7 Qualities to Become a Great Leader

What makes a great leader? Leadership guru John C. Maxwell lists 21 qualities. Forbes magazine presents 22. Other writers list 10, or even boil it down to five essential qualities.

Like beauty, what makes a great leader is often in the eye of the beholder.

One unique character study on leadership can be found in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. It takes place about 150 years after Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Babylonians, but it was now under control of the Persians. Nehemiah, a descendant of the Jews captured by the Babylonian army, served as cup bearer to King Artaxerxes (meaning he tasted all of the king’s drinks to make sure they weren’t poisoned). Nehemiah decided that the walls around Jerusalem should be rebuilt to make it livable again for his fellow Jews.

Although his position seemed an unlikely one for leadership, here are a few qualities that made him a capable leader.

Courage. Nehemiah wanted to be released from his duties to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it, and presented that request to the king. This was at a time when kings might lop off the head of anyone who was impudent. But Artaxerxes granted the request. Being a leader often means taking a chance on making a change, even if it could have negative results.

Optimism tempered by reality. When Nehemiah returned with high hopes of rebuilding the city wall, he first took a night tour of broken down wall to form a realistic idea of what needed to be done and to begin developing a strategy. Dreaming big is great, but anyone can do that; leaders find ways to turn possibilities into realities.

Willingness to pitch in. Nehemiah didn’t merely give orders to the workers, he worked alongside them to build the wall. When they were in danger of attack from enemies, he took up his weapons, ready to stand alongside the others to defend themselves. When people see their leader in the trenches with them, they feel more invested in the task, which creates an improved work ethic.

Confidence. When faced by naysayers, and even threats of having his enemies report fake news to the king, Nehemiah continued his work, knowing he was doing the right thing. Opposition will always face leaders who are trying to make a change, but those who have confidence in what they’re doing have the best chance of success.

Defending his people. When Nehemiah learned that local rulers were charging outrageous taxes, so severe that people were selling off their land to pay it, he became angry. He confronted the rulers and got them to agree to return the property and quit charging interest. Being a leader means being aware of the situation of your people, and working to correct any injustices.

Celebrating. When the Jews successfully completed the wall, in just 52 days, he held a weeklong celebration. Letting people celebrate the successful completion of a task, especially a stressful one, builds camaraderie and increases their willingness to engage in future tasks with a positive attitude.

Communication. Throughout the process of building the wall, Nehemiah kept communicating the vision and the plans to keep the process going. Leaders keep the communication lines strong so that everyone knows the status and goal of the project.


10 Ways to Appreciate Employees All Year

Businessman winning cup trophy in the office

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson.

It has long been known that the better employees are treated, the more loyal they will be, and the more loyal they are to a company or employer, the better they will do their jobs and serve their customers. Friday, March 3 is Employee Appreciation Day when employers get to show their employees a little extra love for the work they do.

While this is one special day, it can be the kickoff to a year-long effort to show employees how much you value their time and energy. Here are 10 tips of how to show appreciation to employees on March 3 and throughout the year.

  1. Praise in public. While the employee may feel slightly embarrassed to be singled out for their work in front of others, deep inside everyone likes to be recognized by boss and peers alike. On the flip side, if you have a criticism, do that in private.
  2. Gift cards. Randomly reward someone for a job well done with a gift card. These don’t have to be big – even a $10 card to a local coffee shop conveys that you are paying attention and appreciate what they’ve done.
  3. Invest in new technologies. Up-to-date hardware and software shows that you care enough about your employees to give them the best tools to do their job in the best way.
  4. Flexible schedules. If an employee can do part of their job from a laptop at a coffee shop or from home, give them the grace to occasionally do so.
  5. Summer Friday bonus. Let your employees leave an hour early on Fridays during the summer, especially in northern climates where the season for outdoor activity is shorter. This has been shown to improve productivity during summer months.
  6. Lunch dates. Randomly choose an employee or employees to join you for lunch. Talk about anything except work. Get to know them personally. Make sure all employees are eventually included.
  7. Remember birthdays. A card or just a personal note wishing happy birthday is a simple way to say you’re thinking of them. If you remember their spouse’s and children’s birthdays, that’s a bonus.
  8. Snack table. Provide free snacks for employees in the break room or other public area. Remember to include healthy choices for those on special diets.
  9. Share the company. Occasionally let your employees know what’s going well and what isn’t going well in the company, including some of the overarching financial goals. When done in an informative, non-critical way, this can give your employees a more vested interest in the company.
  10. The Golden Rule. The best way to show appreciation is to treat your employees the way you’d want to be treated in their shoes.