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Leaders must manage and managers must lead. Managers become great leaders because there’s something in their approach, attitude, and process that is unique and sets them apart from the average. But what are these specific traits? Are they naturally born with them? Have they developed them over time? Or did they have an amazing mentor that guided them to greatness?

When it comes to excellent leaders, it could be any one of those things or all of them. And when you hear the success stories of today’s most inspirational leaders, you come to realize that they all have certain things in common.

Exceptional leaders are self-aware, humble, authentic, curious, and more often than not, humorous. They’re not funny in a stand-up comedian way, although some are; but they do know how to make people laugh, feel at ease, and comfortable. They make it easy for people to want to follow them. How do they do this? How can they be charming, light-hearted, and successful despite the immensely heavy workload all managers carry?

Here’s what mangers who are exceptional leaders do differently:

1. They Pay Attention to the Details

Great leaders tend to remember and recognize the small things. They’re not so self-absorbed that they forget other’s accomplishments, hobbies, or things mentioned in passing. They will greet people by name and will remember when an employee spoke about their kid’s graduation or the vacation they have coming up. And because they demonstrate a genuine and consistent interest in the lives of their team, they are regarded with respect for not acting as though they are above everyone else.

2. They Lead by Example

Great leaders create a culture of accountability by effectively demonstrating to others what that means. They are not preachers but teachers. They are role models and mentors. They earn trust and admiration through their actions. They behave in a way that is inspiring and motivating. A manager who is consistently late or takes 3-hour long lunches cannot preach to their team about attendance or productivity. And a manager who doesn’t act with integrity cannot expect a team that will treat them with respect.

3. They Take Control Without Being Controlling

Great leaders guide their teams without abusing their power. They stay calm in a crisis and take command of stressful situations without losing their cool. They adapt quickly. For this reason, people look to effective leaders in times of trouble.

4. Great Leaders Don’t Believe They Are a One-Man Show

You will often hear leaders use “we” rather than “I” or “me.” This goes far beyond choice in vocabulary as it demonstrates a genuine belief that no success is achieved alone. By using “we” and “us,” leaders acknowledge that everyone plays a crucial role and that they should not take sole ownership or credit for it.

5. They Are Confident Without Being Conceited

Self-confidence is essential to exceptional leadership. You need to believe that you have what it takes to demonstrate your leadership skills effectively. However, confidence and cockiness are not to be confused. A good manager can lead without being arrogant about their position of authority.

Overly confident managers deny themselves the opportunity to grow because they already think they know everything. Their lack of humility has them believing they are always right.

Confidence doesn’t mean always having all the answers; it means trusting yourself enough to find the right answers when you admit that you are unsure of something. .

6. They Are Genuine

Real leaders are not playing a role. They are not doing what they imagine a leader should be doing, or what the latest book on leadership advises. They are genuinely concerned abut the success of each and every team member, and of their team as a whole. This is not something where you can “fake it ‘til you make it”.

Are you ready to become a better leader? How many of these unique characteristics do you feel you need to work on? 

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