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5 Things Great Leaders Know (That You Can Learn Today)

Topics: Career Advice
What does it take to be a great leader? There are several things your best bosses know that you can learn right away.
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Great leaders aren’t born that way. They become excellent through experience, hard work and some good old-fashioned trial and error.

So, whether you’re new to your leadership role or just looking for some fresh ideas and insights, have no fear. The traits associated with fantastic leadership can be learned. Let’s take a closer look at a few things that great leaders know — and that you can learn:

1. How to handle the pressure

A great manager is emotionally predictable. They don’t fly off the handle over every little thing. Leaders set the tone for how the rest of an organization responds to pressure, so it’s essential that they keep a level head. This is especially true during stressful times.

Recent research from VitalSmarts found that employees who work for managers who respond poorly to stress are much more likely to consider leaving their jobs. They’re also more likely to be frustrated and angry — and more likely to complain. Great leaders understand how important it is to take challenges in stride.

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2. How to Provide a sense of safety

A few years back, leadership development consultant Sunnie Giles asked leaders from around the world to define great leadership. She shared the results of her study in Harvard Business Review.

The highest ranked leadership competencies were “has high ethical and moral standards” (67 percent), “provides goals and objectives with loose guidelines” (59 percent) and “clearly communicates expectations” (56 percent). These themes combine to paint a picture of a safe and trusting environment where workers know what they can expect. This kind of atmosphere conveys a strong sense of fairness and transparency that helps workers to be their best.

“A leader with high ethical standards conveys a commitment to fairness, instilling confidence that both they and their employees will honor the rules of the game,” wrote Giles. “Similarly, when leaders clearly communicate their expectations, they avoid blindsiding people and ensure that everyone is on the same page. In a safe environment employees can relax, invoking the brain’s higher capacity for social engagement, innovation, creativity, and ambition.”

3. How To Use failures as opportunities to learn

Despite their attention to detail and other admirable traits, perfectionists actually aren’t well-suited for leadership positions. That’s because they tend to beat themselves up too much over their missteps rather than learning from them.

An excellent leader understands that so-called “failures” are actually important steps on the path to success. Fantastic leaders tend to be pretty resilient. And, they help teach those around them to bounce back from mistakes, too. Great leaders give the folks who work for them second chances. They help their employees to find their way with their jobs, and their own voice, rather than demanding perfection right out of the gate.

4. How to treat people well

One thing that separates great leaders from the pack is that they treat everyone well. They don’t just turn on a smile when they’re with their own boss or an important client. They’re kind and decent to everyone. Perhaps this is why great leaders often tend to attract a crew of loyal supporters.

“In my experience, great leaders have a common denominator of decency and courtesy with everyone they encounter, treating my assistant the same way they treat me or my colleagues,” wrote Manny Padda at Fast Company.

“Great leaders understand they don’t operate in a vacuum and that building the right team can define their success,” Padda continued. “They put their own ego aside and make the people around them better – and they get a reputation for helping others achieve.”

5. How to Maintain a positive Attitude

Emotions are contagious … and leaders’ emotions are more contagious than most.

“Since emotional leads tend to flow from the most powerful person in a group to the others, when the leader is angry or depressed, negative body language can spread like a virus to the rest of the team, affecting attitudes and lowering energy,” wrote at Forbes. “Conversely, happy and buoyant leaders are likely to make the entire team feel upbeat and energized.”

Great leaders are reliably positive and enthusiastic about their work. They’re excited to learn new things and grow in their role. This raises the bar for the rest of their team and inspires those around them.

Tell Us What You Think

Which of these leadership qualities do you think is the most important? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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