Five Things We Can Learn From Great Leaders

By Anthony Mitchell, CEO of Bendelta

Anthony Mitchell is an internationally recognised thought leader in strategic leadership. He has been advising companies internationally for the last 25 years, working across more than 30 countries on five continents. He advises clients ranging from leading multi-nationals and listed companies to major government agencies and not-for-profits.

As Dux of both his Mathematics and Psychology, and with postgraduate business qualifications from Cornell University (New York), Anthony has a unique mix of expertise across typically separate ways of thinking.

Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Angela Merkel. Whether you’re looking at business, politics, entertainment or sport, you will find examples of great leaders – people who have the inspiring ability to get things done and bring together people from all walks of life to achieve results that otherwise looked impossible.

Great leaders are diverse: they can range from the quiet and clean-cut right through to the wild and eccentric. Drilling down into what makes these people great leaders, however, shows a couple of common qualities and attitudes that we should all be working on as we develop our own l  styles.

  • A view of the bigger picture. The modern world is dominated by short-medium term goals; the quarterly and annual reports of businesses, the shareholder’s expectation for performance, or the desire to get re-elected every couple of years. Truly great leaders have the ability to step back and have a much broader view. Jeff Bezos didn’t turn Amazon into the giant that it is today in a quarter, or even a year. His company succeeded whether others struggled because he had a vision for the customer experience. Online retail wasn’t even possible when he first started outand he spent decades razor-focused on that greater goal.
  • The willingness to fail. If you’re not prepared to make mistakes and “fail,” then you’re also going to be a risk adverse leader, and the truly great leaders are don’t shy away from risk. Richard Branson has a history of missteps and failed experiments. Remember Virgin Cola, Virgin Games or even Virginware, when Branson decided to take on Victoria’s Secret? Probably not. None of those businesses were successful, and none are still around. The reason that Branson’s business empire is what it is, though is because Branson scored major hits with other experiments, took risks and tried things.
  • The ability to trust. Micromanagement tends to inhibit a company. Firstly, it dampens the creativity of everyone working there – if you feel like you’re being watched every moment that you’re working, then you’re not going to want to experiment or think outside the box as much. Secondly, it results in a toxic environment in which trust and confidence is in short supply. Great leaders craft a vision, and then surroundthemselves with great people to execute on their vision. People that don’t need monitoring. Steve Jobs was infamous for his ability to find the best, and then delegate to them his vision. Without the likes of Steve Wozniak, Tim Cook, and JonyIve, Apple would not have realised Jobs’ vision.
  • Raw communication skills. Whether you look at Angela Merkel, Martin Luther King, or Winston Churchill the most common trait of a great leader is the ability to communicate their vision and ideas in a powerful, motivating way. That’s why their speeches endure on into perpetuity and they’re remembered where many other political leaders are not. Communication is more than just writing out a speech and repeating it. It’s about making complex ideas accessible, and it’s about being able to listen too.A great leader “reads the room”, and knows exactly what the situation is and how to adjust their rhetoric so every person in that room walks out feeling better and more hopeful than when they came in.
  • A willingness to be accountable. Good leaders are also accountable. As Winston Churchill summaries’ price of greatness is responsibility.” If you’re going to ask your team to take risks, be innovative, and try ideas, then you can’t simply drop all the blame and consequence on their shoulders if it doesn’t pan out. A great leader fosters a vibrant collaborative safe environment in whicheveryone can learn and make mistakes.

1 thought on “Five Things We Can Learn From Great Leaders”

  1. Richard E Keevers

    Interesting comments thank you. I would add that while some leadership qualities can be enhanced and even learned by experience, there are qualities including some of those above which in my opinion are innate to the person concerned. These qualities together may be demonstrated by followship, because without followship there is no leadership. Some of these qualities are hard to define, except they help create followship, and if they do, the person possessing these qualities is a leader. Again, in my opinion, some of this can be observed even in the kindergarten yard, where certain young individuals among their peers show substantial organisation and leadership skills, long before they are either blessed or cursed by learned traits.

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