Articles - Leadership & Change Management

What really makes a good leader?

According to our latest Executive Horizons survey, the three essential qualities all effective leaders need are a clear vision, the ability to influence and motivate people, and strong communication and listening skills. But how do bosses demonstrate these qualities, and what distinguishes a good leader from a good manager?

 

WHAT SETS A GOOD LEADER APART? 

Leaders and managers have distinct roles in a business. A leader is both the architect and planner of the organization's vision, while a manager disseminates this as a process, system or series of tasks that serves to realize the visionary's aims. 

Forbes author, William Arruda, identifies the following key differences between leaders and managers:

  • Leaders create vision, whereas managers create goals.
  • Leaders take risks, whereas managers control them.
  • Leaders take the long-term view, whereas managers think in the short term.
  • Leaders invest in personal growth, whereas managers rely on existing skills.
  • Leaders inspire people to become their fans, whereas managers merely oversee employees.

 

WHAT EXACTLY ARE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND LISTENING SKILLS FOR A LEADER? 

Communication is another essential skill for any leader to possess. Good leaders realize that they must articulate their ideas clearly and also be adept at listening. Effective listening is also critical to gaining employee buy-in.

 

Listening is an overlooked tool that creates an environment of safety when done well."

— Melissa Daimler, Harvard Business Review

 

Daimler goes on to define three types of listening. Firstly, internal listening, which refers to a leader’s awareness of her or his own thoughts and impressions. Secondly, focused listening, which relates to others’ ideas and concerns, including reading widely to be aware of innovations. Finally, 360º listening, which combines the first two types of listening, with an awareness of other non-verbal factors like tone, mood, body language, and atmosphere. It is this third type of listening “where the magic happens” and ensures the visionary's ongoing success, says Daimler.

 

HOW DO LEADERS INFLUENCE AND MOTIVATE?

Just creating a clear plan or strategy is not enough for leaders to achieve success. The leader must also influence and motivate others so that this objective is communicated, adopted and replicated. An effective leader not only shares their vision for the future, but also gives confidence to their followers, which better equips them to embrace any challenges faced.

 

WHAT IS HAVING A CLEAR VISION AND HOW DO LEADERS SHARE THAT VISION? 

Finally, a clear vision motivates employees to work together toward a common goal. It requires the ability to see beyond the immediate business climate and anticipate future challenges or opportunities for success. Leaders must possess a drive for forward development and a commitment to personal growth to remain at the forefront of innovation. Through these three essential skills of leadership, an organization is well equipped to achieve its vision and manage challenges in a competitive business environment.