8 Characteristics of Great Leaders


Good leadership is essential to business, to government and to the numerous groups and organisations that shape the way we live, work and play. Having a great idea, and assembling a team to bring that concept to life is the first step in creating a successful business venture.

While finding a new and unique idea is rare enough; the ability to successfully execute this idea is what separates the dreamers from the entrepreneurs. And this is where leadership transforms potential into reality.

Leaders are a key human resource in any organization. We generally think of companies competing by means of their products, but they probably compete more by means of their leaders than their products.

Better leaders develop better employees and the two together develop better products. The importance of leadership in management cannot be overemphasized. To get things done by people, management must supply leadership in the organization.

Team-work is essential for realizing organizational goals. Managers must influence the team for work accomplishment through leadership. Secondly, leadership aids authority.

To gain a further insight into the importance of leadership in business success I recently had the privilege of speaking to Mark Bilton, founder of Thought Patrol and one of Australia's leading authorities on the subject matter.

Mark has journeyed from Sales Assistant to multi-national CEO and led transformational change across many industries.

His last turnaround was as Group Managing Director of Gloria Jean's Coffees, leading forty countries. He is now on a mission to hack leadership and humanize the workplace.

Mark's impressive track record of taking broken businesses in diverse industries and turning them around seems to make his case. Whilst he speaks to seemingly 'soft' principals they drive hard commercial results.

Below he shares his thoughts on what he believes to be the top 8 most common characteristics of great leaders.

1. Collaborative

Transparency build's trust; if you are connected to your team and genuinely interested in their participation and welfare, they will join you in your quest. People own what they help to create.

2. Visionary

Hoffer said that "The leader has to be practical and a realist yet must talk the language of the visionary and the idealist." Therein lies the balance. Leaders must live in the future state and carry the vision yet engage in the purposeful motivation and practical realities of the present.

3. Influential

The key to successful leadership today is influence, and not in 'command and control authority. We live in a new day, a digital age with a new set of rules. Influence comes from listening not talking, from taking time to earn respect and in being gracious and yet persuasive.

4. Empathetic

We are all flawed human beings; we all have our bad days. Leaders, who recognise that he or she is leading complete people and not just managing for an outcome, will engender a huge amount of loyalty, engagement and productivity. Treating others, as we would like to be treated, is a universal principal that's worked well for over 2000 years!

5. Innovative

'Innovate or die' is a truism that is probably more relevant now then in anytime since the industrial revolution. As Dr. Gary Hamel so rightly says; Management innovation is going to be the most enduring source of competitive advantage. There will be lots of rewards for firms in the vanguard.

6. Grounded

Leaders need to be centered and balanced if they are to be effective and resilient. We need to be mindful to look after ourselves so that we can effectively serve others. We are Body, Soul and Spirit and each leader will need to tend to their own foundational well being, in order to be sustainable in the cauldron of the modern workplace.

7. Ethical

Dispassionately choosing your moral framework sounds like an odd business success driver. Very few choose to go off the path to corruption or excess, it is usually an incremental slide. Making a stand early may save you, and others, a world of hurt and is a more sustainable life and business choice. Often it's as simple as doing what you say you will do.

8. Passionate

The stony face leader that shows no emotion is a relic of the Industrial Age. Genuine passion for your people and purpose is a great motivator that builds momentum. An engaged and empowered team led with clear vision and purpose by a passionate leader is a force to be reckoned with.

Whilst these seem like soft words they resonate with me at a human level. Listening to Mark talk reminded me of the culture I like to work in; of the leaders I know who are worth working for.

Maybe he is onto something, his impressive track record of saving businesses in 'mission impossible ' scenarios would indicate he is. I think he has a message that leaders need to hear and one very relevant for our fast moving business world.