Everyone has their own ideas of what traits make a good leader. Generally they focus on confidence, integrity, honesty, humility, empathy and so on.
But superior leadership requires going beyond personality characteristics and qualities. Exceptional leaders have developed abilities that, if you didn’t know better, you’d swear were supernatural. The good news is, you don’t have to be born on another planet, bitten by a spider or have a Greek god as a parent in order to develop these powers. They require self-awareness, observation of other people and events and a whole lot of practice, but they are available to anyone.
1. The best leaders can see around corners.
Not the physical kind, of course, they’re just as likely to walk into oncoming traffic as you or I. But in business they can predict what will happen next with uncanny accuracy, allowing them to be proactive rather than reactive.
They achieved this with a heightened form of pattern recognition. These leaders assimilate thousands of nuanced “this happened and this was the result” data points. So, what looks like precognition is really a leap from precedent to probability based on numerous prior observations.
2. They can hear what you didn’t say.
I call it “listening between the lines,” that ability to read between the lines of a conversation and get to the heart of a person’s desires, fears and conscious, or even subconscious, agenda. Leaders with this superpower can tell when someone is not being truthful, especially when they are not being truthful with themselves. They will use this ability to get to the heart of what is really being said so that everyone can be on the same page.
This power is honed by really engaging with people and focusing on what they are saying, overlaying that with what they choose to do or how they behave. Voice tones, body language and frequent pauses or rambling are clues as well, but the key is in noticing when what you’re being told doesn’t align with behavior and physicality.
3. Insightful leaders can blaze the trail for one person or hundreds.
All leaders are able to move forward and persuade people to follow them, otherwise they wouldn’t be leaders, they’d just be movers. But the really good leaders make leadership scalable. They can connect with a small following and lead them to success, but they can use the same ability to connect with unlimited numbers of people, showing them the way to move forward toward a commonly desired destination.
Leadership is a personal relationship based on people relating to the leader and sharing the vision for where they want to go. Whether it’s company leadership, community leadership or global “thought” leadership, a great leader is able to relate to one person as well as hundreds or thousands of people.
This superpower requires two skill sets. First, the leader must be able to imagine walking a mile in anyone’s work boots, heels or moccasins. They have to relate to the other person’s journey, their experience, challenges and deepest desires. Second, the leader must become savvy about communication techniques and tools for communicating effectively and evocatively one on one or across the world.
4. They can see you when you’re working, even if they don’t know you.
Like Santa Claus or the gods on Mount Olympus, the best leaders have their ways of knowing when you’re making progress and when you’re off chasing the Mad Hatter. That’s why they are so confident delegating – they have checks and balances that tell them when the system breaks down, or when someone breaks the system, before a crisis reaches mission critical.
These leaders have honed their instincts and intuition. They rely on quantitative and qualitative measurements to keep their fingers on the pulse. Knowing what intel is vital to success, and funneling that data to their desk or screen in the most streamlined and accessible manner possible, means these superheroes are always aware of current status and shifting trends without tying up one more minute of their time than absolutely necessary.
5. They have a cloak of invisibility and know when to wear it.
All leaders like to be recognized and appreciated but the most able leaders know when it’s best to disappear and let the people say, “We did it all ourselves.”
If you aspire to great leadership, or to superhero status, you’ll want to develop these superpowers. Pick one and work on it until it begins to be second nature, then move on to the next. It isn’t easy, but at least it doesn’t require a quick change act in the bat cave, nor will you be exposed to radioactive spiders or threatened with kryptonite. You will, however, have the deep satisfaction of knowing you had tremendous impact in the world.
Related: Are You a Leader or a Follower?