“It is better to have a lion at the head of an army of sheep, than a sheep at the head of an army of lions.”–Daniel Defoe
For long now there has been talk of leadership and governance deficit in this country. This problem seems to beset other countries also because in a 2012 survey done at Harvard University, 77% of respondents said that the United States now has a crisis in leadership and confidence levels have fallen to the lowest levels in recent times. In the past 20 years, 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs have lasted less than three years. According to another study, 38% new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job. It begs the question as to what qualities a leader should possess to make a difference not only at the level of a nation but also at the level of a corporation as a CEO or even as the more humble team leader who is down in the pecking order. Here are some qualities that are indispensable for anyone occupying a leadership position in an organization or at the national level.
Clear Vision and Concrete Goals
A leader needs to articulate his vision and goals to the people so that they know where they are going, why they are going, and how they are going to get there. People get motivated if the leader can lay out clearly his vision for the country or organization, along with the goals (steps) needed to achieve it.
The decisions a leader makes and the actions he carries out have a deep and lasting impact on the lives of countless others. Being a leader is a very responsible position where the stakes are high. Hence, it is imperative that a leader is honest and has integrity in everything he does. Otherwise, whatever other qualities he possesses they will come to naught because dishonesty and lack of integrity will lower his standing in the eyes of his followers. The leader and his followers will stray from their goals. Eventually, the legitimacy of his authority will be eroded.
Ability to Inspire and Motivate
Being a leader implies there are others who are looking to you for guidance and inspiration on how to proceed with their lives and work. Your words and actions should instill the required confidence in the people and inspire them to put forth their best efforts in their attempt to reach the goals they have set for themselves.
If the followers have to work hard and produce high-quality work, a leader needs to lead by example. If the leader rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty in the trenches, his commitment to the work at hand will motivate the followers to follow suit. This will also earn their trust given that the leader is “walking the talk”.
Good Listening and Communication Skills
Leaders should not be aloof, and lines of communication should be kept open at all times. Messages, advice, orders and suggestions should be conveyed in plain and unambiguous language so that there is no scope for misunderstanding. Leaders should express sincere care and concern for the people. They should lend an ear to all concerned.
Ability to Delegate
Any leader will not have the time, expertise and energy to do all things by himself. So he should be able to delegate wisely and effectively to properly chosen subordinates who he feels can carry out the tasks efficiently. This entails knowing the talents, capacities and abilities of the subordinates. He should give them the necessary authority to be able to take quick decisions on the spot and refer only crucial decisions to him.
Welcome New Ideas
As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one”. So, leaders should encourage a climate of creativity and innovation by welcoming new ideas from everyone in the organization or team. A leader should be willing to consider all points of view and be willing to change a program or policy accordingly.