5 Characteristics of Outstanding Leaders

There are five main characteristics I like to focus on when considering the aspects of an outstanding leader. There are not many complete leaders who have all of these qualities, but we can strive to improve these areas so you can become more effective when leading others.

male holding his tie with text saying "follow me".

Holding a Vision

There is a good chance the people you are leading really want to achieve lasting change, but they don’t know how. There is a temptation for us to step in and “fix” them and do things, which can be accomplished by themselves. You must resist this urge. You can hold a vision of your people, which reflects their future “potential”.

Help them see the vision of their potential. They may need someone like you to show them a new vision of possibilities. Remember, most people don’t really believe they are capable of achieving worthwhile goals.

Keeping Strong Boundaries

The irony of leadership is that people will respect you more if you keep strong boundaries and hold them accountable. You can witness this in all areas of sports. Have you noticed some of the toughest coaches are the ones most loved by their players?

It’s because the players understand the coach is holding them accountable and fostering personal growth in each of them. You can do the same as a leader. Hold people accountable for deadlines. Explain that you are keeping boundaries to help them grow. Require someone to show up for him or herself. They will respect you a lot for holding these strong boundaries.

Challenging Others to be Better

You might think that “supporting” someone is a good idea while holding a position of leadership, but what is “support”? Are you just solidifying bad habits in people by always letting things slide and not stretching them towards something better? You may clearly see that someone is capable of much more than presently demonstrated.

This is your chance to stretch their limits. Give them a new responsibility, which will challenge their current position. Give them new authority and see how they respond. Often, your closest friends or family “support” you, but they aren’t challenging you to be better. If you can see more potential in someone, let him or her know and push a little. They will usually respond and become more effective.

Increasing Your Options

Similarly to holding a vision for someone while holding a position of leadership, you should always increase options for people. Give them pathways to stretch and become something greater in the future. Many people you are leading cannot see options for themselves. This is where you can provide an incredible service to them. Suggest a promotion or a training course for them. Ask them if they have ever considered pursuing a position of leadership. What are they currently doing to prepare themselves?

Creating Change that Lasts

Creating lasting change in someone proves that you are a very affective leader. Remember to not challenge a client or coworker too much at once. You are just looking for them to accomplish baby steps. This is the secret. Small changes produce huge results. If you challenge them too much at once or over complicate something, they will run in fear or quit. This is human nature. We can’t handle too much change at once and will avoid this seemingly painful transition if possible.

Giving someone the knowledge to change is easy.  Knowledge doesn’t create behavior change. There are endless books and programs to help us change, but how many of them work in the long run? This is why outstanding leaders are paid a lot of money. They understand how to accomplish behavior change in other people so they can feel better while achieving dreams. Leaders of this quality keep things simple and outline simple, clear steps for clients or workers. This clarity allows someone to accept the challenge without their primordial brain rearing its head and preventing them from taking a small risk towards change.

So remember these five leadership characteristics. Vision, boundaries, challenging others, increasing your options, and creating long term change will produce miracles in others and any organization. Of course, every leader is different and brings their own flavor of creativity to the overall process, but these characteristics are stubbornly apparent in outstanding leaders everywhere and throughout history.

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