A Closer Look at the Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader

I recently came across an article on Forbes’ web site that listed and described the top 10 qualities that make a great leader. A link to the full article is at the end of this piece, but I wanted to talk about a few of them here, from my own perspective. The ten qualities from Forbes are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Delegate
  3. Communication
  4. Confidence
  5. Commitment
  6. Positive Attitude
  7. Creativity
  8. Intuition
  9. Inspire
  10. Approach

In this post, I’d like to touch on confidence and communication, as they can be two of the most difficult for leaders to display under trying circumstances, but may be two of the most important with honesty being #1.

Confidence: While it is pretty easy to be confident when things are going as planned, it is equally easy to lose that confidence with plans go awry. As in any situation – business or personal – unexpected turns of events can make even the most stalwart individual find reasons to doubt their original plan. As a leader, I have found it critical and very helpful to look at the original plan to analyze it and see if there were flaws in the plan or whether the new circumstances were unforeseeable. In either case, a leader must assess the current situation, incorporate the new circumstances into the plan, craft a way forward and most importantly, bring other people on board to help steer the ship on its new course (or determine whether the ship “returns to port” for further work). But at all times, a leader must have and display confidence in the ultimate goal – understanding why the plan went awry. Confidence from the leader will inspire confidence in the team. Only with everyone on board can a plan completely succeed.

Communication: The importance of communication cannot be understated. Nor can the difficulty of doing it consistently, well and in a way that suits the needs of the majority. I have been at Smith & Howard since we were a small firm (fewer than 25 people when I started). The communication needs of an organization change as it grows. There is a wider mix of personalities, more “needs to know”, more issues and successes to share and learn from and infinitely more activities going on that should be communicated at different levels. The challenge as a leader is to know to whom, when and how to communicate. Here, we tackle that from a few directions. I rely on all the leaders of the firm – partners, managers and others – to help me understand what is on the minds of our employees so that we are prioritizing our communications appropriately. We also have developed a committee that focuses on firm-level communication. They represent each department in the firm and have their fingers on the pulse of what people want to hear more of (and often, less of). I take the input and advice of the firm’s leaders and the communication committee into consideration for “big” communications – like announcements and also what form of communication is best , for instance whether a video or an email work better for one or the other. But in the end, as the leader, I must decide the tone and the exact message. Most of the time, the message reaches everyone as intended. Like everyone else, I strike out from time to time, but because our communication here works both ways, I usually get a lesson or two in how to do it better the next time.

In my next blog post, I’ll talk about creativity and intuition – two qualities that cannot be taught, but that are very important to effective leadership.



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