In today's world, there is no shortage of books and articles offering advice on how to become a great leader. From serving your team to demonstrating emotional intelligence or navigating remote work, the options are endless. However, much of this advice fails to address the real-world challenges faced by leaders in the trenches who must manage teams every day without the luxury of inventing the next big thing. As a seasoned manager with experience at some of the world's most prestigious companies, including Amazon, I can attest that traditional leadership literature often overlooks critical competencies necessary for success in everyday leadership. This article challenges the conventional corporate narrative surrounding essential leadership qualities and introduces The 13 Unconventional Competencies of A Great Leader. I believe these competencies essential for great leaders to be successful with teams on the ground and offer a fresh approach to becoming an influential leader. What Makes a Great Leader? Is a successful leader solely defined by exceeding sales targets, low turnover rates, or being recognized in prestigious lists? The best leaders are those who teams would elect to lead them if there ever was an open vote. These leaders don't rely on power or vested authority, but rather attract others to follow them voluntarily. So, what are the 13 unconventional competencies of a great leader? Let's find out. The 13 Competencies of a Great Leader Great leaders prioritize the greater good over personal gain: They aim to make a lasting impact, rather than achieving short-term gains, power or status. Their commitment to improving the world extends beyond the workplace and into their personal lives. Great leaders radiate commitment, selflessness, and a long-term perspective, which in turn inspire a positive attitude in others. As a leader, your goal should be to make the world a better place, not to enhance your place in the world. Great leaders are willing to be convinced: Leaders who refuse to consider new ideas can quickly become a bottleneck for their team. It's essential for leaders to be open to changing their minds, encouraging the flow of ideas and empowering their teams to take risks. Though not every idea will be a success, fostering a culture of creativity and innovation can lead to breakthroughs. Great leaders act with humility: The misconception that humility equates to meekness and lack of assertiveness is common in corporate leadership. However, real humility is recognizing that you, as a human being, are fallible and irrational, just like everyone else. Humility is not solely about admitting your mistakes but also demonstrating this quality visibly to your team. Leaders who prioritize their status and recognition over everything else often create a toxic work environment, while acting with genuine humility attracts excellent talent and generates outstanding ideas.
Great leaders are a positive force in their team’s lives: Leadership is often associated with achieving goals and driving results. But at its core, true leadership is about making the world a better place, starting with the people within your organization. To achieve this, leaders must build relationships and take a genuine interest in the lives of their team members. This creates a positive and optimistic environment that inspires consistent and voluntary excellence. When leaders view their team members as more than just transactional resources, they foster a culture of success and fulfillment.
Great leaders focus on collaboration, not competition: Corporate competition is often hailed as the key to success, but in reality, a collaborative approach can lead to superior outcomes. Great leaders understand the value of teamwork and idea-sharing, and prioritize creating an environment that fosters these practices. Rather than focusing on outdoing one another, teams that build on each other's ideas are more likely to generate high-quality outcomes. To achieve this, leaders must act without a vested ego and cultivate an atmosphere of trust, where everyone's contributions are valued. Ultimately, fostering a collaborative environment is not just a nice-to-have, but a necessity for long-term business success.
Great leaders are decisive: Decisiveness is key to leadership. In a world of uncertainty and risk, leaders must be able to make tough calls, allocate resources, and turn ideas into reality. Indecisiveness is the enemy of progress, hindering motivated teams and causing frustration. Great leaders understand the importance of making decisions while keeping progress at the forefront, facilitating rather than obstructing progress. They know that progress sometimes requires rejection and a return to the drawing board, which they handle with fairness and respect.
Great leaders are candid and transparent: Transparency and candor are fundamental to effective leadership. Transparency involves openness and honesty in sharing information, intentions, and actions. Candor, on the other hand, entails being frank, direct, and truthful, especially in difficult conversations. Great leaders must strike a balance between being too direct or vague, rude or manipulative, and conflict-averse or aggressive. To be effective, leaders must be clear about their values, goals, and expectations, and build a culture of trust and transparency where everyone feels safe to speak up and learn from each other.
Great leaders delegate the best work: Great leaders go beyond delegating tasks, they delegate the projects they would rather do themselves. This approach is rooted in the understanding that a leader's job is not to benefit themselves, but to make the world a better place. By offering engaging and impactful projects to their team, they allow their members to utilize their full potential, benefiting both the individual and the organization as a whole.
Great leaders radiate calmness: In the tumultuous world of work, great leaders turn chaos into clarity. They simplify complexity, create clarity amidst the fog and calm heated emotions.
Great leaders act with authenticity: Authenticity is key to effective leadership. Leaders who try to project a false image risk losing the trust of their team. This will lead to demotivation, poor performance, and a decline in the quality of ideas. Authenticity is hard to define but easy to spot, and those who lack it will struggle to lead effectively. To build a strong team, leaders must be true to themselves.
Great leaders are patient: Great leaders know that success is a marathon, not a sprint. They understand the value of patience, recognizing that progress can be slow and setbacks are part of the journey. They also know that people progress at different rates and provide them with the necessary time and space to improve. However, they also know when to call it a day with sub-par performance. Patience is a crucial competency for great leadership.
Great leaders are genuinely inclusive: Great leaders foster inclusivity, valuing diversity beyond mere metrics. When tempted to build teams in their own image, leaders must recognize the value of those who operate differently. Genuine inclusivity appreciates the worth of all contributions, not just those delivered in a familiar form or pace. A true leader is like a teacher or a class leader, welcoming and valuing even the quietest voices.
Great leaders filter work: Effective leaders don't just blindly pass requests down to their team. Instead, they act as a filter, prioritizing their team's time and pushing back on unrealistic demands. This approach not only boosts productivity but also fosters trust and respect between the leader and the team.
Great leaders prioritize the greater good and empower their teams, rather than demanding blind obedience. They make difficult decisions in uncertain situations and leave a lasting positive impact on the world. These unconventional competencies set exceptional leaders apart and can create more productive and innovative teams, as well as a positive workplace culture.
Evgeny Bik is a consumer business leader with 15+ years of experience in FMCG, Retail, eCommerce and Consumer electronics. Find out more at https://blog.dayone.careers/.