"Many thanks for your outstanding contribution at our Annual Meeting. You faced a demanding audience and you performed with distinction." —Walter G. Shnee III, President, Million Dollar Round Table


Making a Great Leader

To some degree, leadership ability is innate. This is obvious after watching an elementary school class. But a vast amount of it can be learned. Something separates great leaders from those who are simply in charge. Those who shine like stars, have skills, beliefs, and take very specific actions that make them stand apart. Whether at the head of nonprofit or a large corporate entity, great leaders share these characteristics.

  1. They make others feel important. No successful leader can be so in a vacuum. To acknowledge other people's ability and help them understand how important they are to the success of the business is a powerful motivator. They focus on others' strengths and contributions rather than dwelling excessively on themselves. Credit for great ideas is not hogged.
  2. They promote a vision. Leadership is more than good management. Somebody needs to set the direction and help formulate the vision for the company. Employees need a clear idea of the direction they are going and how that goal provides value to themselves and the community. The vision must be maintained and nurtured through numerous upheavals and competing initiatives, not to mention day-to-day trials and tribulations. They have focus and perseverance.
  3. They admit mistakes. Since no one is perfect, if the leader makes a mistake and admits it, it helps create an environment where mistakes are acknowledged and learned from. If errors are hidden at the highest levels, people are less likely to bring problems to the leader. Partial information impacts the quality of the resulting decisions that get made.
  4. They engage in continuous learning. A leader may be at the head of a company, but that position does not mean that he or she has reached the pinnacle of learning. Great leaders continue to grow and stretch whether that is through colleges and symposiums, from their staff, via mentors, or simply by experience. Continuous growth keeps the person healthy but also helps bring fresh perspectives to daily issues.
  5. They are accessible. Staying close to the action is important because there is information that can only be gathered through direct observation or by being close to the customer. Filtered information and key observations get lost in typical hierarchical structures. Leaders who visit work sites and other offices, ask questions and are alert to opportunities also recognize the value in being visible to members at all levels of the organization.
  6. They embrace bad news. Bad news is often more important than good news. It tells you where something is going wrong, where a plan went awry, or an initiative is failing. Certainly good news is satisfying and helps identify strengths, but undue focus on the positive can blind you to brewing issues. Great leaders surround themselves with people that can be trusted and are willing to bring up bad news. The sooner you hear about bad news, the better your chances of turning it around.
  7. They hire to weaknesses. A good leader recognizes where he or she is weak and hires others for their strengths in those areas. Great leaders hire smart people and let them shine. Second-guessing skilled staff is deadly to morale.
  8. They earn respect and loyalty. Position infers status, but people only shine and go the extra mile for those they respect and feel loyalty toward. Those feelings are earned by actions not by position alone. Great leaders walk their talk.
  9. They celebrate. Great leaders give good parties. When tough goals are met, a pinnacle reached or an extraordinary effort has resulted in success, acknowledge it. They may not schedule the bash to fall during the busiest two months of the year but they do not let much time pass between the accomplishment and the party. Celebrating success and making a big deal about extraordinary effort will ensure that performance continues.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

©2011 Smart Ways To Work | Odette Pollar | 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 215 Oakland CA 94612
1-800-599-8463 | odette@smartwaystowork.com