I’ve been involved in leading people over the last 30 years. In business, in community organizations and in non-profit organizations. No matter where I was serving, the people I was trying to lead were asking, “why should I follow you?” Most people buy into the leader before the cause or vision. Even if they have bought into the vision, they will be either more or less committed because of the leader. People most often leave an organization because of the leader, not the vision.
Here are seven qualities that I believe are vital for leaders to effectively build a tribe and make a difference:
- Calling and Passion – A leader that is passionate about what he or she is doing, and feels called to it will attract people. Being passionate about something means you are willing to sacrifice for something. People can tell very quickly if you feel called to what you are doing or if it’s just a job. Leaders that are willing to sacrifice, suffer and endure hardship are worth following.
- Insight – Leaders that can see the real issues and know the real problems are respected. Insight is developed over time and through evaluated experience. Leaders that understand people, and why they do what they do, can make better decisions and motivate people more effectively. It takes insight to know how to connect with different types of people. Knowing when to listen and when to talk, when to push and when to back off, comes from insight and wisdom, and from failing and learning from it.
- Character – It takes character to win and maintain trust. Doing the right thing even when it hurts and is difficult builds respect. Character is often exposed in difficult times, and character is developed in those quiet moments when no one will know and you still do it right and make it right. Without character leaders eventually fall. No one is perfect, yet the best leaders know that people are watching them and approach their leadership as a way to positively influence the people around them.
- Likability – People follow leaders that make them feel good about themselves. People will follow you if they like you. Having an approachable demeanor and friendly personality are important. When you walk in the room do you bring energy to that room, or do you suck the life out of the room? The most likeable people I know are the ones that genuinely care about the people around them, and take time to listen and connect.
- Competence – You need to know what you are doing and talking about. People can tell quickly if you are just talking and dancing around the issues. People can smell fake pretty quickly. Leaders that know what they are doing, and that surround themselves with people even smarter than they are excel in leadership. The best leaders are constantly growing and learning and getting better at what they do. You don’t have to know everything, but you do need to be competent enough to know the right questions to ask and what decision need to be made to move things forward.
- Communication Skills – You don’t need to be a highly polished speaker, but you do need to be able to effectively communicate the vision and values that you are passionate about. It is also important to be able to communicate in a variety of ways. Both verbal and non-verbal communication is important. The way in which you communicate is important, knowing when to call someone and when to email or when to go see them in person. Also the ability to communicate to a large group, small group or one-on-one is vital for great leaders.
- Courage – Courage is making the tough calls despite the fear. When people know that you are willing to take risks and lead in a bold courageous way they will follow you. It takes courage to lead and move ahead even when not many are choosing to follow. Knowing when to take a stand and fight a battle is an important attribute of a leader. It also takes great courage to humble yourself and serve other people and to be transparent with the people you lead.
These qualities should be something leaders are working on and developing as they lead. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading.