Key Characteristics of Powerful Leaders

Top leaders need to be especially good at what they do. The power they have available to them accentuates both their strengths and their weaknesses. Leaders are also not subject to the ordinary checks and balances like other employees.  Additionally, people will magnify the characteristics of the top leader, both good and bad, by mimicking their behavior without even knowing it and use the leader’s behavior as the excuse/justification for what they do.

While there are many characteristics of great leaders, below are the most critical six key characteristics:

  1. Use a Compelling Vision that is Embraced by the Culture: the leader or top team may be clear on the vision (destination) and path, but if very few others in the rest of the organization can verbalize or even feel the vision and goals, success is far from guaranteed. Knowing the destination and possible methods to get there allows prioritization and focus on powerful actions tied to big leaps.
  2. Relentlessly Persist Towards Results vs. Activity or Tasks: when the focus is on hard work, or working many hours, and that alone becomes valued instead of getting great results, the activity has become the focus. Instead, the dream, the vision, the story needs to stay fresh and not get lost. Regardless of how much activity someone is doing, are they getting valuable results helping towards reaching the goal? Are your people stopping, closing the door and thinking about what is most important and identifying a way to do it more effective way?  This assumes you have a clear destination and path laid out in the first place.
  3. Fit Unique People into Specialized Teams: gone is the day of the person that knows it all and can do it all. Today, teams that have similar values, similar goals and yet diverse experiences, backgrounds, skills and capabilities achieve the most. The best leaders look for a team with the right diversity to accomplish the objective, as well as go beyond the goal and achieve even more.  Leaders create teams that will argue, discuss and have conflict with each other in a positive way; teams where relationships go beyond the task and into a realm where they help and challenge each other to become better individuals.
  4. Intentionally Mold the Culture to Fit the Plan: the worst leaders lead primarily by example, so everyone is left to guess what is really going on inside their head and in other parts of the organization. The best leaders share what they are thinking and feeling and how it impacts what they did, what they are doing and what they may do down the road. As part of this, they highlight heroics of the people in the culture that are directly reinforcing and doing what is needed to hit the short and long term goals. Adhering to the “slow to hire and quick to fire” philosophy, leaders must also adjust the roles and structure as needed to get better results and allow feedback to occur before a decision is made.
  5. Know When to Lead and Know When to Follow: the best leaders know when to charge forward and when to sit back. They know when to decide and push a course of action. They also know when to allow someone else – an individual or a team – to lead.  Some of the best followers will follow a leader because the leader needs them and knows it. The leader does not need the limelight or to be right. Instead, they help others to become their best.
  6. Listen and Ask Great Questions that Gets Others to Achieve the Impossible: there must be a dialogue, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly that causes information to be shared both between departments and up and down the food chain. The best dialogue comes from the top leader asking good questions and using uncommon listening. The listening and questions allow the teams and culture to see how they personally are part of the journey and what makes them so very important on that journey to their fellow travelers.

To assess the important leaders on your team, contact us at 800-786-4332 for an assessment that covers the key areas outlined above. We also offer culture assessments to get feedback from your entire organization that includes recommendations for implementation – to hear more, email




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