As you recall each of your former leaders, you can probably think of things you learned from both good and bad leaders. From the good, you learned what you wanted to be like if you ever became a leader. From the bad, you learned what you didn't want to be like.
While hindsight might be 20/20 for good and bad leaders, an audience member at a speaking event recently asked me how to spot a future leader. Honestly, I hadn't spent too much time thinking about the answer to that question.
But it immediately struck me that the same traits and practices that make a good or a bad leader are the same qualities that would predict good and bad future leaders--except the titles, influence, and parameters will be different.
There is, however, a rub.
While analyzing the best qualities of my former bosses, it became clear that even some of the most admirable qualities of a person don't necessarily improve their leadership results. For example, I had a former boss who was highly charismatic. I had another who was great at getting the team to meet rigorous deadlines. But neither would make my list of great leaders.
Instead, I realized the best leaders in my past and the young people I see daily who I think will make great future leaders share other qualities--qualities that require one very simple attribute--courage.
Whether you're a current leader or want to be a leader in the future, you'll need to find the courage to practice these six skills.
You might not initially think patience is the most daring practice. In business, however, emotional restraint during stressful times can be one of the scariest skills to master--because it's difficult. But great leaders don't make rash decisions. They think through situations, remain levelheaded, and are courageous enough to wait until the right call can be made.
Sometimes being frank can be viewed as being unkind. But the two words, candor and frankness, have nothing to do with kindness. In fact, when it comes to leading people, honesty--even when it hurts--can be the kindest thing you can give to someone else. Letting someone know they're dropping the ball, falling behind, or missing the mark takes courage.
Most bosses are promoted to management not because they are good at leading others, but instead because they were good at a craft, or at setting an example of good work. Often, this leads new leaders to assume they need to appear to be more important than the people they lead. But courageous leaders understand they serve the people who work for them. It's their job to help others become the best they can be.
This is probably the most courageous and most obvious skill of great leaders. These are the people who understand they own the results of a failed initiative, and also know who else to give credit to for a winning team result. Ownership takes a ton of courage.
5. Shared leadership
Great leaders understand the purest form of delegation. They trust the people they hire to share in decision-making. They respect the insights and experiences of the team members and acknowledge that those team members might know more about certain things than they do.
We all live in a highly competitive world. Whether people are leading teams today or have the right stuff to lead in the future, one trait will always be clear--great leaders understand they didn't arrive in their position by themselves and they willingly recognize and show appreciation to the people who helped them get there.
While there are many skills related to great leadership, the things that often take the most courage are the very things that make the best leaders. Whether you're a seasoned leader now or see yourself in a leadership role in the future, it might be time to face the aspects of leadership that take the most courage to master.