5 Qualities All Great Leaders Have in Common by Heidi Zak – INC.

Real leadership goes well beyond skills.

By Heidi ZakCo-founder and co-CEO, ThirdLove
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Over the past seven years, I have learned that when it comes to leadership, nothing beats authenticity.

In the early days of building ThirdLove, I was so fixated on trying to be a “great leader” or a “great public speaker” that I realized I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. I would correct myself, be overly conscious of how often I moved my hands, or which words I used to describe certain situations, so that I ended up not channeling my most authentic self.  I came to learn that not only is it OK to speak with your hands, or speak more conversationally, but that those things make you more real, more engaging to the audience, and a more genuinely confident leader.

My perspective has changed about what a great leader looks like–and I believe there are five qualities all great leaders have in common:

1. All great leaders are dedicated to being themselves, rather than “fitting the mold” of what they (or others) believe a leader should look like.

There tend to be fewer female CEOs than male CEOs in the business world.

If you think about what used to be the idea of a CEO, the image that comes to mind is probably an older white male. He probably acts a certain way, does certain things, and over time has created the definition of what a “CEO leader” should look like.

But especially in today’s day and age, leadership is less about “fitting the mold” and more about being dynamic, relatable, and someone other people can genuinely connect with. The more you can put that energy out into the world, the more people you can and will attract.

2. All great leaders say what they mean, and mean what they say.

People have to know that what you say holds weight–and that if you make a promise, you will follow through on that promise. People have to know they can rely on you.

This is one of the qualities we value most in our management team at ThirdLove. I have 100 percent trust that when someone tells me they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it (and do it well). And I have to create that same level of trust with them, following through on my promises to them. Trust isn’t built simply because they or I say the words. It’s built through experience after experience of a promise being made, and then that promise being delivered on.

3. All great leaders can consistently make the right decisions in a timely fashion.

You don’t always have the luxury of thinking indefinitely about how to solve a problem. And most of the time we don’t have all the information we’d like to have but still have to move ahead.

Sometimes, decisions have to be made quickly. One of the things that can frustrate teams and other leaders within an organization is when someone is holding things up out of fear of making the wrong decision. It becomes very hard for people to respect a leader who either can’t make a definitive decision or ping-pongs back and forth between conflicting decisions.

4. All great leaders take the lion’s share of the responsibility.

When a decision goes awry, great leaders never throw someone else under the bus.

The worst type of potential leader is someone who blames other people for what is ultimately their responsibility. In our case at ThirdLove, the buck stops with me and my co-CEO. If one of our teammates or managers makes a mistake, that’s not just a reflection of them, but also a reflection of us–and it’s our responsibility to ask ourselves, and other leaders, what else we could have done to prevent the mistake and do better next time.

5. All great leaders inspire and empower the people around them.

Being a leader is not a right. It’s a privilege.

Every single day, your job is to excite your team, have them buy into the collective mission, and really understand what it is you’re trying to accomplish. And the more your organization grows, it’s not just about the founders or executives being able to inspire, but about your managers, your department heads, even your junior employees being able to do the same.

Being able to communicate why you are all going on the journey together is how you build a team. And the more effectively you can communicate your mission, the more effectively you will be able to hire, scale, and all grow as one.

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