Great leaders can be found at any level of an organization. They might be successful CEOs, inspirational line managers, dynamic team leaders, and more. Though they might all have different roles and objectives, there are some traits they often have in common. Understanding what great leaders do differently can help you identify the high potential employees in your organization and teach them the skills they need to become leaders—and help existing leaders become even better.
Just because an individual is in a leadership position does not necessarily mean that they have achieved greatness in that role. The most impactful leaders do these four things to differentiate themselves:
1. Find unique talents and capitalize on them
Great leaders are able to identify unique skills and talents in others and harness them for the good of the organization. They determine what type of work will make an individual shine and give them the resources to grow to their full potential. Doing this at the organizational level is a unique skill that the best leaders employ. It enables them to build and lead teams in which each member can play to their strengths. This not only benefits the organization, but it also empowers individual employees.
2. Cast a vision that people want to be a part of
Universal goals are just as important as unique talents in an organization, and great leaders know this. They are able to create a vision that everybody in the company can get behind, no matter how different they are. Sharing the same vision and working toward a better future are essential for growth, and everyone needs to be on the same page to get there. Great leaders identify the universal points that will resonate most throughout the organization and use those to rally people around the shared goal.
3. Take an agile approach to management
Each person operates differently. Some respond well to specific, targeted direction, whereas others want the freedom to discover how they can best execute an assigned task. Great leaders recognize that the same approach will not work for every individual and modify their management style accordingly. Understanding what motivates, frustrates, and inspires each person on a team is critical for allowing everybody to reach their fullest potential.
Carving out new roles for people with unique skill sets, shifting team members to accommodate strengths and weaknesses, and recognizing when it’s time for an employee to take on a larger role are all actions that contribute to a better organization. Taking the time to get to know each individual’s strengths and having the skills to have a flexible management style are signs of a great leader.
4. Deliver feedback that is empowering
Everybody likes to hear when they have done a good job, but great leaders provide feedback in a way that continues to motivate long after the moment has passed. Rather than commending an individual based on how hard they have worked or the quality of something they have produced, great leaders focus on the strengths that contributed to their success. For example, instead of telling an employee that the report they delivered was well-written, a great leader might tell them that their recent focus on improving their writing skills has been well worth the effort. Focusing on the individual strengths that contribute to good work is more empowering than delivering positive feedback about the work itself and motivates employees to continue honing their skills.
Become a Great Leader
You can often distinguish between a great leader and a good leader by evaluating their successes, but this doesn’t necessarily reveal the qualities and behaviors that make them great. The way a leader assesses the talents of team members, assigns work that capitalizes on individual strengths, finds common ground, and tailors their approach to each person can tell you a lot about their leadership ability. To learn more about how you can hone your skills to become a great leader, read The Leader's Pocket Guide for Leading Yourself, Others & the Organization.