How Great Leaders Lead

What makes a leader great?

Standout leaders are an eclectic group these days. Whether it’s a college dropout building the latest social media app, a graduate student running a successful marketing business out of their basement, or the traditional business man in a suit, what matters most is the ability to create enthusiasm, instill confidence in and empower others. What great leaders share, besides passion, purpose, and vision, is the ability to inspire.

Time and again data taken from extensive surveying and polling confirms, “Inspiring” leadership outweighs a host of other leadership capabilities. According to such data, recorded by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in the Harvard Business Review, the ability to inspire creates the highest levels of employee engagement and commitment. It is what separates the most effective leaders from their more average counterparts, and is the most identified factor by staff when asked what they look for most often in a leader.

Let us then take a moment to evaluate what inspirational leaders actually do that sets them apart?

Peter Handal, chief executive of Dale Carnegie Training, a leadership training company in New York City, believes effective leadership boils down to a handful of traits. He maintains that great leaders are brave enough to face challenging situations head-on and with honesty, which in turn builds trust with your employees. This is essential for a productive, as well as loyal, workplace. Building trust can be done in different ways: from taking an interest in your staff beyond work, to regularly discussing with them their career paths. But no matter how you decide to go about building trust, the important thing is to be authentic. It’s very important to use your strengths and personality traits to develop your personal leadership style.

Being authentic and trustworthy typically go hand in hand with conducting yourself in an ethical way, which in turn earns the respect of your employees, your fellow leadership team, and your customers, and is an essential element of leadership engagement.

Of course, there may be a preconceived idea that inspirational leaders must be overly enthusiastic in their approach to be successful. But in reality there are many different approaches that leaders can take that don’t necessarily rely on them being extraverts. They may create a compelling vision of the future, or they may meet with team members and build goals collectively. Or they may set certain challenging goals along with a deadline and drive the team forward that way. The very best leaders have the ability to master multiple approaches to get the very best out of their employees.

At naisA Global our interest is in whether leaders can learn to become more inspiring. We maintain that those with the right potential and drive, with the right support can develop themselves into first class inspirational leaders. And according to a study conducted by Zenger and Folkman, executives willing to improve their skills to inspire others made big strides (from the 42 percent to the 70 percent) over a three-year period, showing that when leaders with awareness, have good feedback at their disposal and a development plan built just for them, they can make significant inroads into learning this extremely important capability.

naisA Global is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping talented young Asian professionals unlock their potential and become great leaders.