It’s Showtime! Characteristics of Great Leaders

Quick. Think of your favorite actor or actress. He or she could be from television, movies or the stage. Alive or not.

When you think of that amazing artist, what characteristics come to mind of that person? What distinguishes them as a performer? How would you describe them as an actor? Typical responses include the following: they are genuine, flexible, very talented, hard-working, passionate, well-trained, fun, adaptive, effective communicators, and the list goes on. As you look at this list of attributes, who else could we have just described?

Great athletes, maybe. School teachers, many. Presidents, getting closer. How about great leaders? Bingo! I believe great leaders can be described using many if not all of the above characteristics. What does this suggest to us about leadership?

Great Leaders are Great Performers.

Leadership is much like a performance. As a leader, you are on stage each and every day performing for your employees, your customers, your vendors, and so on. One of my clients shared with me his own experience as a performer. He described it like this, “I pull into my parking spot at the office each day, and before I exit the car, I look in the rearview mirror and say to myself, ‘It’s showtime!’”

He does this to remind himself that from the time he leaves his car each morning to the time he returns to it each evening, he is no longer just Bill Smith, he is Bill Smith, CEO. “I am the leader of this company, and I have to perform that role each day at work,” Bill explained. He continued, “I realize that when I enter the office each day I am being watched by everyone. I am on stage. I must be mindful of what I say, to whom I speak, and how I say it. They (my employees) are watching every move I make.”

I find this story very interesting. Great leaders are performers. On stage every day.

Great Leaders: Born or Developed?

There’s an age old question in the field of leadership development about whether great leaders are born or developed? Are individuals born with God-given talents that lend themselves to being effective leaders, or are these talents learned in classrooms or on the job? I gave this question a lot of thought and came to the conclusion that it is both.

I believe we are all born with a certain set of characteristics that may or may not lend themselves to us being a more effective leader. These could be physical traits such as our height, looks, or maybe endurance. They could also be mental traits such as intelligence, emotional intelligence, or ability to think outside the box. I also believe there is much to learn about leadership, such as effective ways to communicate, and how to manage in a variety of different situations. It’s also important to examine the characteristics of other great leaders and apply those to ourselves.

What are you doing this year to improve your leadership performance? Are you comfortable on stage? Will your employees nominate you for the greatest performance by a leader this year? I love a great show and great dramatic performances. I look forward to hearing about yours.