4 Essential Qualities Of Leadership

Leadership is a personal quality and behavior, not a role or title. And it’s an increasingly important capability as enterprise diversity and distances between people increase. Distance and diversity are compounded by a massive gap between people, their work, goals and feedback. While it’s always been important for senior managers and executives to lead, it’s never been more important for front-line managers to do so.

Why is leadership at every level so important? Just 7% of people understand the goals of their organization and what they need to do to achieve them. Ironically, 76% of people say they use daily to-do lists. As many as 30% of U.S. workers work from home and many more work across different locations. It’s now both more important and more difficult to make the mission clear and relevant, engage people in goal achievement, drive accountability and give regular feedback to physically distributed team members.

While goals may be set top down, they are achieved — or fail — on the front line. If you are a first-, second- or third-line manager, you play a crucial part in translating abstract company vision into personally compelling mission for your direct reports. Elevating your leadership skills elevates your team’s results and your career. Cultivate these four qualities to expand your leadership impact and effectiveness, whether you have a team of seven or 700:

1. Clarity and vision
Leaders understand the problem or opportunity in front of them at its most essential level. Rather than the symptoms or byproducts of it, they understand the heart of it. They can articulate a clear, compelling vision for the solution to the problem or path forward to opportunity. Curiosity and deep interest in the intricacies of customer needs and markets build greater capacity in this leadership quality.

2. Ability to engage people realization and achievement 
Leaders engage others to solve the problem or realize the opportunity identified. It’s not only motivating or inspiring people to achieve; leaders can break that achievement down into actions, then coach and hold people accountable on the path to goal. It’s where the proverbial rubber meets the road — realizing the vision through effort, tenacity and execution. Build leadership credibility and influence by demonstrating a high level of effort and execution every day.

Elon Musk quote

3. Heightened awareness of change in the environment
Leaders are highly aware of the continuous change around them. They are adept at monitoring it, and quickly refactoring their problem/solution or opportunity statements to reflect the ever-changing environment. They know that anticipating where the puck will be and their response speed will improve their industry position (and their career trajectory). Build strength in this area by consciously — even voraciously — broadening and sharpening your listening skills.

4. Ability to influence and bring about change
When they combine clear vision, an ability to articulate a plan to execute and acute listening, leaders are more effective at driving the change they want to realize. More importantly, leaders combine greater understanding of change with genuine intent to provide real solutions and value. This amplifies their impact and influence — not because they talk a lot, but because they provide valued insights, assistance and answers. To amplify this quality, put your internal or external customer squarely at the center of your actions and conversation; the shift from self to others will vastly improve your results.

According to Deloitte, CEOs want more people to demonstrate leadership skills — it’s their most pressing talent concern: only 14% believe there are enough leaders in their management pipeline. Unfortunately, only 5% of these executives report having robust management and leadership development programs in place to help potential leaders build skills and rise through the organization!

While some managers feel overworked or stretched too thin, for motivated managers it’s a perfect time to build leadership competencies and skills. The need and the rewards are there! Many people now use a Line Manager App to increase their capacity to lead and improve their management efficiency. They spend less time on management fundamentals and step up to become the leader they want to be.

Leadership isn’t a job, it’s the way you do a job. Lead the way!

photo credit: Elon Musk via photopin (license)

There Are No “Almost Great” Leaders

Once upon a time, I had the extraordinary privilege of playing for some of the greatest conductors in history.

But before you tsk-tsk me for self-aggrandizement, let me also say that I once had the not-so-extraordinary experience of playing . . . for some of the worst conductors in history too.

Many were just dull or mildly annoying, but there were also quite a few that were, well, what can I say . . . they were a genuine check-the-clock-every-45-seconds-wondering-if-life-is-really-worth-living-and-should-I-quit-the-bass-and-take-up-animal-husbandry experience.

But here is the odd thing: there was no middle. I never once encountered an “almost great” conductor. They were either magical, making everything flow with virtually no effort, or they were misery.

When I stepped out of my cultural silo to share this phenomenon with the broader world of people who earn money for a living, I discovered that it was not at all unique to the music business. I had merely seen one iteration of an emotional fractal. People in many different walks of life have told me similar stories. There are no “almost great” leaders or managers anywhere; they either got it or they ain’t. It’s positive or negative, with no gray shades. Their polarity is simply magnified by their power, for good or for ill.

Note, their numbers are not evenly distributed between the two. Gallup’s statistics of workplace emotional disengagement support my theory that the ratio of great to miserable leaders is something like 1:4, or perhaps even 1:5. And so, since most of us are managed by somebody somewhere, and these Gallup numbers indicate that the chance of getting a good manager is perhaps less than 20%, we are all eager to improve our odds via leadership development.

But when we talk about “leadership development,” perhaps that is neither the right term nor the right approach, as it is clearly not a linear process; it’s a bit of a quantum either-or experience. You can always tell in any situation if the leader has embraced one polarity or the other. You can immediately see which of these mutually exclusive forces are in play: hubris or humility, command or communication, narcissism or empathy, fear or faith, blind obedience to systems and tradition or spontaneity, mistrust or trust.

You would think that, if the Earth’s magnetic field is capable of changing polarities, perhaps some of these folks stuck in the negative side can make the shift too. At least, it gives us hope.

But if we assume that there is science in it, and manifesting the positive polarity of leadership is not just a random genetic propensity, can those on the other side be brought round with mere textbook learning?  Or perhaps, are these folks in Group B caught in the grip of Alice Miller’s re-enactment syndrome, and they need, not just “training,” but new-age psychiatric healing help?

In any case, mere corrections on the temporal level miss the point. The fix lies in a leap to greater, or perhaps one might say deeper, consciousness. Once that happens, everything else becomes effortless, as people in that positive state become so open to energy flowing to them.

How to achieve it? Stay tuned . . .

About the Author: Justin Locke is a former bass player turned author, speaker, and consultant on “soft skills,” “emotional literacy,” and the “touchy feely” side of management and leadership. Visit his website at

photo credit: Rob Swystun via photopin cc