I have so far enjoyed reading Common Purpose’s #MyFavouriteLeader blog series. It’s caused me to reflect on the leaders I admire in society and in my own life: the first great leader I ever met; the first leader to change my mind; to demonstrate what influence means; to inspire and create a sense of purpose. As I thought about all the great leaders I have encountered in my life, I realized how different they are from each other. But for all their differences there were three common characteristics they all shared.
I cannot help but admire leaders who are willing to stand up for their convictions, even when it makes them unpopular. These are people we can trust to not bend under the pressure of the popular vote. We often use ‘convictions’ as a measure of political leaders but I’m thinking about the leaders in my own life who embody this: a businesswoman, a mother, a journalist and a consultant. These people are leaders in their community and stand steadfast for their ideals. They’re clear about their path and it gives them an air of confidence. They know where they are going and why, and it means that people want to follow them
The second characteristic is the ability to admit when you are wrong. The capacity to admit fault and take action to right wrongs is something that is often overlooked in leaders. At times it is seen as weakness, a failing. However I see it in those I admire and I can’t help believing that it makes them stronger. Leaders who can admit their own faults seem a little more human and, to me at least, a little more accessible. After all, what takes more fortitude; taking responsibility and working to fix a problem or ignoring it and blaming someone else? Only someone who is confident in their sense of self can admit wrongdoing without their ego getting in the way.
For me, leaders have to have a life outside of the workplace. This isn’t the same as not checking their work email on the weekend, but they do have friends, families and interests. They go to the theatre, movies, family lunches, birthday parties, bridge evenings, whatever it is. They understand the importance of human connections. Whether it’s partners, children, friends or family, the leaders I admire maintain strong relationships with people they don’t work with everyday. They work hard to maintain their personal ties as well as their professional ones. It’s something that separates them from the pack, they are well rounded; they’ve got the golden formula.
In short, I think great leaders know who they are and why they are.
But who have been the great leaders in your life? What made them a great leader and what characteristics did they share? Let me know your story in comments below on or social media using the hashtag #MyFavouriteLeader