4 Things Great Leaders Know That Separate Them From the Rest of the Pack

Leadership isn’t something people are born with. It’s a skill like any other, and any skill can be learned. The rewards of mastering leadership go far beyond the accolades. Most importantly, strong leadership allows the company to thrive even in tough times. Company culture is often attributed to the person on top. A strong leader knows how to inspire their team, to get the most out of each member on their team, and how to leverage their own time.

Here are four things that all great leaders instinctively know which allow them to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. These concepts work just as well for Fortune 500 companies as they do for smaller companies looking to grow.

They Know That The Team Comes First

Sports teams are filled with players with massive egos. Salaries, positions, playing time, and so much more cause angst among teammates, and the same is true in the corporate world, if not more so. But like any sports team, in order to succeed, people have to table their ego. They win as a team or they fail a team. Individuals may have standout roles and execute well but are so often overlooked in the big scheme of things if the team failed.

It makes little difference if you like the person you are working with. They may or may not share your political views. You may or may not like their attitude. But a team is about getting results. While each member in the team may be competing for promotions and stock options, most of the time it’s the team that wins that gets to reap the true benefits. A strong team is composed of strong individuals, which can lead to tension, but only the best teams understand that they must keep their ego in check and accept responsibility for their role. Great leaders have the ability to get everyone to buy into the concept that the team comes first.

Key Takeaway: Check your ego at the door.

They Know How To Criticize

No one likes to be criticized. It’s hurtful. However, mistakes need to be addressed otherwise they will continue to happen. Nipping it in the bud is what every leader should keep in mind. Failure to address mistakes will inevitably lead to huge problems as what starts out small can spiral out of control quickly if not addressed. Barings Bank is a perfect example. Back in 1990, Nick Leeson, acting as a rogue trader, racked up losses of $1.3 billion and caused the collapse of one of the biggest names in banking at the time.

So how should leaders go about handing criticizing managers and team members? First and foremost, criticism should be done behind closed doors. Never in public. Legendary NFL Coach Vince Lombardi got it right: “Praise in public, criticize in private.” Moreover, criticism alone doesn’t go down well, which is why John Maxwell talks about bookmarking in his book Developing The Leader Within You. Bookmarking is simply sandwiching one criticism between two compliments, making the criticism more palatable.

Key Takeaway: Two-to-one ratio. 

They Know Communication Is Power

Steve Jobs was a master at presenting. Apple Big Events were and still are, watched by fans and competitors alike. Steve would always be able to keep some things under wraps and would keep people guessing right up until the event. He was a master communicator, sharing stories and ideas that allowed listeners to see the possibilities of his new tech. Abraham Lincoln, considered one of the greatest American presidents, and Winston Churchill, prime minister of England during their darkest hours, both understood the power of communication. They, like Jobs, remembered three things in telling stories:

  1. Passion comes across strongly in communication.
  2. Humor is especially effective.
  3. Witty stories that are directly applicable to challenges at hand are powerful.

Key Takeaway: Become a storyteller.

They Know The Importance of Coaches

Great leaders, like high achievers, know how to ask for help. They know when they are out of their depth. They know they don’t know everything and have their circle of trusted advisors to help them when they need it. Joe Montana, in his book The Winning Spirit, talks about “brain trusts.” Coaches accelerate the rate of improvement and growth. They see the things we can’t, the blind spots that every leader has. They are also one step removed from the situation, allowing them to provide a sense of perspective those who are too close to the situation are struggling with. Coaches might not have all the answers, but they will be able to spark ideas that help in creating solutions to problems.

Key Takeaway: Build your own board of directors.

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