By Amy O’Connor
I recently had the privilege of presenting a leadership legacy award at my company’s annual leadership summit. I had to give a short speech before presenting the award, and it forced me codify my thoughts on what traits create a lasting leadership legacy.
All leaders set out with the best intentions. They all desire greatness. No leader ever wakes up in the morning and says “boy, I hope I really screw up this leadership thing today.”
So what separates the greats from everyone else? In my extensive study, I’ve found there are four primary pillars that all great leaders embody.
Four Pillars of Exemplary Leadership
Leaders trust not only themselves and their own instincts (which is crucial for decision making), but they also trust others around them. They trust their managers to manager so they step aside and allow them to do their jobs. They trust their employees to make good, smart decisions not only for the company but also the people their company serves.
This trust creates a sense of respect and partnership. It allows employees to grow, to learn and to maintain a sense of autonomy.
Leaders bleed for the cause. They are there in the thick of things. Leaders don’t just show up when it’s easy or convenient, they are there when things are messy and difficult.
They are steadfast in their vision, they relay their vision to their employees and they do whatever it takes to achieve their mission. It is their example of commitment that inspires others around them.
One of the biggest morale killers and trust breakers is when leaders behave erratically or in ways that people see as unpredictable. Consistency creates trust, and conversely, inconsistency erodes trust.
When things change too often or without notification or explanation, employees are left feeling confused, vulnerable and even angry. Great leaders provide a feeling of safety by eliminating “surprises,” providing continuous communication and maintaining a sense of balance.
Great leaders are inspirational. They stir our emotions. Their passion becomes our passion, their energy becomes our energy. They strive to become their very best, and they want the same for others.
A leader’s passion is transferable and so is a leader’s lack of passion. If the leader isn’t excited about the company’s mission, you can bet the employees won’t be either.
I understand that you cannot boil a great leader down to only these four pillars. There are certainly many, many characteristics and traits that are essential for getting the job done and inspiring those around you. But show me a leader that is lacking in any of these categories, and I’ll show you a leader that’s got some work to do if they want to leave an exemplary leadership legacy.