Depending on what books or articles you read, there are more than 20 different leadership styles. An autocratic leader, for example, is generally a unilateral decision-maker, while a democratic one encourages input before making decisions. A delegative style, meanwhile, assigns responsibility and decision-making to other managers. But, as with most things in life, style is not nearly as important as substance. So, whether you aspire to be a person of authority or already are, here are 20 attributes that great ones encompass.
1. Compassion and empathy: When a leader demonstrates these qualities, they earn the respect and loyalty of those around them: it’s that simple.
2. Emphasis on open communication: Leaders should ensure that employees have a voice and a platform for expressing thoughts.
3. Articulates clear expectations: A person in authority has a responsibility to express expectations in a manner that employees can follow, as well as regularly assess process and progress.
4. Always teaches: Most great staff members are made. A great manager recognizes that a critical aspect of their job is to teach and grow employees’ knowledge base. Think of it as akin to banking: You can either stick money in a savings account and watch it grow slowly or invest and see it grow exponentially faster.
5. Inspires others: Inspiration is about engendering creativity, loyalty, dedication, and every other positive attribute we want employees to possess.
6. Leads by example: Anyone in a position of authority should hold themselves to the same expectations to which they hold others.
7. Embraces opportunities: Change and challenges can be seen as problematic, but a capable leader embraces them as opportunities to adapt, learn, and grow.
8. Fosters creativity: Employees inevitably possess capability resources beyond their assigned tasks. Each one of them has the ability to bring new perspectives and ideas, so encourage that.
9. Encourages feedback: All leaders generally have the final say, but great ones solicit and listen to feedback and take it into consideration before taking action.
10. Empowers others: The best way to grow successfully is to encourage others to constructively contribute—to freely entrust staff members with important tasks, and to solicit innovations from them.
11. Offers transparency: Whether what needs saying is good or bad, a leader offers communication clarity, which engenders trust and loyalty and reduces stress.
12. Takes accountability: No one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from others. Part of being a winning authority figure is owning mistakes.
13. Is authentic: Most people do not want to feel patronized or pandered to. Be yourself and be genuine, and you will inspire others to do the same.
14. Acknowledges effort and results: Recognition is a powerful tool: It sends the message that you see and appreciate the actions of those around you. Every employee is valuable, yes, but each one of them needs to tell exactly why.
15. Is loyal: From turnover to productivity (or their lack), loyalty manifests itself in many ways, and the best way to foster it is to demonstrate it.
16. Rewards excellence: Superlative work should be a high bar not easy to reach, and for those who do achieve it, there should be a suitable reward.
17. Shares in success: Whether through profit sharing, career advancement, or other bonuses or opportunities, when a company experiences success, it should share it with the people responsible for making it possible.
18. Avoids distractions: A great leader has the vision, mission, and values that help define a company. If something does not align with or deters from these principles, it should be removed or avoided.
19. Actively listens and observes: We learn by watching and listening, not by talking and directing. Take time every day to fine-tune those managerial antennae.
20. Asks for help: There is likely no better way to make someone feel valued and appreciated than asking them for help. Your humility as a leader in doing so will pay off tenfold. After all, great leadership is not inherent to everyone, and should not be limited to those with power; it is a process that can and needs to be cultivated.