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20 Signs of Leadership Excellence

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Depending on what books or articles you read, there are more than twenty different leadership styles. An autocratic leader, for example, is generally a unilateral decision-maker, while a democratic one encourages input before making decisions. A delegative style, meanwhile, assigns responsibility and decision-making to other managers. But, as with most things in life, style is not nearly as important as substance. So, whether you aspire to be a person of authority or already are, here are 20 attributes that great ones encompass.

1. Compassion and empathy: When a leader demonstrates these qualities, they earn the respect and loyalty of those around them: it’s that simple.

2. Emphasis on open communication: Leaders should ensure that employees have a voice and a platform for expressing thoughts.

3. Articulates clear expectations: A person in authority has a responsibility to express expectations in a manner which employees can follow, as well as regularly assess process and progress.

4. Always teaches: Most great staff members are made. A great manager recognizes that a critical aspect of their job is to teach and grow employees’ knowledge base. Think of it as akin to banking: You can either stick money in a savings account and watch it grow slowly or invest and see it grow exponentially faster.

Related: Why Servant Leadership is Becoming the Leadership Style of the Future

5. Inspires others: Inspiration is about engendering creativity, loyalty, dedication and every other positive attribute we want employees to possess.

6. Leads by example: Anyone in a position of authority should hold themselves to the same expectations to which they hold others.

7. Embraces opportunities: Change and challenges can be seen as problematic, but a capable leader embraces them as opportunities to adapt, learn and grow.

8. Fosters creativity: Employees inevitably possess capability resources beyond their assigned tasks. Each one of them has the ability to bring new perspectives and ideas, so encourage that.

9. Encourages feedback: All leaders generally have the final say, but great ones solicit and listen to feedback and take it into consideration before taking action.

10. Empowers others: The best way to grow successfully is to encourage others to constructively contribute — to freely entrust staff members with important tasks, and to solicit innovations from them.

11. Offers transparency: Whether what needs saying is good or bad, a leader offers communication clarity, which engenders trust and loyalty and reduces stress.

12. Takes accountability: No one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from others. Part of being a winning authority figure is owning mistakes.

13. Is authentic: Most people do not want to feel patronized or pandered to. Be yourself and be genuine, and you will inspire others to do the same.

14. Acknowledges effort and results: Recognition is a powerful tool: It sends the message that you see and appreciate the actions of those around you. Every employee is valuable, yes, but each one of them need to told exactly why.

Related: What’s the Real Difference Between Leadership and Management?

15. Is loyal: From turnover to productivity (or their lack), loyalty manifests itself in many ways, and the best way to foster it is to demonstrate it.

16. Rewards excellence: Superlative work should be a high bar not easy to reach, and for those who do achieve it, there should be a suitable reward.

17. Shares in success: Whether through profit sharing, career advancement or other bonuses or opportunities, when a company experiences success, it should share it with the people responsible for making it possible.

18. Avoids distractions: A great leader has the vision, mission and values that help define a company. If something does not align with or deters from these principles, it should be removed or avoided.

19. Actively listens and observes: We learn by watching and listening, not by talking and directing. Take time every day to fine-tune those managerial antennae.

20. Asks for help: There is likely no better way to make someone feel valued and appreciated than asking them for help. Your humility as a leader in doing so will pay off tenfold. After all, great leadership is not inherent to everyone, and should not be limited to those with power; it is a process that can and needs to be cultivated.

Related: How Asking for Help Can Be the Difference Between Success and Shutting Down

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