What makes a leader? The characteristics good leaders share

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Following the recent success day where we recognised our top 30 business leaders in the UK it seems appropriate to post about leadership. In over 20 years within Forever I never cease to be impressed by the people I am surrounded with and the wealth of integrity, passion, commitment and drive that seems innate in our most successful business owners and the wider Forever family. And let’s not forget the softer qualities too, empathy, humility, love.

What I see in these leaders are some shared core traits and what is inspiring is that these traits are skills that can be learned and developed. I think that gives us all hope that we might all have the potential to be leaders, that it is not some magic, star-quality that a few are born with and denied to many.

Natalie Heeley is Forever UK’s No. 1 business owner for the fourth year running I think you’ll agree she is an extremely inspiring leader.

Natalie says, “Leaders are continually learning – reading books, listening to audio and watching videos. They take risks and get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. They set goals, dream big and love what they do, they are creative and opportunistic. For me team spirit is paramount to the success of a team. A great leader will create solidarity and a sense of belonging. They encourage, support, empathise, share ideas and are passionate, but most importantly they have fun and celebrate success, no matter how small. There are many leaders within our industry that inspire me but No.1 would have to be my Mum, Jan Whittaker. She built an incredible business with Forever back in the day where there were no mobiles, no internet and no social media. She travelled for miles to see her team and spent endless hours coaching them on the phone. Her business was by no means booming fast, but she had ‘stickability’. Quitting was never an option. Mum never set out to be a leader, she set out to make a difference to people’s lives – it was never about the role – always about the goal. If it wasn’t for my Mum leading the way I wouldn’t have the business I have today.’

I’ve also been fortunate enough to also spend time with people who specialise in the subject of leadership including Molly Harvey. Molly has worked with diverse organisations of all sizes including many blue-chips all who recognise that leadership is crucial to the success of their business.

Molly says, ‘leaders have high levels of self-awareness, they know their short-comings and work to overcome them. They are life-long learners with a deep love of learning. They also plug the gaps by surrounding themselves with others who have the strengths and skills they are lacking. They are very much focused on taking action and getting things done, they walk their talk. They are also great at inspiring leadership within their teams empowering others and encouraging high degrees of personal responsibility. The saying ‘we rise by lifting others’ is so true of great leaders. Leaders also display grit (see an earlier blog here) they take responsibility for their mistakes and have the ability to stay committed even when they don’t feel like it. Leaders also understand the importance of relationships; they build genuine relationships based on trust.’

So how can we become leaders, be simply in how we live of our lives inspiring others around us or in some bigger vision?

Molly says, “To have the results that very few have, you must begin to live like very few do.”

Molly’s top tips:

1. Start by paying attention to your habits and be honest with yourself about the habits that are sabotaging you.

2. Never be afraid of failure. Failure comes into our life to put us in the right direction. Successful people view failure differently to unsuccessful people.

3. If you can change your morning routine you can change anything in life.

4. Pay attention to what is happening around you. Pay attention to who is around you…. .And you will see your life

5. Develop a vision of yourself and the life you want to lead. You do get in life what you believe. I have seen this over and over so… start dreaming and believing.

I’d be really interested to hear from you about the qualities that are important in leadership and also about those people who have inspired you in life either as a child growing up or today. And you can find out more about Molly and her work here http://harveyglobal.com/molly-harvey-bio/

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Posted by Bob Parker

Bob is the country manager for Forever Living Products in the UK, Ireland and Iceland, having joined Forever in 1994. Under his leadership the UK has been ranked as the World’s No.1 performing country for the past 2 years. With a background in financial sales and training Bob has been an entrepreneur from an early age. He is a keen skier and sports enthusiast, and is passionate about developing leaders and helping others to fulfil their potential.