How to be a leader with edge

Want to own the room and get others looking up to you? Here are some tips on how to be a cut above the rest.

by Annie Richardson
Last Updated: 21 Jun 2013

Strong leadership is intrinsically linked to business success, yet many organisations fall short of their potential because they do not equip their staff with the necessary skills to lead effectively. 

Here are the seven traits that a leader with edge must have…

1. Self awareness and awareness of others 

Although it is probably one of the least discussed leadership characteristics, self-awareness is one of the most valuable.

It's easy to see how pretending to know everything when actually you don't, can be problematic for the entire organisation. But if you take responsibility for what you don't know, you benefit both yourself and your organisation.

Openly acknowledge what you have yet to learn. It's okay to admit you don't have all the answers, to make mistakes and most importantly, to ask for help. 

2. Have the ability to challenge, and have ‘difficult’ conversations

When handled calmly and with respect for the other person, even the most challenging conversations can lead to an improved state of affairs for all involved.

When you practise this art, you learn valuable lessons about effective communication that can be applied in many different circumstances. 

3. Negotiate with clarity of purpose 

Almost every aspect of the business landscape is negotiable. In tough economic conditions, this can work in your favour, as the pressure to get the most out of relationships and realise value from deals is higher than ever.

So whether you’re faced with suppliers looking to hike prices, clients extending their payment terms, fixing a price for new business or dealing with an employee’s request for a pay rise, understanding the art of negotiation will considerably increase your chances of a positive outcome. 

4. Be resilient and resourceful

A good dose of resilience is essential for most individuals and businesses. Churchill once remarked: "If you are going through hell, keep going." 

The sense of keeping going is important, but so is being smart and imaginative. A leader with edge won’t dwell on bad outcomes, they will be able to recover quickly and crack on. 

5. Be adaptable and able to deal with ambiguity

A rigid ‘five-year plan’ is no longer appropriate – the world is simply moving too fast. Leaders with edge will have to learn to operate in a context where there are constantly shifting priorities as organisations adapt to survive, or to pursue opportunities.

It can be difficult to navigate without a detailed map, but it is the nature of modern business. Leaders need to improve their decision-making processes and make swifter, more accurate commercial judgments. 

6. Have the confidence and presence to engage at all levels and in all environments

Confidence is the base from which leadership grows. Not only does confidence allow you to make the tough decisions that people expect from a leader but it's reassuring to your employees. It allows you to lead meetings with authority, to accept frankness and open communication.

The greater your perceived force of will, the more faith your employees will have in your company and its mission.

7. Mental toughness

Tuning out the noise or pressure and performing to potential in an otherwise difficult situation is what makes fans admire the most astute professional athlete. It is the same with bosses in a company.

Annie Richardson, is managing director at Quantum Corporate Coaching Ltd

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