Leadership Qualities to Strive For in 2021
Leaders, like their businesses, should be transparent and accountable [Credit: Photo by Mia Baker on Unsplash]

In the year since the pandemic hit, the most successful business leaders have placed the needs of employees ahead of themselves. As we move farther into 2021, the best leaders will continue to inspire, motivate and empower their team — while also showing team members that they believe in them.

This is a management style often referred to as “servant leadership” (read more about this in my previous article, “3 Surprising Business Opportunities That Arose in a No-Good Year“). Those that practice servant leadership have a competitive advantage over those that do not.

What qualities do you need to practice servant leadership? I talked to entrepreneurs from all walks of life to see how they were managing during the pandemic. While this isn’t a definitive list, I’ve put together a few traits that they’ve used to better inspire their teams and stay on track with growing their business in the ever-changing world ahead.

[Related: 9 Qualities to Drive Your Success as an Entrepreneur]

1. Purpose

Purpose, for many businesses, is found in its core values. Every business has its own set of values, which may range from respect to perseverance to courage — or all of the above and more.

Following core values helps guide businesses and leaders alike. Leaders have a better understanding of how to respond and make decisions in and out of a crisis because of these core values.

Further, when a leader leans on company values it helps reassure other team members. Leaders that focus on values and practice them create a domino effect with employees, inspiring them to follow suit. Focus, not fear, guides us out of difficult times and into seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

2. Transparency

The importance of good communication became paramount for leaders to share with others in 2020.

What happens in a workplace where there is poor communication? In the absence of good communication, team members may speculate about what is really happening within an organization. Gossip about a worst-case scenario could spread like wildfire — and that scenario isn’t based on the truth.

Leaders need to continue practicing transparency in 2021 and beyond, especially with distributed teams. This ensures that everyone has the right information no matter where they work and feels engaged with the company.

Transparency does more than help communicate the necessary facts to team members. Arming employees with the facts allow them to feel more confidence, trust and support within the business.

3. Accountability

This LinkedIn article on Big Ideas notes that businesses that took a stand during 2020’s racial inequality protests will be held accountable moving forward.

Simply put, leaders must be able to walk the talk. If a company took a stance on issues like social justice or environmental sustainability in 2020, what steps are they taking in 2021 to create a lasting, radical change?

Leaders must hold themselves, as well as the businesses, accountable to do the necessary work to fulfill these promises. Otherwise, the loss of consumer trust may be impossible to repair.

4. Grit

I often speak with my team about how grit factors into success. Grit, as first illustrated by author Angela Lee Duckworth, is the combination of persistence, passion, and resilience. (Incidentally, all three of these adjectives make great leadership qualities.)

In her TED Talk, Duckworth describes grit in the following manner:

“Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

What sticks out in that paragraph to me, where leaders are concerned, is the notion of sticking with your future for years. A similar comparison may be drawn with the coronavirus pandemic. We are now at the year-mark of the pandemic. Even with vaccine distributions, the world isn’t 100% sure when the next normal may begin.

That being said, however, leaders that possess grit or begin to embrace a gritty mindset will be able to develop a growth mindset. This is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed. Rather, it can change with effort. Leaders that make it their mission to strive for grit will ultimately grow from struggle. They will learn how to adapt when things don’t go their way. Grit gives us the inner will to do and the desire to be the best that you can.

Again, this has a domino effect to the benefit of a leader. Grit pushes you to achieve new goals, try new things, create new boundaries, and explore new horizons.

Leaders, listen up. Start putting all of these qualities in action for a better year that allows us to be the best versions of ourselves.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.

Editor’s Note: The Story Exchange is celebrating its 10th anniversary by launching the annual Women In Science Incentive Prize. Apply now for a chance to receive $5,000 in funding for your climate-related research or startup. Deadline: July 31. 

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