Someone who possesses good leadership qualities can be the difference between strong-arm management and effectively organizing people behind your mission. Inspiring while developing new talent. Bridging the gap between calculated risks and desired outcomes. To achieve these goals, leaders often have principles they lead by so they have a touchstone for their leadership efforts.
For today's business leaders, building good leadership qualities can start by looking to other leaders for guidance. It could be insight on what they've found useful, feedback they've received and tips they would pass on given the opportunity.
From mantras to turning points, the following four business owners share the good leadership qualities that they value and how they've impacted their ability to consistently lead with more favorable outcomes.
Showing Empathy to Help Strengthen Your Team
"There is a lot of great material about what makes for effective leadership," says Jordan Brannon, director of digital strategies at Los Angeles-based website development and SEO strategy firm Coalition Technologies. "Most of it undervalues or ignores the single trait I find most effective in leading my team members: empathy.
—Deborah Sweeney, CEO, MyCorporation
"Nothing compels supporting team members to buy into your vision, enthusiastically pursue new direction and loyally weather hardship like an empathetic leader," Brannon continues. "By showing those working for me that I've considered their role in the tasks at hand, and I am making my decisions given my experience and the information available to me, empathy empowers me to be a greater leader.
Key takeaway: Brannon places a high importance on empathy as one of his leadership qualities because it empowers him to make better decisions for the people who power his company. By knowing what's important to his people and taking time to understand those things, Brannon can use empathy to help transform his company, one team member experience at a time.
Being Able to Harness Other's Strengths
"Our leadership culture is centered on three things: fire, faith and focus," says Julie Honeywell, chief human resources officer of Paladino and Company, a sustainability and green building consulting firm based in Seattle.
Honeywell broke down those three facets of her leadership values:
1. Fire. "Ignite your team's passion and create a place where individuals can bring their initiative, creativity and intelligence to work every day," she says.
2. Faith. "Build confidence in your team by placing individuals in a position that enables them to apply their natural strengths and talents to your company's work."
3. Focus. "Provide mentorship or coaching on what your team should be paying attention to so they don't waste time on distractions that take them away from opportunities for success."
"When your culture allows people to bring their passion (fire), use their strengths (faith) and points those qualities in the right direction (focus), you create natural leaders who will work hard to achieve results, delight clients and create innovation," Honeywell says.
Key takeaway: Honeywell's "three Fs" empower her to address every aspect of her team's experience—from ideation to implementation—using her well of good leadership qualities. She considers the strengths of her team members as her key leadership value because it helps her cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Providing Experiential Learning to Your Team
"Our design teaching mantra is at the core of our business operations, sales and brand," says Alex Levin, co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn, New York-based creative agency L+R. "We provide our clients with insights from a design-led process. This makes it very important for every individual in each department to be progressively educated on where their interests and passion lie.
"We allocate resources for each employee to take classes, travel, attend conferences and events, and anything that will expand their working knowledge of their trade and the special interests of the company," Levin continues. "These findings can then be utilized in reports, content and studies [created] to aid business development and thought leadership of our company. We have developed a business-through philosophy by activating these activities within the firm and empowering our employees to better themselves. [We found that] when people felt like they were improving themselves, it was not only helping themselves grow, but also the business."
Key takeaway: Levin developed the strengths of his team members through experiential learning. By helping his team learn more about the areas they have an interest in that benefit the company, he's using one of his leadership qualities to cultivate long-term, dedicated team members who can see their role in the company's success.
Displaying Two Strong Leadership Qualities: Flexibility and Creativity
"My mantra is 'Develop, Test, Learn and Launch!" says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, a leading provider of online document filing services. "Our team works together to come up with ideas, then we iterate, develop, test and launch. If it works out, that's awesome! If not, no worries. We move on to the next idea.
"In any and all stages of development, we give it 100 percent of our hard work and effort. To me, that's one of the most important things about leadership—the ability to get the right people on your team and have them deliver their best work while inspiring them along the way and showing them how passionate you are about what they're doing. When a leader gives it her all, the team will follow. My leadership approach is one that enables the team to be flexible and creative, and we hold each other accountable so we get the most out of our hard work."
Key takeaway: Sweeney finds the right people for her team so the best work product possible can happen. One of the great leadership qualities she possesses is giving it her all. It sets her level of commitment as a role model for her entire team to follow, showing she's not afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to the real work that makes the company a success.
Now, what can you take away from these four leaders and how they demonstrate their best leadership skills and qualities? If nothing else, this marks an ideal time to put into words what's most important to you as a leader and the skills you use to lead the work you do each day. What's had the greatest positive impact on your teams? What efforts have made your job easier? What about your leadership do people tell you they appreciate?
Spelling out what makes you a strong leader is more than just a pen-to-paper exercise: It can be a powerful tool you can use as a touchstone for each decision you face.
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