Leadership can be an incredibly hard concept to define and an even harder quality to learn. There are some who argue that great leaders are born but I have always believed that you can learn and develop the necessary skills through hard work and experience.
Not all of us can be leaders, and there are plenty of people who are happy not to be, but it would be foolish to think that leadership is an easy skill to master. The really top people in any field, whether it be business, politics or sport, are constantly examining their performance and most important of all looking at ways to improve and keep standards high.
Here are four signs of what truly marks out the great leaders from the rest of the field.
First and foremost a good leader has to have confidence in themselves and their ability. As a decision maker or chief executive you should never forget that all the people you manage are constantly looking to you for inspiration and guidance and setting an example is a major part of the job description. There is of course a very big difference between confidence and arrogance, and it is important not to cross that line. But you have to ask yourself the question: if you do not have confidence in yourself then how can you ever expect others to place their trust in you?
Some may call this intelligence or even good luck, but I prefer the term intuition. Knowing what course of action to take in any given situation is a great skill to be able to draw on. The ability to react in the right way to changing circumstances is something that usually comes with many years of experience. But those who are just setting out on the journey to becoming leaders can learn very quickly by following the example of people around them who have proven track records.
Speaking from personal experience, it is when times get tough that the best leaders are able to show their true qualities and mettle. It is easy to lead when things are going well and a business is running smoothly. However, the true test of leadership is when an unexpected crisis rears its head. When my first business Alexander Mann started feeling the effects of the recession back in the early 90’s, it came as a real shock. However I knew that in situations like that, staff are looking for reassurance and someone who looks unsure and indecisive is also going to come across as weak. I came in one morning, called everyone together and explained the situation in very stark terms. I then told them the actions we were going to take to try and rectify things. I am not suggesting making reckless decisions without thinking – but every step you take should have an decisive air about it.
The so-called soft skills of management are sometimes overlooked in business and management manuals but I have always seen them as a crucial part of the job. You can have the best product or service and can spend thousand of pounds on things like marketing, but businesses are built on the quality and motivation of the people within. Any good manager needs to be able to understand what makes their people tick and what motivates them. This also helps to build staff loyalty which is a crucial element of running a business. The best leaders are usually the ones who have a good grasp of human nature and behavior.