By Brian Tracy
What makes a good leader is the use of effective management skills such as spending 50 percent or more of their time listening carefully. Great leaders understand that some of the best leadership qualities entail listening to others with undivided attention.
When was the last time you actually listened single-mindedly to one of your staff members? Can you remember when you last listened to someone without interruptions or distractions from either telephone calls or drop-in visitors, when you just focused intently on the person speaking with you, ignoring all else?
When CEO Alan Mulally arrived at Ford, he used a technique he had refined at Boeing. He found a way to instantly shift the senior executives on his team from talkers to listeners by changing the way he evaluated his team’s performance. “It always comes down to incentives. What’s the incentive for someone to behave differently? Is it recognition, time, or more money? No. It’s usually visibility,” he said.
“When you give a speech, you’ll be scored by the audience,” he told his team. “So those executives who were smart enough to leave lots of time for Q & A got better grades than those who lectured. And those managers who encouraged . . . a dialogue with the team came out on top.”
Great leaders with excellent management skills encourage input and change, and the best way to measure them is based on feedback they get from their best people. People usually give the best scores to leaders you trust and to leaders who listen.
The Most Essential Leadership Qualities
Integrity is perhaps the most valued and respected quality of leadership and one of the most important management skills you need to attain. By saying what you’ll do and then doing what you say, you will build trust around your team.
Do you stand up and speak out for what you believe? Do you demonstrate the courage to stay the course when the going gets tough and the outcome looks uncertain?
What makes a good leader is the ability to stay calm and in control, especially when everyone around them is wondering whether it’s the right decision or if it was a mistake to commit to a particular course of action. When you exude confidence in yourself, in the decision, and in the people around you, you instill the same feelings and attitudes in others.
Leaders have what is called “courageous patience.” Between the decision and the result, there is always a period of uncertainty when no one knows if the effort is going to be successful. To be a successful leader, you must strive to have these essential leadership qualities.
If you have lived with this feeling many times in your career, you’re in good company.
What Makes a Good Leader?
To be successful as a leader, you need a combination of two ingredients: character and competence. You need to be a person of integrity. Someone people trust and are willing to follow.
To be trusted in business, you must be trustworthy. You must believe in yourself, your company, the essential goodness of your products and services, and in your people. You need to believe that you are offering an excellent product or service in every way, one that makes a difference in the lives of your customers. You must lead by example and obtain management skills that inspire others to join you in the exciting project of building a great company.
At the same time, you must become excellent at the key capabilities and functions of leadership and set yourself on a course of continuous improvement throughout your career.
“You need the humility to remind yourself that you’ve got to get better at everything you do,” insisted Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, when we spoke with him. “I don’t know about you, but I’m never done growing my company or myself.”
Believe in Yourself
Management guru Jim Collins uses the phrase “level 5 leadership” to describe the characteristic of the best leaders, those who build great companies. Out of all the existingleadership qualities, the most fascinating and distinguishing characteristic of level 5 is an often misunderstood trait: humility.
As it happens, humility doesn’t actually mean being humble. People who are crazy enough to launch businesses as the economy is falling apart and then fight Goliath-size adversaries, are not exactly humble. Humility simply means you have a “burning, driving, relentless ambition to serve and to win,” Collins told me, “without the arrogance to delude yourself into believing that you are all knowing or always right.”
As a level 5 leader, you don’t believe you are perfect. You must, however, believe in yourself, and be convinced that you have what it takes to succeed and that you can get better. You are always looking for new ways to develop your leadership qualities and take your game to the next level.