Each of us has our own nightmarish accounts of bad leaders in our careers. You are not alone if you feel that bad leaders overwhelmingly occupy corporate leadership roles. 70% of the leaders in leadership roles are ill-equipped to perform their roles.

A few years into the corporate world and we quickly learn to recognize the telltale signs of a bad leader – micromanagement, credit stealing, lack of empathy, gossip, favoritism, and the list goes on.

At the same time, most of us have worked with good leaders, too, albeit on rare occasions. They are empathetic towards employees and get the job done. People like working for them.

Then there are the lucky few of us who were blessed with great leaders at some point in our careers. Looking back, it was probably the happiest and the most productive phase of our careers, and we loved working with such leaders. But, why? What set them apart from the merely “good leaders?”

More importantly, is it possible for someone, especially a bad leader, to learn to become a great leader? Or is it the kind of role that you are just born into?

What is the secret ingredient to becoming a great leader?

Great leaders have a unique perspective on leadership. They identify the potential in their team members and inspire them to unleash it. Great leaders don’t impose their idea of excellence on their team members and they don’t micromanage the execution. Instead, they let their team members deliver their very best work. The trust and confidence they place in their employees drive them to live up to those standards every time.

And here’s how they make it happen.

  • They Hire the Right Talent
    Sounds obvious, right? If only that were true.
    In practice, poorly drawn policies, excessive focus on qualifications, and even intelligence can overshadow what truly matters – the talent.
    It’s not unusual for interviewers to reject candidates who have demonstrated an outstanding ability at problem-solving in their desired roles merely because they had lower qualifications or could not articulate their answers properly during interviews. Great leaders have a knack for identifying talent even when the interviewees cannot express it themselves.
  • They Empathize with Their Team Members
    Great leaders make an effort to learn the strengths and weaknesses of their team members, understand their personality types, recognize what leadership style resonates with them best, and discover what motivates them to give their best at what they do.

    By making these efforts, they likely know the reactions of each member whenever they need to make an important decision that affects the entire team. Such awareness and insight help them make better, more empathetic decisions.
  • They Communicate Effectively
    Effective communication is the cornerstone of every high-functioning team. Great leaders know that communication is a two-way street. They spend time listening to their team members and considering their feedback. This builds trust early in the professional relationship and gives employees an incentive to preserve that trust.
  • They Delegate Effectively
    Micromanagement is the antithesis of effective delegation. It’s not enough that leaders know who the right fit for a task is, they must delegate the task to the right team member and trust them to do a good job. Of course, it may be wise to set some parameters of performance and constraints , but employees who are allowed to figure out the execution independently are more likely to take pride in their work and produce high-quality outcomes.
  • They Get Their Hands Dirty
    Everything breaks. Even the most robust automated systems falter, and organizations are not immune. When something breaks, great leaders get down into the trenches and work alongside their team members to guide, support, and protect them from the potential barrage of criticism that may come flying at them from customers or upper management.

    Not surprisingly, employees develop a deep sense of loyalty towards such leaders.
  • They Share Credit Where Credit is Due
    Except for client-facing roles in sales and relationship management, most jobs have fixed salaries with a variable component like a bonus. They don’t challenge employees to perform better with each passing month. That’s why heartfelt appreciation matters.

    Great leaders are adept at recognizing the extra effort their team members put into the job and show their appreciation. When their team members go the extra mile, they show their appreciation honest and heartfelt ways. They “give” a gift of praise that’s received, appreciated, and treasured by the recipients.
  • They Stand by Their Team
    Great leaders never give up on their teams. They stand by them, even when something goes wrong. They don’t lay the blame for team failures at the feet of team members., Instead, they take personal responsibility for any mistakes as errors in judgment or poor management. As a result, such leaders enjoy the trust of their team members.

    When employees know that their leaders have their backs, they don’t fear taking risks. Innovation, creativity, and out-of-the-box thinking thrive under such leaders, ultimately pushing the organization to the next level leaders

Nature & Nurture

Gallup estimates that only 10% of professionals have the innate capabilities to be great leaders, and another 20% can be trained to become the same. These numbers indicate that twice as many people can be trained to become great leaders as are naturally-born leaders.

Our leadership course, The Facilitative Leader, offers all the tools and strategies average leaders need to become highly effective leaders by engaging and inspiring their team members to drive results. It helps good and bad leaders to work on the key skills they need to turn themselves into great leaders. Check it out.

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