Cooperate business CEO talking at meeting

By Cayley Dow

In my experience, the path to greatness in leadership is far from straightforward. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula. In fact, leaders can possess vastly different approaches and personalities, yet be equally effective, inspiring and influential.

In Warren Bennis’ book, Leaders, he reveals that more than 850 unique definitions exist for the term leadership. This raises a question — do exceptional leaders come into the world pre-destined for greatness, or is it possible to identify and nurture great leaders?

While leadership may not have a single universal definition, I’ve noticed common traits that characterize great leaders.  

1. Servitude 

The world’s most admired leaders embody this principle. They are devoted to their values, principles, stakeholders and teams. They exhibit selflessness, embrace diverse perspectives and foster a culture that encourages everyone to take a leadership role in some capacity. Today, autocratic leadership is no longer accepted. Leaders act as coaches, facilitating the flow of diverse input and aligning talent to task. They also provide feedback to their employees, nurturing ongoing growth.

2. Curiosity 

Successful leadership is underpinned by curiosity. Great leaders are highly intelligent but recognize they don’t have all the answers. They thrive on learning and growth, fuelled by genuine interest, a willingness to ask questions, a readiness to change opinions and the ability to apply new information to drive initiatives forward.

3. Accountability 

Accountability is a vital trait that ensures clarity, shared goals and individual ownership within a team. It serves as the cornerstone for trust, mutual respect and collaborative goal achievement. Holding oneself and others accountable is often a challenge for new leaders, but it’s an indispensable factor in unlocking the full potential of a team. 

4. Grit

Leadership is hard. It involves balancing responsibility with the risk-taking required for innovation. This demands courage, boundary-pushing, a willingness to try and learn from failure and the ability to maintain energy, presence and an inspiring attitude that motivates and influences others to do the same.

With these themes in mind, effective leadership can be cultivated. Here’s how:

  1. Begin by incorporating these leadership themes into your hiring, performance reviews and succession-planning practices. Hire and promote individuals who exemplify these qualities to build a solid leadership foundation for future.
  2. Next, offer formal leadership development opportunities such as a suite of progressive training courses. Reinforce learning with practical application to encourage innovation and feedback in your operation. Create a leadership-acceleration program, allowing high-potential or emerging leaders to express interest in growth and gain experiences and exposure to diverse leadership functions. 
  3. Finally, offer a culture that encourages informal leadership. Offer mentorship, peer coaching, and opportunities for employees to take on responsibilities beyond their typical role, yet aligned to their unique interests and talents.

By investing in leadership development, you can foster a culture of excellence and secure a promising future for your team. Leadership is not a privilege reserved for a select few, it can be nurtured within anyone who chooses it. 


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