There are endless lists of important leadership traits, ranging from being a visionary to being able to forgive others who have wronged us. There are endless lists of the traits of the most toxic leaders as well. They are all correct!
There are 3 traits, however, that determine how effective a leader will be in growing their company, and developing personally and professionally.
1: Being Coachable and Open to Help
The single most important action a leader can take to be a better leader is to ask for help. Often when we start out, we mistakenly believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. The opposite is true. Asking for help is a sign that you are secure enough with yourself, and committed with such conviction to your growth that you are open to learning what you need to know in order to make good decisions.
Once you embrace the idea that learning from others and seeking help is a sign of strength, your potential for growth is unlimited.
There are many ways to seek help:
- Hire a business coach. Executive coaching is now a $1 billion industry. Leaders who are committed to growth realize they can’t reach their goals without understanding their strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots, and embrace the idea of forging a relationship with a trained, experienced professional who thrives on helping others.
- Find a peer group. There are many groups today that provide opportunities to connect with other leaders, including Entrepreneurs Organization, Women Presidents Organization, Vistage, and many local groups. There are also many online groups that cater to general leadership and specific industries.
- Build an advisory board. An advisory board is your hand-selected group of advisors that are aligned to the holes and goals of your organization. Unlike a Board of Directors, there is no fiduciary responsibility, so leaders are able to take or leave whatever advice they receive without consequence.
- Post a need online and circulate in your communities. People can’t help you if they don’t know you need help. Be bold when asking. People will step forward.
CEOs that embrace growth and learning, and strive to be the least knowledgeable in the room, will always grow the most.
2: Being Open to Accountability
One of the biggest frustrations my CEO clients share is lack of accountability in their organizations. Accountability always starts with the leader. Employees must see their own leadership teams embrace accountability.
I laugh when young business owners say that they started their businesses because they didn’t want to answer to anyone else. They quickly learn that successful entrepreneurs are accountable to everyone: their employees, customers, banks, investors, partners, vendors, advisors – anyone that touches your company.
CEOs that wake up every day with the mindset, “I have to deliver today because others are depending on me” will always meet or exceed the expectations others have of them, will be seen as someone who is dependable and trustworthy, and will be known as a leader who delivers on their promises. These leaders will attract the best talent and the best customers because they live in integrity, which is the foundation of every healthy relationship.
3: Being Comfortable with Discomfort
Leadership is an endless state of discomfort. You’re constantly stepping up your game, being entrusted to guide others through uncertainty, are constantly being watched, and often face difficult situations that are beyond your control.
Leaders know that complacency and comfort are the fastest paths to obsolescence.
- They’re constantly pushing the envelope for company growth. A client is on an aggressive acquisition path. He wants to rapidly scale his company, and has cash on hand to acquire under-performing companies. He’s aware it would be calmer, less disruptive, and easier to grow steadily through organic growth, but he has ambitious growth targets. He’s communicated to his employees that he knows the path may be rocky, but he’s ready to lead them through it.
- They consciously work to conquer fear. Fear is the greatest growth paralyzer. We rule fear or fear rules us. There is no in-between.
- They put themselves out there to forge new relationships. Business owners can’t grow a business on an island. It’s always uncomfortable to extend a hand to build a new relationship, even for the most experienced, extroverted leader.
The best leaders possess a wide range of traits, but the potential for personal and organizational growth is limitless for those that embrace help, accountability, and discomfort.