One question asked endlessly in business, academic, political, and other circles is, ”What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?”
The most often quoted answer seems to be, “The manager does things right – the leader does the right things.” What exactly does that mean – “doing the right thing”? Does that mean history tells us whether the leader did the right thing? Can someone be a leader even if they end up on the losing side?
A leader is one who knows that though the risk of failure may be great, they don’t give up on themselves or others. Leaders are people of exceptional character who are capable of bringing others through a crisis. All leaders share certain qualities or characteristics, including:
1. Self-respect and respect for others. If you don’t have a healthy self-respect, you won’t respect others. If you don’t respect others, they will not respect you. You can’t lead people who don’t respect you.
2. The ability to communicate effectively. Leaders say what they mean and mean exactly what they say. Effective communicators are far more persuasive than those who don’t communicate well.
3. Integrity and character. Leaders are not swayed by unsubstantiated opinions or unfounded rumors. Fame, power, or material gain don’t motivate them. Leaders have integrity, that strength of character that resists assault.
4. Having a vision, a mission (or a purpose), a sense of direction, and a clear set of goals. Moreover, they know that their job isn’t done when one set of goals is reached. Leaders know that life is a journey.
5. Being grounded. Leaders have a vision of what the world around them ought to be, but they are also pragmatic. Things will not always go smoothly, but leaders understand that and have the presence of mind to deal with that.
6. Courage. Fear is a powerful motivator; it causes many of us to turn away from our goals when our belief in ourselves and our cause isn’t strong. Leaders aren’t fearless — leaders make a conscious choice to act in spite of their fear.
7. Persistence, commitment, and dedication. It’s like they always say: “Winners don’t quit, and quitters don’t win.” Nothing worth having comes easily. When setbacks crop up, leaders don’t flag because they always have their eyes on the prize.
8. Humility. Leaders aren’t self-promoting or self-aggrandizing. They don’t take all the credit. They give credit to others and refuse it for themselves.
9. A sense of responsibility. Leaders are willing to bear the ultimate responsibility for their undertakings. They don’t point the finger of blame when things go awry.
10. Decisiveness. When action is called for, real leaders don’t waffle. Knowing that a window of opportunity exists (“the time to act is now”), they act quickly and effectively, based on the best available information.