Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

In my 22 years in the corporate world, I was led by some awesome leaders, some toxic leaders and some mmehhh leaders. I’ve got to say I learnt plenty from all of them and have used that to shape myself as a senior executive, and I’m grateful to still draw on those experiences today.

From my work with Global Leaders, I’ve also noticed characteristics that set the good leaders apart from the exceptional leaders. I’ve shared (and maybe overshared) those stories with our clients to help them learn and grow and become the leader that they want to be.

And now I’d like to share it with you because exceptional leaders do exist, they are not a mythical beast. I am here to tell you it’s possible, it’s not rocket science, but it does require focus, dedication and determination to create the change you want to be.

So here is my top 10 characteristics of exceptional leaders:

  1. They lead themselves – What do I mean by that? Well exceptional leaders lead from the inside out. They know themselves; they know their strengths and opportunities to develop and set goals to achieve these. They never stop working to become better and they have a growth and infinite mindset. They remain above the line in their communications, actions, behaviours and thinking.
  2. They are authentic in their interactions, approach and communications – They lead true to their values and beliefs and this is reflected in their actions and their attitude. People know what to expect from them and they are consistent. They share “just enough” of their challenges and listen and communicate to inform and to understand.
  3. They possess high levels of self-control – As Leaders we are always on show – your team will be constantly watching you and it is important to keep it together. That doesn’t mean you have to be fairy floss happy and positive all the time. But you need to remain in control of yourself and your emotions. You are in the spotlight and to use a Showbiz context – every interaction needs to be “opening night”.
  4. They stay clear of drama – This can be tricky as we form close relationships with people and it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon when a colleague is venting at the water cooler. Exceptional leaders rise above all of that. Sometimes just asking “Are you telling me because you want to vent, or are you telling me this because you want me to do something about it as a leader?” can help navigate the situation. Now if they are just venting then I recommend asking “As your leader, am I the best person for you to vent too?” Nope – go find someone else because drama does not live here!
  5. They seek the truth – even though it might be painful and sometimes honesty can hurt, it can also make us grow and be stronger, better, more effective leaders. So, as an exceptional leader you sometimes need to sit with the discomfort. Seek the truth, ask for feedback from diverse sources so that you can gather many perspectives. Don’t take it personal, because it’s not – it’s growth and we’ve all got opportunities to develop (mmm… not so good leaders may refer to these as weaknesses)
  6. They place courage over fear – and are not afraid to be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, we let people in and people connect with that – so take the superhero cape off. As leaders it’s easy to let fear stop us from having the tough conversations or to try and move away from the tension. But when we lean in and move towards it, it is always more productive and efficient. Putting these conversations off always creates more work. SO JUST DO IT!!!
  7. They have genuine empathy towards self and others – If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said “Be kind to yourself” to leaders – well I’d be massively cashed up! We do make mistakes but if we focus on progress not perfection, we will achieve better outcomes than beating ourselves up. It is important to be empathetic to others, but not allow that to interfere with our own emotions or actions. Empathy towards others is seeking to understand what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes and understanding the differences that we all have, then valuing those difference because with diversity comes increased performance.
  8. They are Self-aware and proactive with their development – Exceptional leaders know themselves, know others and adjust their behaviour to achieve better outcomes.  They regularly stop, reflect on their behaviour and can quickly adapt and change in order to grow. They are proactive about building their Leadership Toolkit, constantly looking for development opportunities and continuous improvement everywhere.
  9. They maintain and nurture their reputation – All of us have a reputation and a brand, it is what others think of when they hear your name. You can either have it by default or by design – but should not design it in a false manufactured way. Exceptional leaders stop, reflect and think about what they want to be known for? What legacy they want to leave? Be intentional and deliberate about it, create an action plan and consider all of the easily accessible platforms that can deliver your brand, both in person and virtually. Trust me, it’s time well spent!
  10. They seek support – Let’s face it – leadership sure can be lonely. It is tough at the top and it is easy to feel isolated and alone. Exceptional leaders seek out a supportive network. This might include a Coach, Mentor, trusted advisors like peers and sponsors who may be in a similar or prospective field. But you need to be proactive, no one will tap you on the shoulder and say “Hi, I’d like to Mentor you” you need to make it happen. Mentoring is an amazingly useful and easily accessible tool to kick start and support your leadership growth journey. Who in your current network could be a great Mentor? They do not need to be perfect and tick all the boxes, but it is helpful to formalise the relationship and set clear goals to keep you focused.

 

Honestly, I could add another 10 points to this list and go full leadership nerd, but I think this summary captures the main ones. Any one of us has the potential to be an exceptional leader – yes that means YOU to!!! I’ve made mistakes in all of the above points in my time as a leader, I don’t always get it right, even though I’m supposed to be an expert. I just keep focusing on PROGRESS not PERFECTION!

It’s not a mythical beast, exceptional leadership can be your reality. So go make yourself the best leader you can be.  You’ve got this and we believe in you!

 

Sm xx 

 

PS: If you would like some more info on how myself or my team can be in your corner as a leader, get in touch. We have loads of ways to support you to become the best leader you can be. You do not have to be alone, but it is completely up to you. You’ve got this and we believe in you!

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Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

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Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

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Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

We’d love to upskill you

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Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

We’d love to upskill you

We can't wait to share more with you. Reach out below and we will be in touch.

Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

We’d love to upskill you

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Exceptional Leadership – mythical beast or can it be your reality!

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