Characteristics of Great Leaders Who Leave Genuine Legacy



“There is no success without a successor.”

– Peter Drucker

contd from last edition

There are essentially five characteristics of great leaders interested in leaving a genuine legacy. The first of these is being flexible. Not everything goes as planned. Competitors change tactics, governments force new regulations on business, strikes stop the flow of products, and, occasionally, natural disasters occur. And, at times like these, leaders have to be able to change course; that is, first make sure their businesses will survive, and then find a new way to reach their goals.

The second characteristic is being able to communicate. Some leaders are great orators, but speaking well isn’t all that’s required of a leader. As we all know, there are many people who talk a great game but deliver nothing. Leaders who communicate well are those who not only share their thoughts with employees, but also let their strength and personal character show through in their communication. They empower those who work for them by defining the company’s goal and showing how to get there.

A third characteristic of great leaders–or, perhaps, group of characteristics–is having courage, tenacity, and patience. Having the courage to stand alone, the tenacity to not succumb to pressure, and the patience to keep fighting until you win the day; and sometimes being able to do all three at the same time is something you will have to develop, if you want to be a true and successful leader.

The fourth necessary characteristic is the combination of humility and presence. Acting aloof, or above your employees, does not make a leader. Leaders have to be able to talk and listen to their employees at all levels of the company. At the same time, they must have the respect of their employees; the kind of respect that’s earned by being honest, having integrity, and being tough but fair.

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The fifth and final characteristic of a successful leader is being responsible. A business owner has to realise that, as the saying goes, “A skunk stinks from the head down,” and a business does too. This means when there is blame to be accepted, the owner must be the first one to accept it. But it also means that when accolades are appropriate, they should be spread out among the employees. And when this happens, a leader is born.

Benefits of leadership that leaves genuine legacy

Being a leader enables you to be effective and efficient in determining your organisation’s destination and creating a team that focuses on getting it there.

Being a leader means defining and exhibiting moral and ethical courage and setting an example for everyone in the organisation.

Being a leader helps you teach leadership skills to your employees, who will then help do the “heavy lifting” of moving the organisation from where it is today to where it needs to be in the future.

Being a leader enables you to recruit, hire, and promote employees who demonstrate leadership abilities.

Being a leader forces you to analyse your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the company, and enables you to develop a good sense of reality.

Being a leader helps you dictate appropriate employee conduct while, at the same time, preventing employees from being too tough, ruthless, or mean to other members of the staff.

Being a leader helps you emphasise the value of the company’s customers, how they are treated, and the importance of their returning.

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Realities of leadership that leaves a genuine legacy

Your organisation can meet the goals you establish, only if you lead the way by motivating and encouraging your employees to become a coordinated team focused on the destination.

When you are leading your organisation into a “new frontier,” because neither you nor your employees have been there before, mistakes, miscues, and inexperience add to the challenge, and your leadership is key to meeting that challenge.

You have to understand and be good enough at leadership to teach it to your employees, both by example and by coaching. The more leaders you can develop, the stronger the business will be, and the less you will have to worry about how the business is operating.

In exhibiting leadership, there are essentially three things you must accomplish, if you hope to make the organisation a success. These three things don’t represent every facet of leadership, but they do form the foundation on which leadership is built and are an integral part of leadership at every level.

The first of these is achieving the objective. This is not something you, or anyone, can do alone, which means you will have to work with others to accomplish it.

The second is building and maintaining the team. Saying you need a team to accomplish something is one thing, but developing one, and consistently encouraging and motivating it, is something else, and something you must do.

The third and final thing you have to do is develop individuals within the company. In order to accomplish this, you must lead by example. Teach employees what leadership means so they can teach their direct subordinates. Establish an environment for success by eliminating excuses. Recognise when jobs are well done. Have the courage to make the tough calls, and encourage empowerment within certain parameters, among others.

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Leadership may mean different things to different people, but in a business, leadership must always start with the owner, who has to define exactly what leadership means to him or her, and then decide what success means to the business. However, being a leader also means articulating that vision to everyone else in the company, convincing them of its importance, and encouraging and motivating them to work together to achieve it. And while doing so may come more naturally to some than to others, it’s never easy. In fact, as Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, once said, “Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born. Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work.”

If you want to give your business organisation or nation a good start towards success, it has to start with leadership, and leadership has to start with you.

Ask yourself same question: When you’ve passed away, what will they say? Concerning character, will they say that you understood why integrity is more important than image? Concerning choices, will they say that you weighed every short-term pleasure against any long-term pain? Concerning conduct, will they say that you didn’t allow aloofness to get in the way of accountability to yourself, others and God? And concerning consequences, will they say that your life was more about significance than success? If so, then you can be assured that you’ll be leaving behind a legitimate leadership legacy.

Lere Baale is a Director of Business School Netherlands and a Certified Strategy Consultant at Howes Consulting Group


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