Are you a good leader or a great leader?

There are bad leaders, good leaders and great leaders.  In your case, its likely you’re either a good leader or a great leader.  If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this post 😊. What differentiates a good leader from a great leader?  Very many aspects.  This article looks at 6 vital signs of a great leader. 

Greatness sign #1: They don’t stop learning

Both good and great leaders are talented individuals. They have a diverse range of skillsets and are dynamic go-getters. Good leaders apply these skills and talents to drive a business to greater heights. Great leaders do that too. The key difference is that great leaders keep developing those talents and skillsets. They don’t stop learning. It could be a new skill, a better way of communicating or understanding the changing business environment. They don’t fall into the ‘success delusion’. The success delusion is the faulty assumption that since you were successful with certain skills, behaviours and actions in the past, they’ll continue to drive success in the future.  Sadly, what got you to this stage rarely gets you to the next big stage. Great leaders keep learning and keep changing. They don’t accept the status quo. 

Greatness sign #2: They know what they want

Both good and great leaders have a clear vision.  And communicate it well. Great leaders go one step further by having a clear path or strategy to achieving the vision. And connect and communicate that strategy to day-to-day employee roles and activities.  Great leaders don’t have only lofty goals which sound nice.  Instead, they have a clear vision and a clear path to get there. And a clear ‘instruction manual’ for employees for how their work should fit into that vision.    

Greatness sign #3: They foster trust

Great leaders don’t try to get employees to do what they want by being ‘friends’.  Thinking that being liked will get employees to perform to expectation.  Great leaders know that such friendships can risk organizational meritocracy.  Nor do great leaders lead by fear.  By saying “I’m the boss, so you better do what I say”. 

Instead of these two extremes, great leaders foster trust.  Employees trust the leader’s competence- that they know what the leader wants to do and how they should go about doing it.  And trust in your sense of fairness- that the leader will objectively look at performance.

Greatness sign #4: They are candid

Great leaders aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.  They practice radical candour, where they challenge employees directly while caring personally.  Whether it’s telling a client that something they say or do isn’t the best idea.  Or telling a loyal employee that there are certain areas where they could do better. 

Great leaders care personally while being candid.  There’s a difference between being frank and forthright and screaming at someone to get your point across. A great leader understands that difference

Greatness sign #5: They make their team grow

Great leaders make their team grow.  They understand that every employee is different.  Each one has different learning styles, and each has a different personality.  They realize that every employee can be a superhero, given the right tools and environment.  And make each employee believe in it as well. 

Great leaders also don’t micromanage.  They know how to delegate.  That said, great leaders aren’t afraid to give feedback for a job not meeting standards- see sign #4 above. 

Greatness sign #6: They excite employees

Great leaders excite, energize and stimulate employees.  They make employees get out of their comfort zones and move from inertia to action.  Remember, this contrasts from fear, which also might move employees from inertia to action.  Great leaders make employees genuinely excited about their work. 

Closing thoughts

Good leaders will demonstrate some of these signs all the time and all the signs some of the time.  Great leaders demonstrate all these signs all the time.  It’s often the small things done consistently which differentiates good from great.  Individually, they don’t seem like much, but together they’re the magic that makes some leaders great. 

Don’t test whether you’re a good leader or a great one based solely on your perception.  Ask your employees for their views on you.  If you’re a great leader, its likely that your employee will give you their frank views. 

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