In my 25 years of working with leaders in many walks of life, including business, sports, education, technology, law and medicine, I've seen leaders who were absolutely awful, decidedly mediocre, above average, and just a few who were truly exceptional, whom I call Prime Leaders. In a recent blog post, "10 Qualities of a Prime Leader," I described qualities that I found, without exception, in those outstanding leaders. In this post I'm going to describe some more specific attributes that make great leaders great.
Prime Leaders see and act on the world in ways that set them apart from others in the business world. Prime Leaders:
Prime Leaders also behave in a way that clearly demonstrates their leadership capabilities. First, they affirm their leadership by making clear who was in charge, what messages will be communicated, and their commitment to those messages. At the same time, they are open to others' ideas and are willing to adapt when presented with a compelling reason to do so. Second, Prime Leaders set the psychology of their organization, ensuring that it is positive, proactive and focused. Third, they actively create a culture of integrity, openness and determination that permeates throughout their company.
Prime Leaders inspire others to aim high by convincing them that they can take control of their careers and achieve their professional goals. They convince their teams that what seems inconceivable or insurmountable can become a reality; in other words, if Prime Leaders can move mountains, so can others. The messages of possibility and personal empowerment from Prime Leaders motivate employees to take their performances and productivity to new levels and propel their companies to new heights.
Prime Leaders demonstrate that a group of individuals with a shared vision can coalesce into a formidable force. Their lives and their words can inspire people to achieve seemingly impossible goals. But, despite what many people think, inspiration is not the greatest gift of Prime Leaders. Their real strengths are not only to inspire, but also to inform and transform. Prime Leaders give people the information and tools they need to focus and direct their inspiration. And then they transform that inspiration and information into action that produces tangible results.
A Prime Leader's confident, calm and commanding presence in these difficult times can inspire trust that they have the company's -- and its employees' -- best interests at heart. This style of corporate leadership that is authoritative yet empathic and trustworthy can reduce the flames of conflict and encourage those with different ideas to be open to others' viewpoints and be willing to find compromise for the good of the individual and the company. Prime Leaders' noted respect for diverse viewpoints and willingness to listen to others can also encourage "buy-in" from those less inclined to do so.
Perhaps the greatest challenge for any business leader is to forge a sense of unity, where perhaps others have tried and failed, in a corporate culture that can have many divergent views and factions. Can they inspire, inform, and transform those who have fundamental disagreements with them? To do so, they must to marshal all of their leadership skills. In this time of crisis, their oratory gifts can inspire employees to set aside small concerns and work together to overcome the current marketplace challenges. This ability involves framing divisive issues in terms that transcend specific ideologies and focus on larger universal themes. The ability to inspire employees, rally them around a shared cause, demonstrate respect for all perspectives and find common ground is an essential skill for providing leadership to a successful company.
In the current business climate in which we are seeing even the best-run companies struggle under the weight of the still-fresh global economic crisis, there are profound lessons to be learned from studying Prime Leader capabilities. By applying these skills and strategies to your work, you can create your own Prime Leadership experience that can help you and your company to achieve its goals.
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