When I first started contributing to Inc.com, one of my first and favorite posts -- and most popular -- was when I reflected on the great mentors and leaders with whom I have had the privilege to work over the years to identify the six things exceptional leaders do better than all others. These six characteristics included:
- Great leaders are exceptional communicators and orators. Exceptional leaders are better at knowing when to shut it and listen.
- Great leaders are exceptionally idealistic vision setters. Exceptional leaders are better at admitting when they are wrong.
- Great leaders are exceptionally organized and analytical. Exceptional leaders are better at delegating.
- Great leaders are exceptional problem identifiers. Exceptional leaders are better problem solvers.
- Great leaders are exceptionally confident decision makers. Exceptional leaders are better at dishing credit.
- Great leaders are exceptionally smart. Exceptional leaders are better at not being stupid.
I still feel strongly about these six qualities, and they continue to be exceptional characteristics I measure and see in the respected leaders I have met through my advising and consulting career.
One such leader is Sean Edwards, who recently endeavored into entrepreneurship as the founder and CEO of Lysi US, the US distributor for an Iceland-based fish oil supplement producer. Not to be outdone by this list, Edwards suggested to me these additional six skills that further differentiate exceptional leaders.
- Great leaders are good at solving problems. Exceptional leaders are able to empower their employees and trust them in problem-solving situations.
- Great leaders run an efficient office. Exceptional leaders exude positivity and confidence as they inspire their employees to be excellent.
- Great leaders do their best to minimize mistakes. Exceptional leaders are accountable to the performance, good or bad, of each of their employees (and are quick to praise the good).
- Great leaders are aware of their workplace culture. Exceptional leaders intentionally direct their workplace culture to be in line with the company's mission.
- Great leaders are kind to their employees. Exceptional leaders intentionally develop a passion for empathizing and understanding their employees on a deeper level.
- Great leaders develop solid relationships with their co-workers. Exceptional leaders have the janitor's birthday on their calendar.
In the end, there are many ways to measure the qualities and characteristics of exceptional leaders. Moreover, every leader has and should leverage a unique personal and professional style and brand that is in line with the goals and mission of their organization.
So if you don't feel like you measure up to these traits, don't fret it -- your leadership style and the specific needs of your organization should be the measuring stick against which to compare.