Alexander the Great. George Washington. Winston Churchill. Augustus Caesar. Queen Victoria.
All of the above are considered by many to be great leaders for various reasons. Alexander the Great amassed the largest empire of the ancient world in 13 short years —before he reached age 33. George Washington defeated the most powerful empire of the eighteenth century —with a rag-tag army. Winston Churchill inspired his small island nation to rise from the ashes of the Blitz to victory in World War II. Augustus Caesar established the longest lasting peace and prosperity (the Pax Romana) of the ancient world —well over 200 years. Queen Victoria actively promoted sweeping social and political reforms throughout her massive empire —including the abolition of slavery and regulation of factory working hours.
What made these leaders great? How can we be leaders in our worlds, be it in business or in our community? At Opterre, we believe success begins with the individual and leadership is cultivated.
LEADERSHIP QUALITIES DRIVE QUALITY LEADERSHIP
- The ability to inspire. There is power in numbers. If you can’t convince others to follow you, you’ll never achieve your dreams. Frequently, leaders are great orators (think Martin Luther King, Jr) and great communicators. The ability to motivate others is one key to great leadership. Some leaders have this ability naturally. Most of us need to cultivate it. It’s possible to learn to speak well and to influence and inspire others.
- They have a vision. Alexander the Great’s driving force was to conquer India and China. He died before he could accomplish this, and his men were beginning to weary of fighting. But, he had a goal. All leaders need to have a vision of where they are going.
- They have focus. Once you have your vision, laser-like focus is necessary to make it happen. Distractions happen. We can learn to focus by controlling distractions that otherwise threaten to ambush our day-to-day decisions.
- They have a purpose. This purpose must be powerful. Winston Churchill believed if England didn’t defeat Hitler, Hitler would take over the world. His purpose was to protect England at all costs. He succeeded.
- The team matters. If there’s nothing in it for your team, they won’t follow you for too long. You can unite around a common goal (such as getting a product to market by a certain deadline or abolishing slavery as Queen Victoria and her Parliament united to do). You, as the leader, have to be able to convey goals effectively.
- They foster loyalty. Nowhere is this more evident than Napoleon. He escaped his exilement due to his loyal soldiers. A leader evokes loyalty wherever they go, which is cultivated around and from the preceding points.
- They possess unrivaled passion. Whatever the goal (whether to conquer a country or gain women the right to vote such as was Susan B Anthony’s goal), the leader believes wholeheartedly in the venture. He or she lives and breathes the goal and through his or her example, inspires others to do so as well.
- Belief and confidence permeate everything else. A leader believes in his or her abilities to get the job done, to lead a team to success, to win the battle, to win the war no matter the circumstances. He or she is confident despite the inevitable setbacks that occur.
- They delegate. You are just one person with 24-hours in your day. If you delegate, you effectively multiply those hours. Trust others and deploy their skills and expertise in both their best interest and that of the organization.
- They fail with grace. Humans are fallible. We will make mistakes. We may even have to pivot a few times. Leaders own their mistakes, take responsibility for their mistakes, and learn from their mistakes. They grow because of their mistakes.
Opterre believes leaders are like you and me with just a few defining characteristics listed above. Leaders have the courage, the vision, the fortitude, and the integrity to stick to their guns when they have to or to discern the best change of course when an obstacle looms ahead. Leaders lose with grace and return the stronger. In essence, leaders don’t quit.