There has been a ton of research and debate about the subject of leadership. Thousands of books have been written and millions of dollars are spent each year on leadership training, and there is good reason for it. Leadership mastery is probably the most valuable skill set anyone in sports, business, or politics can possess. Everyone has their own ideas about what qualities make for a great leader. Here are mine.
An authentic person is a person who is comfortable in their skin, speaks from the heart, and knows how to connect with people. Integrity is impossible without authenticity.
Leaders have an ability to see where the puck is going, not just where it’s been. They not only have a clear vision, but they also have a masterful way of communicating it. Exceptional leaders can get people to embrace a vision and act on that vision even when they don’t see it themselves.
Strong leaders make the toughest phone calls and only get upset when a member of their team is attacked. Weak leaders pass the buck and blame their failures on others. Leaders who are willing to fall on the sword to protect their team have teams that will walk through a wall for them. Conversely, leaders who pass the buck have teams who think only for themselves and are disloyal and dysfunctional.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. People who can remain cool and think on their feet during the most challenging times always stand out to me. If you ever want to see what a person is made of, see how they react to adversity. Great leaders always take the high road and never engage in pettiness.
The best leaders don’t just tell people what to do, they mentor, they groom and they teach. Anyone who wants to scale their business or broaden their reach must surround themselves with other strong leaders. Weak leaders micromanage and in order to appear strong, surround themselves with those who are weak and don’t threaten them.
Humility is sometimes confused with weakness. On the contrary, it takes a lot of confidence to show humility. Humility is the opposite of arrogance, and in its most authentic form can be one of the most attractive traits a leader can possess.
Leaders have a style that is their own. Their ideas might be inspired by others but are not plagiarized from others.
A love of the process is a sign of a leader. Leaders are consistent and dependable. They return calls and follow through on their commitments.
Leaders are decisive. They analyze, get advice, make decisions and stand behind those decisions. They rarely hesitate because they know moving quickly is critical. Leaders stand by their decisions even when those decisions turn out to be wrong – if they believe they made the correct decision with the information they had.
Whether in sports or business, mental toughness is essential. Another word for mental toughness is grit. People with grit don’t quit; they find a solution when a situation seems impossible. They get their teams to keep moving forward even when the outcome appears dire.
The following are signs of a weak leader.
People who are vain are typically insecure and are more concerned with appearance and image. They are weak leaders because they only care about themselves.
People who engage in street fights, gossip, and who get all worked up over small issues are almost always the weakest leaders.
This gets missed by a lot of people. People who say things like “Failure is not an option”, or “Good Vibes Only” don’t typically make very good leaders. This is common in sales cultures. I’m not talking about affirmations. Affirmations are tools for a good mindset, but people need more from their leaders than platitudes. They need solutions and practical guidance.
I saved the worst for last. Leaders who bully people are the worst of the worst.
Some think leaders are born, not created. I think there is some truth to that, but there are different applications for leadership – and most of us will be in a leadership role at some point in our life. After all, being a parent is possibly the most important leadership role that many of us will have. Whether you realize it or not, someone out there looks up to you and you have a sincere opportunity to make a positive impression on that person(s). Leadership matters.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak at the T3 Conference in Florida…I surprised the audience when I explained how the issue of diversity has been framed incorrectly, and has for the most part alienated the business community.
Elon Musk dropped by the Real Time with Bill Maher show recently for an interview with the host. Maher, who considers himself a liberal is an obvious fan of the CEO of Tesla and Space X. The centerpiece of their conversation was their discussion regarding what Musk called the “woke mind virus” or what I prefer to call “cancel culture”.
People sometimes get me wrong. They think that because I talk a lot about giving back and living modestly, I must not care about money. On the contrary, I care a lot about money because I understand how our system works.