Learn the five traits that great leaders share, and how you can emulate their examples of effective leadership.
In this article:
- Five Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Assess Yourself as a Leader
Great Leaders and Their Traits: What You Can Learn from Them
Five Characteristics of a Good Leader
Today, let’s talk about the five traits of great leaders and leadership best practices. This is straight from XANT Founder Dave Elkington. Dave started his own unicorn company and has a full career under his belt.
He shared with us the five characteristics of a good leader that he believes are important. According to him, most leaders have not mastered all of them. If you want to become a great leader yourself, here are five traits you should aspire to have and develop.
Unicorn company definition: A start-up company that has been valued at more than $1 billion after receiving venture capital.
1. Great Leaders Have Domain Expertise
First, great leaders have domain expertise — they are experts in their fields. A leader, by definition, is one who leads the way. You can’t lead if you’re not an expert in your field.
Leaders become great when they actively hone their skills and level up their expertise in their field. That means they make written contributions or host their own industry-specific podcast. They also have speaking engagements and give industry presentations. Basically, they make sure they lead from the front.
If you want to be a great leader, you need to be the person who people look up to. You need to show your team how it’s done.
One of the things that savvy leaders do in this realm is they take their personal brand and they align it around the company’s brand. In this way, it doesn’t seem like their brand is randomly out there and there is no disconnection.
One of the people who do this well is Russell Brunson, co-founder of software company ClickFunnels. Another one is Ryan Deiss of DigitalMarketer. These are two great leaders and industry experts who aligned their personal brand and message around their company.
2. Great Leaders Recruit and Hire
Second, great leaders are hands-on when it comes to recruitment and hiring. They define their culture and explicitly hire based on that.
If your culture needs improvements, you’ve got to do something about it. It’s either you hire slow and fire fast, or you hire fast and fire fast. You’ve got to make changes very often. Dave said, “You’ve got to recruit and build your pipeline constantly. Even if you don’t have an available position, you should look for great people, even just to talk to them.”
As a leader, you’ve got to be able to sell your vision to incoming candidates. This is one of the keys to recruiting and hiring. Great leaders are visionaries.
A lot of people wonder how they should hire. Dave said, “You want to get more into the fresh talents, meaning you want to build people.” This is the concept of a farm league where you’re mentoring people so they can become great. You hire for potential, not only the current skill sets. A person can learn new skills, but cannot grow talent from nothing.
Dave’s recommendation was to go for a 70:30 ratio, meaning 70% inexperienced go-getter hustlers and 30% experienced. They’re going to be the great talents who will get work done.
3. Great Leaders Build and Mentor
The character of a leader is built through a good mentor, which why it is only natural for great leaders to invest time in building and mentoring other people.
You’ve got to be able to grow your team. I mentioned the farm league model — the concept of the 70:30 ratio that allows people to work with each other. That entails a lot of mentoring because you’ve got many fresh talents in there.
When it comes to building your team, don’t live by committee — that only bogs down planning. You need to define your strategies and then empower your team. Let them make suggestions and build within certain confines. Don’t spend so much time trying to build by committee because it slows things down.
You’ve got to grow your culture and be fun. Make sure culture works within the confines of the company culture, which can also be extremely important.
4. Great Leaders Know the Numbers
Fourth, great leaders know their numbers. They are able to track success, and they understand the numbers in and out. Great leaders know the leading and lagging indicators. They also have a regular cadence of reports.
As a leader, you need to meet regularly with your team to review progress on things that are happening. You need to know your numbers better than the team does. You can also drive and incentivize your team based on the data.
In turn, your team will focus on what they’re paid for. That’s plain and simple human nature. A lot of teams don’t have that kind of structure. Employees get paid based on a company number, something that they don’t psychologically own. That can certainly be problematic.
5. Great Leaders Expand Their Network and Executive Relationships
Lastly, great leaders develop and build relationships with their peers within and outside of the company. Somebody once said that the biggest sale is actually back home. If you’re a salesperson, getting the deal and inking it is important. The bigger battle, though, or the bigger sale, often needs to happen back home.
You need your own cheerleaders. You need to have people who are excited about what you’re doing and are eager to see you win. That said, you need to develop a network of people whom you can also treat as a benchmark. Build those internal relationships.
At the same time, you also need an external network. These are people you can talk to and whom you can also set benchmarks against.
How do you do that? You’ve got to think about breakfast or lunch meetings and other different ways you can connect with somebody. Dave mentioned setting a goal to connect with someone, ideally one person a week. That goal works out well.
Another thing that Dave said was, “if you could text, then you have struck up a relationship with them. It may not yet be a strong peer-to-peer relationship, but you can develop it to be one.”
Assess Yourself as a Leader
Among the leadership qualities that Dave Elkington shared, which do you think are your strong and weak points? In which areas do you see opportunities for growth?
Assess yourself as a leader. Take each trait mentioned above and evaluate your proficiency between one to five, then start to systematically build on what needs improvement over the course of your career.
Remember, great leaders know what they’re good at and where they have areas of opportunity. They find ways to work around those areas of opportunities. They also bring good people into their team.
It is often said that “Great leaders are made, not born.” If you want to become a great leader, develop these traits within yourself. Build your own brand and follow examples of effective leadership so you can succeed as a leader.
What steps are you taking to become an effective leader? Let us know in the comments section below.