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Expert Advice on Being a Great Leader

World leader, freedom fighter and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, once said, “A leader … is like a Shepard. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, where upon the other follows, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind. Leadership is about working with and for others to achieve a common goal that benefits everyone.”

The success of any organisation is dependent predominately on great leadership with top thought leaders, CEOs, business executives and industry giants identifying their own unique spin on what it means to be a great leader or a great manager. They have used their own strategies and pathways to discover what it means to excel in leadership. 

So what key strategies associates one with being a great leader?

The Edge spoke with six successful executives in various industries about what differentiates between a good manager or leader, and a great one: 

Trust that people can do things better than you. When they do it better than you, and you feel like they are putting you out of a job, that’s the best feeling you can have, not the worst feeling. (Colin Sparke)

Joe Mimran

Founder of Joe Fresh and Club Monaco, President of JM&A Inc and Chairman of Gibraltar Venture

I think a great [leader] is one that can inspire people to be great. A good one is one that manages well. That’s the big difference. You can see them out in the marketplace. Great ones are inspirational, and push people to do things they couldn’t think they could do. Good managers just manage well. 

Javed S. Khan

International Motivational Speaker and CEO of EMpression: A Marketing Services Company

I think there are a few things that make a leader great. One is that a great leader has the ability to delegate and trust their team around them and is able to manage that expectation with their team. Two, they are a strategist, a visionary. They have a mindset of where they want to go, and will, in some cases, be very laser-focused on where they want to go. 

The biggest trait I’ve noticed is that great leaders are not there to make friends. I don’t mean they’re obnoxious, rude, crude, or disrespectful, no. They are there to be firm, fair, engaging, and bring everyone into the conversation, rather than the conversation going one way. They have the ability to corral a team, and they have the ability to communicate in a very effective way to make people who weren’t on board, come on board. 

Colin Sprake

Entrepreneur and Founder of Make Your Mark Training and Consulting

Realize that you are always being watched as a leader in a company. Exceptional leaders create exceptional leaders. They don’t create exceptional followers. 

Tonya Williams

Actress, Producer and Founder of Reelworld Film Festival

What makes me the saddest is when I see women who believe they have to act like a man to get ahead. Women bring a unique talent and perspective to any project that is very different from how men look at things. It is the balance of both the talents of men and women that create the most successful companies, like how our left and right hands are different, but can accomplish so much more when they work together.

Watching older actresses was the greatest lesson for me in wanting to diversify myself not only as an artist, but as a businesswoman. Watching many of those actresses having so little power in their lives because they were totally reliant on the next job, made me want to make sure that I didn’t follow that path. Having grown up watching my mother and father, who had solid careers (my father was a barrister, then Supreme Court justice), they never just relied on those jobs – they had income properties, other financial investments, savings. My mother is a big saver. All these things showed me that if I wanted more power and control in my life, I couldn’t rely on any one thing; since life is unpredictable, we have to hedge our bets.

Michele Romanow

Entrepreneur and Co-founder of Buytopia and Clearblanc, Judge on ‘Dragons’ Den’

I think great leaders are able to constantly paint the amazing vision of what is not there, but what could be, and conceal their own fears. Because the reality is when you lead, you have no idea what is next. 

The best leaders just have such a strong sense of, “I can see this, I can build this, I can sell this to you, and I can actually hide the fact that I have no idea what’s going to happen.” It’s not an ungenuine hiding. It’s that you need someone to say, “If this is going to happen, I believe in it.” Good leaders make good plans. They can rally good teams. Really great leaders just continue to see the future, and don’t share their fears as they bring the team along. Which is why it’s so lonely being a leader. 

Issie Sharp

Founder and Former CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

From employees’ point of view, this manager or leader might have been anointed, rather than worked their way up. They don’t know anything about them. The leader, or manager, now has to earn others’ respect and trust, from the people they are now in charge of. That only happens over a period of time. 

When you’ve reached that level, when people believe in you and trust you, you now have influence. Rather than them doing what you want because you’re the boss, they’ll do what they’re asked because of the trust they have in you. Then, you can get people to go way beyond what’s expected. Leaders unite, direct, and motivate. They get people to work together and accomplish more than they could have individually.

Dave Gordon | Contributing Writer

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