The Top 6 Qualities of A Strong Leader
I was fortunate early in my career to work for Ken Woolley, a serial entrepreneur. Ernst & Young agreed with my opinion of Ken in 2003, when they gave him the distinguished honor of Master Entrepreneur. I was privileged to work beside Ken Woolley as his right hand advisor for the last 12 years of my career at Extra Space Storage. This proximity allowed me to observe his craft and what made him a great leader.
Ken knew how to identify and grow other great leaders. In this article, I will be sharing a 6-step system I have created, based on my work with Ken Woolley and the 10 years since I opened my own consulting firm, Roos Advisors.
Let’s jump right in.
Webster describes focus as a center of activity, attraction, or attention. Another recent mentor, Michael Port, frequently quotes Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints to support the importance of Focus. The idea is that, while leadership requires flexibility, creativity and vision, it also requires constraint to focus on those things which will provide the greatest return. Staying laser-focused on a few mission critical initiatives at one time is important to provide stability, solid direction, and success within teams.
Unwavering dedication and commitment to you and your team’s purpose is the glue that holds everything together, despite obstacles and the rugged paths we sometimes encounter as we move towards success. One great trait many leaders possess is their zeal for information and finding more efficient ways of doing things. Our world is filled with so many ideas, new technologies and opportunities, that as leaders, we can often become so enthralled with the next “shiny object” that we fail to count the cost.
I tend to be an information junkie. I love learning new things and trying to figure out ways to get to “the destination” faster. Michael Port once told me I should have Better is Better as my tagline, because I seem to always be on a path of self and team improvement. Improvement is great. But sometimes “tried and true” and “staying the course” is equally and often more important.
So, how do we know what the right balance is? I recommend starting with the foundation first. When leaders get clear on who we are and what we stand for, we are unstoppable. In Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid® system, we coach our clients to develop a strong personal brand.
There are some great applications, which I am borrowing to help develop strong personal leadership identity. Once we have created how we want to be known to our team and the world, focus and commitment become much easier.
3. Develop your personal leadership brand
We start by having a clear understanding of ourselves first. One of the first things I ask executives right off the bat is “What do you want?” What is the Big Result you need in order to move your job, life, team, and goal forward? What are your compelling needs and desires? What are the compelling needs and desires of your team, both individually and collectively? What benefits does your team receive from your leadership?
Clarity on understanding who we serve and what they need is fundamental to the success of any team. We can then write a personal mission statement that we commit to and communicate it to our team. This becomes the barometer for measuring so many aspects in a team.
4. Distinguish yourself
Traditional marketing speaks about a unique selling proposition. We look for traits or attributes that set products or services apart. When we speak of distinguishing ourselves as leaders, we understand why some people are drawn to us. Fundamentally, people connect and follow leaders because of who they are, so our focus is to be more authentically and uniquely ourselves.
The ease and flow of this type of leadership is that we can certainly continue to learn effective leadership skills, but in the end, we don’t have to change our core. We just have to be more fully self-expressed and authentic. This makes it easy to talk about what we are passionate about, what we believe in, and the vision for both ourselves and our teams. For this, we may have to peel away some self-protective layers so we can be fully transparent.
But in the end, what makes us different is that the focus is on ourselves, and by that I mean you, the executives. Some executives that I work with find this prospect a little scary, but as we walk them through the process, it is rewarding for both of us to see the rich color wheel and talent that is unmasked through embracing our authenticity.
As we find ourselves in authentic service to our teams, we ultimately find that people are drawn to us and want our leadership. Employees have many options of where they can work—we are just one among a sea of many leaders. Our introspection helps us understand when we feel energized and inspired, compared to when we feel like we have sold ourselves short or compromised our core standards.
This work helps us to boldly guide our teams without fear. It also helps us lead with greater clarity. We learn how to say no when necessary, so that our yes has more power. We are also able to identify when a team member is no longer fully self-expressed as a team member. We can then walk with them as they discover new opportunities.
5. Creating a personal mission statement
Our mission statement clearly communicates to ourselves, our team, and the world that our code of service and our vision of leadership is bold and unique. When this is firmly in place, potential team members can easily decide if we are an ideal leader for them. Our current team members are reminded of what they “signed up for” and this provides consensus for the team as a whole. It also tells people why we serve and what we hope to achieve through our work.
Remember that our personal mission statement or personal leadership brand should communicate “us”! People are looking for a reason to connect with each other emotionally and spiritually. A clear personal leadership statement will help people know if you are the right leader for them.
6. Know what you stand for and why you do the work
If so, you are ready to create a personal mission statement or personal leadership brand. This statement simply says something about who you are and why you get up every morning to do the work you do. You will know it is yours when you never get tired of talking about it. When you talk about your work, you can speak about it with passion, so when others hear you, they will connect with your authentic message and your devotion.
An example of the 6-step approach to leadership
In 2003, I planned on retiring from a rewarding and successful career. My intention was to finish raising my children. I had experienced incredible success by being part of a team that took a small, scrappy self-storage company of 12 self storage facilities with an asset value of $25 million dollars to a major, highly respected player in our industry with an asset value of $500 million in 5 years. We were known as ‘the Marriott’ of our industry.
Within two months, I was being engaged by startups and small businesses to help either start up or take their businesses to the next level. Six years into it, I realized I had a real service business. I became known as a trusted advisor and turnaround expert. “The one to call when your back’s against the wall!” But what I lacked was expansion capability and even more importantly, I was working a lot of hours, running everywhere and anywhere.
I was trying to help my clients by teaching them what I had been taught… just spread your net far and wide, catch as many as you can, and the ones that survive the process are the ones you serve. I had studied the Marriott Way in building my corporate success, so I knew that once they were our customers we had to love all of them, but the process of getting them was hard, messy, and frankly, not a lot of fun. I also thought I had to create every program possible to meet all of their needs.
What do I do differently today? The adage rang true for me, “If I only knew then, what I know now.” But I also have few regrets and I learned volumes along the way.
- First, I hired an executive advisor. Yes, I have a coach!
- I know I’m not meant to serve everyone;
- I picked a niche (my specialty) within my target market (executives);
- I distinguish myself from others by stepping confidently into the strength of why and how I serve my clients;
- I know my vision of why I do what I do and what I help my clients achieve;
- I help my clients live more confidently by knowing who they are, what they have to offer and how to turn their passion into rewarding life work;
- I have a strong bench of strategic alliances who help me serve my clients;
- I have developed a tagline that articulates why I love my work: “Winning Strategies for Life and Business.”
Need help to become the best version of yourself?
Becoming a successful leader takes hard work, perseverance, knowledge, and focus, just to name a few. As an executive leader, you need to have the dedication and motivation to put in the necessary work to evolve into the best version of yourself. Sometimes, without proper guidance, these seem unachievable and overwhelming. If you’re looking to become the best possible leader and serve your team properly, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Here at Roos Advisors, we are committed to realizing your dreams and we cannot wait to tap into your unexplored potential.