What makes a great leader?

What is the best way to lead a group of people?

Financial incentives?
Financial incentives are pretty motivating. They can get people on task and willing to work hard for a time. But, financial incentives are better at encouraging people to chase the money, rather than inspiring them to follow the leader. If a more appealing reward comes along, the person who’s primarily in it for the money will be gone as fast as you can say “paycheck”.

Criticism and threats?
There certainly is a place for criticism in a working relationship. Being nice and encouraging all the time isn’t going to help anyone grow or inspire them to do better. However negative criticism or threats almost always create moral degradation. Threats lead to grumbles behind the back and result in the minimal amount of effort to avoid getting singled out.

Vision of the future?
The best leaders get people to follow them with their ability to paint a picture of the future; how doing A, B,C will lead to X,Y,Z. These leaders open an eye to a real and definite future. The ability to paint a picture is a wonderful skill in a leader, but, only if the leader is ready to do whatever is necessary to get the team to the end goal.

Inspiration is the key
No matter the scenario, the key to a great leader is having the ability to inspire. A great leader paints the picture and then leads by example inspiring others to do the same.

An inspiring leader offers recognition and praise for a job well done along with financial rewards. When everyone sees someone singled out for their efforts they’re more inclined to work harder and become the one who’s singled out. Even if more enticing financial rewards are being offered elsewhere, people will stick with a great leader because they’re more inspired by long term future opportunities than short term rewards.

The ability to offer helpful or constructive criticism is often one of the hardest learned skills. That is why it’s so important to offer helpful advice and steps people can take to do better, along with criticism.

Some people are natural born leaders, but many leaders are by design. Leadership is a skill that can be learned and improved on. You can always tell a great leader, not just by how many people are inspired to follow them, but also by how many more great leaders they’ve helped create along the way.

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