A good leader leads; a great leader inspires. History is filled with leaders who helped shape the world into what it is today. Nelson Mandela embodied patience and perseverance, Martin Luther King supported activism and revolution, and George Washington was a tenacious visionary. These men displayed great leadership, although they demonstrated it in very different ways. There is no right or wrong way to be a leader, but some fairly common characteristics can be found in the great leaders of the modern world.
A great leader possesses a balance of personal humility and outward arrogance. Leaders must strongly believe in their skills but also be wise enough to know when to listen to the opinions and thoughts of others. These leaders tend to use the word "we" more than "I," and they quickly earn the respect of the masses. Philippa Foster Back of the Institute of Business Ethics believes a successful leader must demonstrate a human side while displaying strength.
Communication should never be one way. A great leader will have finely tuned listening skills but know when it's time to listen to others. As you grow and develop your leadership skills, learning to listen as well as you talk can make the difference between being a great leader and being merely a good one. If you surround yourself with intelligent people you can trust, you should have the confidence to give their input as much weight as you give your own instincts.
Proactivity is an extremely important leadership skill. You must be able to draw upon your experience and the knowledge of those around you to identify what needs to change, and then make those changes happen. A great leader never waits for change to come to him; he seeks it out and embraces it.
Great leaders are honest and ethical. If you believe enough in yourself, your team, and your company, you should never have a reason to lie or resort to practices that others might frown upon. This means that you need to be honest with yourself, your team, and your customers—you will have difficulty becoming successful without their trust. Keep honesty at the core of your business, and you'll be well on your way to inspiring those around you.
There is no one-size-fits-all description of being a great leader, as many different characteristics can be at play. Learning to believe not only in your gut but also in those around you is a strong first step toward developing great leadership skills.
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