Here Are Four Signs of a Good Leader

“The quality of managers and team leaders is the single biggest factor in your organization’s long-term success.” - “It’s the Manager” (Gallup)

You deal with HR, so you know the power of leadership - good or bad. You recognize that feeling of confidence when promotions come in for a high-potential employee, but you've probably also experienced that lurking of doubt about a candidate's compatibility with leadership. 

Measuring leadership can feel subjective, and in some ways it has to be, but there are recognizable hints that point to that hard-to-pinpoint good leadership trait. We've pulled together four signs that a person is not ready to lead (there are plenty of those), but it also equipped to do it successfully. 

Good Leaders Welcome Conflicting Viewpoints 

The idea of welcoming opposing viewpoints is hard to swallow. It sounds counter intuitive to smooth leadership, but in fact, welcoming conflicting viewpoints makes leaders stronger for a couple of reasons: 

  1. It forces leaders to be able to back up their decisions when challenged. 
  2. It creates space for better paths and ideas, making the organization stronger. 

Look at this compelling reasoning from Abraham Lincoln, in regard to his famous "team of rivals," which were his presidential opponents who he brought into his war-time cabinet: 

"We need the strongest men of the party in the Cabinet...I had looked the party over and concluded that these were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services." 

Selfless, practical, lacking ego and best for the organization. This is the kind of leadership that builds confidence, and - well, nations.  

Performance Reviews and Goal Setting

Good Leaders Identify the Best People & Listen to Them

Being a good listener is solid advice for anyone, let alone leaders. But this directive talks specifically to the power of listening to an organization's best people. Who defines "best people"? It's a good question, but for the purpose of a business, Gallup, notes these three groups as key:

  • High performers 
  • Highly engaged 
  • Extensive experience in the organization 

When a leader brings these groups to the table, it has a ripple effect. By giving them a voice, you're giving them important feedback: They are important to the organization; their thoughts are valued; they have a say in the future. When given the opportunity to shape the company, these employees don't need to be sold on initiatives. They'll already be onboard because they were in the room where it happened. Their confidence and excitement in leadership will make an impact on other employees, as well. 

Another great place to enact this leadership tool is in hiring. It’s as basic as creating an employee referral program and translates into a powerful message: We think you’re great, and we want more people like you - know any?

Good Leaders Say "Bring It On" to Change

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose." - Bill Gates 

The threat of disruption is ever-present. Whether you're in technology, construction, transportation or any other space, you've experienced it in the past and perhaps it looms large again. Disruption is a part of business, but a leader can be the make-it-or-break-it factor. Look for these qualities as you evaluate for leadership: 

  • Attitude about change. Leaders who drive excitement about change and the opportunities it might bring set a good example for the team. 
  • Willingness to prepare for disruption. Leaders who articulate a strategy for taking on disruption can use it as a foundation for building, growing and adapting. 
  • Ability to maintain a focus on company values. Strong companies follow well-developed values and keep a focus on that, rather than what they can't control. Leaders will re-calibrate a team's focus from outside influences to internal. 

Good Leaders Tell a Story of the Heart, not the Bottomline 

The final hint at great leadership is all about people: Care about them, inspire them and put them first. 

This one should be easy, but is actually tough, because it's not as teachable. It takes authenticity and natural inclination, and to be frank - it's often the line between a good leader and a great one. The best leaders are in it for reasons that go beyond their own paycheck, pride and sense of accomplishment; they're there to deliver on a vision that reflects on the people involved. This type of selfless leadership, sometimes called servant leadership, is what gets organizations on "Best Places to Work" lists and earns reputations that bring recruits and prospects lining up to work there. 

The next time you're evaluating candidates, or even reflecting on your own leadership style, consider these four points. Great leaders don't just rise to the top - they rise up and bring others with them. 

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