Leadership can make or break an organization. We’ve all experienced great leaders who inspire teams to perform at their peak. But we’ve likely also encountered poor managers who sap morale and stifle results.

So what sets stellar leaders apart from the rest? On episode 64 of my podcast Start, Scale, Succeed I spoke with Anna Woods, a leadership coach who works with executives and brands in retail. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, including director roles at major fashion companies, Anna has fantastic insights on what makes for exemplary leadership. During our discussion Anna and I shared that we have encountered very few genuinely great leaders during our long careers in retail. This shows how rare great leadership really is, but crucially that it is attainable for those committed to self-improvement.

What makes a great leader?

How to Become A Great Leader

So what do you need to become a great leader? Anna identifies 7 key behaviours which make for a truly exceptional leader.

1 Backbone & Heart

According to Anna, good leaders have backbone – they communicate clearly, set vision and goals, listen to input. But great leaders also lead with heart – they have empathy, compassion, and lead based on their values. Great leadership involves balancing powerful decision-making with compassion..

2 Self Reflection

Take time for self-reflection as a leader. Consider who you are, what you’re bringing to the role each day, and your own personal context. This allows you to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting rashly in challenging moments. Reflection builds self-awareness critical for great leadership.

3 Know Your Leadership Style

There are many leadership style models. Anna Woods emphasises the importance of how leaders respond under pressure – fight, flight, or freeze. Know your tendencies so you can thoughtfully respond versus react. Leverage the strengths of your style and be aware of weaknesses to mitigate.

4 Get Feedback

Ask team members for feedback on your leadership. This shows vulnerability and desire to grow. Feedback provides insight on how you’re viewed within the organization. Just be sure it’s conducted professionally and teammates feel psychologically safe.

5 Authenticity

Authenticity is another vital trait of remarkable leaders. Great leaders are genuine and human. They are accessible to their teams, rolling up their sleeves when needed. They communicate openly and aren’t afraid to show some vulnerability at times. Great leaders also visibly enjoy their roles and inspire passion and commitment in their people.

6 Have Fun

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Great leaders laugh, enjoy their roles, and make work fun when appropriate. This builds camaraderie and motivates teams.

7 Visionary

Providing inspiration and vision is also key. Great leaders get teams excited about organizational goals and give people a sense of meaning in their work. They set a tone of collaboration and regularly seek input and ideas from staff. Great leaders also make sure to celebrate wins, even small ones, to maintain morale during difficult periods.

Ultimately, stellar leaders bring out the absolute best in their people. They lead with courage, compassion, authenticity and heart. Their teams feel motivated, valued and empowered to accomplish incredible things. That’s the magic of truly great leadership.

Does this resonate with your own experiences? What traits do you think are most important for today’s great leaders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more in depth information listen to the full podcast episode here.

I hope that this post helps you to continue on your journey to success and if you need any extra support then check out my free resources on my website, follow me on Instagram, subscribe to my monthly newsletter or get in touch at nicole@thebuyerandretailcoach.com

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The Buyer and Retail Coach is a global retail expert with over 18 years experience working in the industry as a buyer and head of buying for companies such as Primark, M&S, and George at Asda, developing and sourcing a broad range of products from Lingerie to Health & Beauty and driving strategies and innovation. 

Having worked for the big blue chips, Nicole Higgins now brings that expertise and experience to entrepreneurs and SME’s to help you make your product ideas a reality, scale your business, and increase your bottom line and profits.