What Makes a Successful Leader

iStock_000006274933XSmallWhat Makes a Successful Leader?

So, what does it take to succeed as a leader in 2014?  It is clear that the leadership challenge is becoming increasing complex.  To thrive in today’s fast-paced and demanding environment takes a special combination of skills and abilities.  Based on our experience in leadership assessment and development, the most successful leaders share the following qualities:

  1. Strategic Insight – Maintaining a broad perspective and considering the “big picture”, successful leaders stay on top of emerging trends and practices that may have an impact on their business.  They accurately assess organizational strengths and weaknesses, and proactively address potential threats and leverage opportunities.  They are able to articulate a vision that inspires people to want to follow them.
  2. Change Agility – The speed of change is increasing exponentially and shows no sign of stopping.  Effective leaders are receptive to change and continuous improvement and are capable of introducing it to their organizations in a manner that generates buy-in.  They actively mine out resistance and are prepared to listen.  They involve staff in developing implementation plans focused on overcoming obstacles identified and generating support.   They also recognize the capacity limits within their organization to absorb further change and pace the speed with which they introduce new initiatives accordingly.
  3. Relationships Orientation – The best leaders are those who operate in an inclusive and collaborative manner.  They treat people with respect and are able to generate mutually trusting relationships with key stakeholders throughout the organization.  They have the ability to leverage these relationships to generate acceptance for their ideas and support for their initiatives.  People are willing to work for them, because they genuinely want to see them succeed.
  4. A Focus on Developing People – Some managers are so consumed with the task demands and priorities associated with their roles that developing their people gets pushed to the backburner.   Successful leaders recognize that developing their talent is not a “nice to do” it is a “need to do”.  They carve out time in their busy schedules to develop the capabilities of their staff and the capacity of their teams.  Making it a key priority, they nurture career development and demonstrate an ongoing commitment to doing so.
  5. Results Orientation – Effective leaders are focused on accomplishing results.  They are motivated to meet higher standards of performance.  They take ownership and responsibility for achieving objectives.  Communicating clear expectations and setting staff up to succeed, they hold others accountable for meeting their objectives.
  6. Self-Insight and Openness to Feedback – Top performing leaders are aware of their strengths and limitations.  They are smart enough to surround themselves with people who possess capabilities they are lacking.  Demonstrating a thirst for continuous learning and development, they are open to receiving feedback – in fact, they invite it.  When they make mistakes, they see them as learning opportunities and are prepared to share them for the benefit of others.

This unique blend of competencies is what sets exceptional leaders apart.  It is what enables them to be successful in an increasingly demanding environment.  Inspiring others and motivating them to perform at their best, these leaders have what it takes to create the winning organizations of the future.