Mark Richardson, CR, is an author, columnist, and business growth strategist. He authored the best-selling book, How Fit Is Your Business? as well as his latest book, Fit to Grow. He can be reached at or 301.275.0208.

Are You Fit to Lead?

The following are some simple leadership attributes and skills I believe separate average leaders from great ones. As you reflect on each of these, try to think how you might improve in each criteria as well.

August 07, 2014
Mark Richardson, CR

Are you a born leader? This is a comment that some make about young people when they describe their potential or future. We also talk about the people meant to lead and the people meant to follow.

Regardless of which category one falls, many reading this column are in some kind of leadership position or a position in the business or the community that requires you to lead. If you can be a fit leader the organization will be better, too.

As the marketplace moves from a recessionary environment to more abundance, great leadership is more important than ever. As a good friend of mine in the military said, “Leadership in time of peace is very different than in time of war.”

We tend to remember and revere the military leaders from important battles or wars much more than those who maintained peace. Business leaders in times of growth also become especially important. Due to the changing times and the speed at which we need to react, the leader’s role is critical to the organization’s success.

Because I meet and advise many businesses leaders, the following are some simple leadership attributes and skills I believe separate average leaders from great ones. As you reflect on each of these, try to think how you might improve in each criteria as well.

A clear sense of purpose What is the purpose of the business? The leader needs to be laser focused on achieving this purpose. It gives guidance when making tough decisions. Whether the primary purpose is to help others, create opportunities, or make money, the leader needs to have a crystal clear understanding of the purpose.

A great communicator Communication can come in many forms. Great leaders are great communicators. The communication must be understood by the mind but also felt by the heart of team members. Great communicators need to make the connection to many but also have the ability to connect to individuals.

A clear vision Because we are now able to focus on the longer term, the great leader is a visionary. The leader knows where the ship is heading and makes tough decisions to stay on course. Like a great chess player, a great leader is thinking several moves ahead while still focused on today’s issues and challenges.

Goal oriented Even though a leader has the vision and being able to achieve it is critical, the leader also needs to be goal oriented. He needs to articulate goals and priorities and keep the business on track to achieve the goals.

A strategic planner A great leader knows that “if you fail to plan, then plan to fail.” Generally, the leader is a creative thinker but knows that great ideas are just fantasies unless there is a plan in place for their execution. Planning is not just an act; it is also a skill that great leaders understand.

Empathy Greater leadership requires a high degree of empathy. The empathy is for clients, team members, trade partners, and the business itself. Empathy is about deeply caring at all levels and making those feelings apparent and a priority.

Synergistic thinking Synergistic thinking or mindset is a skill and a process. Great leaders create an environment for this synergistic thinking. They may be the judge and the jury on which ideas are executed, but it is the team’s responsibility to fill the well. Great leadership encourages this dynamic behavior.

Time master A common denominator of great leaders is their mastery of time. They not only have a high degree of time management skills but also make the most of time for others. They realize we are all dealt the same amount of time and, if we can manage time well, the likelihood for success is greater.

Pace A great leader understands cadence and pace in the business. They realize finding the right pace for programs or decisions is as important as the program itself. They know if and how the assets can be used for the best results. Great leaders know that any organization needs to have an edge and be aggressive to stay ahead. But there is also need to be realistic so as not to fail.

Walk the talk A more subjective attribute is that great leaders “walk their talk.” They not only make the rules but they also follow them. This can be tough for many coming from a strong sales or marketing role to a role that often needs to color outside the lines to achieve higher levels of success. When you speak to the key team members, they will know how the great leader finds a way to be creative and flexible but also stay within the guidelines the business set forth.

Great leaders are students of success They understand that success is a verb, not a noun. Success requires appreciating where you are but always learning and improving. If you can commit to reminding yourself that “great leaders are students of success” on a daily basis, you never have to worry about whether you were a born leader.

As you reflect on the above criteria, ask yourself, “How do I measure up?” Which one of these leadership attributes needs the most attention, and how can I improve as a leader? PR


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