The best leaders build a circle of trusted team members they can count on to provide honest feedback—positive and negative.
A great leader shows empathy: Sometimes leaders who demonstrate empathy are perceived as weak. But empathy requires powerful discipline, especially when it comes to listening. Taking the time to truly listen is never easy. For a leader it means devoting precious time, focusing outside your own priorities, and overcoming the urge to fix things. Empathatic listening may take practice, but it’s something the most extraordinary leaders excel at.
A great leader speaks truth: Most leaders who lie do so not because they want to but because they feel they need to—to keep up appearances or preserve relationships or avoid awkward conversations. But the truth always catches up eventually. The most effective leaders know that honesty and transparency will uphold their character, and they truth-telling a priority.
A great leader admits mistakes: Even the greatest leaders make mistakes, but not many will admit to them. It takes a confident and secure leader to say “I made a mistake,” to own their failures and lapses in judgment. If you want to be a leader people truly admire, you have to be willing to take responsibility when things go wrong. Only when you do can begin to put things right.
A great leader shows appreciation: Many leaders don’t take the time to give credit to others. “Why should I appreciate people for doing what they’re supposed to do?” they ask. But even when they’re doing their job, people want to be acknowledged and appreciated. And the best leaders make it a point to appreciate, recognize and acknowledge their people.
A great leader seeks support: Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to most leaders—they tend to pride themselves on their own abilities and knowledge. But that pride often gets in the way when they’re in need of support. The most effective leaders know when they need coaching or the assistance of a trusted peer. They’re humble enough to know they don’t have all the answers, so they seek out someone who can help.
Lead from within: Let go of the image you have of what makes you a great leader. Instead, seek to distinguish yourself by focusing on the traits that will separate you from the rest.