Great leaders share characteristics that set them apart from their lesser counterparts and allow them to maintain a position that is respected not based on their title, but on who they are and the characteristics they embody and demonstrate. This does not mean they are flawless, it means they recognize their flaws, understand them and don’t hide behind arrogance in order to mask them. While there are certainly more than four characteristics to being a great leader, I think these are certainly among the top.
Great leaders can admit their mistakes, recognize their own shortcomings and don’t need to be in the spotlight or take all the credit. They understand that their success is dependent on those around them because no man or woman is an island.
Great leaders have confidence without being arrogant. Confidence does not mean they know everything, it says they know they don’t but have confidence in those who have the knowledge they need. Having confidence in others is a reflection on the great leader and is returned by those who it is given to. More important than their having confidence in themselves are others having confidence in them because it raises everyone up.
Above all great leaders have integrity and do the right thing, even when it is hard. All leaders are faced with situations that can test them and there may be times when it is tempting to take the “easy” way out to avoid having to have an awkward conversation or deliver bad news, but the great leader will always bear the burden and hold themselves to the highest standard.
A great leader understands that without honesty there is no integrity or confidence and that the omission of information is perceived the same as a lie. The ability to be honest even when it means giving bad news is essential. Leaders are entrusted with not only the well being and stewardship of the organization but also that of the people who make up the organization. A single lie or omission is the quickest way to erode confidence and destroy integrity.
To maintain the standard of great leadership or rise to it, the leader will always ask themselves if they are acting out of the best interest of the company and its people or their own. When the answer is the latter, they will reconsider their decision or what they are about to do.