What does it take to be a good leader?

Editor’s note: Suzanne Ogle is the CEO of the Southern Gas Association.

There are hundreds of articles written daily on traits of fantastic leaders and toxic leaders and hundreds of buzzwords abound in the media on these topics. Of course, there is also the age-old debate of whether great leaders are born or made. When it boils down to being a leader that people want to stick with, that leader must create a compelling vision of where they are going and where they are taking their team while communicating it in the same compelling manner. The leader needs to exhibit alignment between their vision and their values, cultivate a culture of trust and know who they are leading. Finally, this leader needs to know the people they want to follow them.

The traits effective leaders possess 

Traits that are required to create and communicate this type of vision require leaders to focus on what is important to their company, their values and their team. A leader must also be crystal clear on depicting this vision and communicating it in several ways to land with all members of the team. There must be a lazer-like focus on where they are going and how success will be achieved for the company, the leader and their team.

The leader has to ensure this vision has marked progress points – a beginning and an end – and is one that can be understood by many. A leader demonstrates their competence by aligning the vision with the company mission. They build their credibility across the organization by knowing that where they are going is directly related to where the company needs to go to be successful.

Trust and compassion are key

The alignment of the vision to the leader’s values is critical to fostering trust, authenticity and loyalty. People do not follow someone they do not trust. Trust is built when a leader demonstrates and visibly lives their values in their everyday interactions. A leader must be intentional in their actions and interactions with people. The focus needed for the vision requires attentiveness so that its alignment with the leader's values is observable. How a leader handles themselves when the pressure is on requires thoughtful, deliberate action and response. A measured approach that is consistent and trustworthy will make great strides in cultivating the culture of trust in which employees desire to belong.

We all want to be seen and understood. A leader must know their team to create trust. Creating an amazing vision is empty air if it's not important to the people that are working to make it a reality. A leader must take the time to get to know their team, their desires, goals, objectives and dreams to compel them to stay and work hard together for this shared vision. 

Demonstrating compassion builds on a leader's credibility and enables the leader to hold team members accountable. Most teams want enough structure to know what to do and to know when they are off course. A leader that knows their team has the capacity to keep people on track in a motivating manner and considers how achieving the vision also makes a difference to that team member.

Implementing skills to become a great leader

Leaders can cultivate skills and learn traits to make them more equipped to communicate and articulate a great vision. One can practice communicating in a compelling manner and improve their delivery. Great leaders may not be born great, it takes being intentional, attentive to others and having the confidence to be authentic. They must also live their values every day and truly care about their team. Only then they can cultivate a place where people desire to work to fulfill the vision cast.