June 28, 2022 – Executive recruiters have all seen good leaders, some of whom even rise to the “great” level. What distinguishes an individual as a leader often is subjective; if you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different responses that reflect some combination of vision, character, and trust. One thing that’s certain, though: It’s not the title that makes the person. Being a leader is more than just a culmination of experience, opportunity, and time.
For some, an aptitude for leadership may come naturally, says Lauren Kendall, of The Bowdoin Group, in a new report. “Fortunately for the rest of us, much of what makes a good leader is learned,” she said. “And it’s never too early – or too late – to cultivate the skills and attributes that ultimately will define a leadership legacy.” In the report, The Bowdoin Group offered six attributes of what the firm says it sees in exceptional leaders.
“These are the qualities common to the men and women who have made positive and lasting impacts on the communities they’ve served,” said the firm.
1. Listen Carefully. It’s remarkable what you can learn about people if you listen to what they are saying, says the search firm. Knowing how the people on your team “tick” – their interests, likes, dislikes, and what inspires them – can help you more effectively match people to the tasks and situations, they’ll excel at and enjoy. The results? Productive and happy team members.
2. Never Stop Learning. “Along with listening, a thirst for learning throughout your career can make you better at what you do,” said The Bowdoin Group. “Continuing to seek opportunities to learn and experience life can make you a more rounded leader, enabling you to gain added perspective on different aspects of the business and relate to others personally regarding their interests and hobbies.”
3. Build Strong Teams. Many people, particularly those in leadership roles, think they have to have all the answers. “However, good leaders have a good handle on their strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with teams that shore up their gaps in knowledge and skill,” said the report. “Rather than being intimidated by people who are stronger in certain areas, these leaders embrace it, and in the process, build strong and loyal teams that want to follow their leader anywhere – even to a new company.”
4. Motivate Others. Good leaders who “walk the walk” usually motivate their team members to go beyond their limits to accomplish great things. “As John Quincy Adams said, ‘If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader,’” said The Bowdoin Group. “How do they do it? It comes down to building your team’s trust. When a leader exhibits traits like confidence, honesty, vision, and consistency, others follow.”
5. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due. Leaders can’t do everything independently. As your team works toward the collective goals you’ve set, it’s essential to keep tabs on how they’re doing under the pressures of deadlines and challenges, said the report. Acknowledge their hard work and give them credit for it, particularly when you get the praise.
6. Help Others. Good leaders have a passion for what they’re doing. “They also are compassionate when it comes to their teams,” said the search firm. “They can relate emotionally to tricky situations and solve sensitive issues with kindness and compassion. They also help their team members grow, setting clear career paths, guiding and supporting them in their journeys.”
Founded in 1994, The Bowdoin Group is an executive search firm specializing in C-level search and strategic recruitment process outsourcing (RPO). The firm focuses on leadership and strategic roles for a wide range of companies, from small firms building out their executive team to large firms sourcing talent for rapid market expansion as well as venture- and private equity-backed firms. With deep expertise in biopharma, digital health, fintech and financial services, and software, the firm specializes in the Greater Boston area with the ability to source talent and service companies globally.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media