Great leaders are not born into the role. They exhibit traits that have been learned, refined, honed, and improved over many years. There’s no single trait that makes someone a great leader. It is a collection of refined attributes.
To find out more about the secret to leadership, I talked to several executives and asked about what they’ve learned to become a great leader.
Here’s what they had to say.
1. Act like a coach
Kris Malkoski, the President and Global Business and Chief Commercial Officer at World Kitchen, told me the secret to great leadership is to act like a coach. You have to set the strategy and the gameplan to win, hire and coach the top talent, set goals and measure progress–and then demonstrate how this all works by example to all of your employees on a consistent basis. “You have to represent the strong values and work ethic that they expect, and you have to anticipate competitive diversions and adjust their plans to insure goals are achieved,” she says.
2. Show your passion
Passion is not something you can fake. Employees can see whether you have it from a mile away, and they know the difference. Jimmy Haslam, the CEO of Pilot Flying J and majority owner of the Cleveland Browns, told me that it is the most important secret to great leadership. “Every day we try to show people our passion for the business,” he says. “We care deeply about the people who work for our companies as well as the entire communities in which our companies are based.”
One secret is to listen closely to what employees have to say. If you’re commanding too much, it means you’re not listening enough. “People want to follow a leader who listens, who understands what is going on in the organization and what is important to the people who work to make the business thrive,” says Barby Siegel, the CEO of Zeno Group, a global communications agency. “Let people know that you expect them to think beyond the task to contribute to the organization as a whole. I want people to speak their minds and I let them know this as often as possible.”
4. Accept the blame and don’t take the credit
Great leaders don’t crave the spotlight, they tend to save that for the star performers on the team. It’s almost like they know how to avoid getting the most credit and prefer the employees receive most of it. “Great leaders have a great appreciation for the people around them,” says Haslam. “They are willing to accept blame when things go wrong and aren’t concerned about who gets the credit when things go well.
5. Be open to opinions
There’s one last secret to great leadership. You have to be open. If you close your mind to a group of employees or pick favorites, it leads to dysfunction and disunity. “The effective leader needs to take in and distill multiple points of view from various people and agendas, and make a well-grounded decision in line with the company’s mission and values,” says Siegel. “A successful leader understands the need to change and adapt–to be open to differing points of view and new ways of doing things–even if that means stepping out of one’s comfort zone.