What is tough leadership? It’s leadership with edge.

It’s not the crazy eccentric edge that relies a lot on luck, but the boldness to go after what you believe in and take failure on the chin without getting knocked out.

Tough leaders are first and foremost tough taskmasters. They expect the best out of others but have the highest standards reserved for themselves. They like people and love challenges.

A tough leader possesses all the usual leadership traits but is able to crank it up when the going gets tough.

In short, a tough leader is the whole package.

Let’s take a look at some of the traits that tough leaders possess, and how these qualities help them emerge victorious in the long run.

Courage of Conviction

While we all know that leadership is not for the weak-minded, certain leaders are stronger than others.

Strength here, of course, refers to a person’s emotional courage. Courage of conviction. A belief that they have what it takes to get a job done that what they have done is right, and the ability to deal with the consequences.

Leaders are responsible for the fortunes of entire organizations and countries and their each and every move is scrutinized by those around them.

“The higher a monkey climbs, the more people who can see its ass.”
Jack Welch, former GE CEO

The media are even worse, and totally unforgiving. If a leader needs to proceed with what they believe is right, they need to learn to ignore the naysayers and do what they must.

Leaders like presidents and prime ministers of countries have it the toughest. Unfair criticism, personal attacks, even complete character assassination comes with the territory.

A tough leader is able to shrug it off, but it takes courage to do so.

A Love of Challenges

Tough leaders smack their lips at the thought of facing new challenges as the see them as opportunities to fix a wrong or do something new.

For some, it’s even a case of the bigger the challenge, the greater their chance to create history.

We once again refer to Jack Welch, who took GE to great heights on the strength of a clear vision and an uncompromising attitude in the pursuit of excellence and success.

It’s never easy leading giant companies and going from strength to strength, but then easily achieved tasks don’t make history either.

Welch had a unique style of management, or rather leadership since he despised the word ‘manage,’ which became so successful that it’s now taught in management institutes all over the world.

Welch is the epitome of a tough leader.

Ability to Switch Gears

As a leader, you wear many hats and meet all kinds of people.

Some of these people are incredibly nice and conscientious, some are sycophants, some are incompetent, some don’t have a clue, and some are two-faced lying you-know-whats who can never be trusted. Many are out to get you.

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It’s imperative for a person in a leadership role to be able to tell the difference between people sooner than later.

And be nice to those who are nice themselves, and tough with those who deserve it. Sometimes they have to crack the whip even on nice people.

Different circumstances and changing scenarios require you to operate in different modes, and a tough leader should feel competent dealing with all of them.

Ability to Inspire Confidence

June 4, 1940. Winston Churchill gives a rousing speech that goes down in the annals of history and uplifts an entire nation to strong action. One man rallies a divided island to defeat them Germans.

Politicians have this knack about them, which many of them have thoroughly abused on a lot of occasions as well. But we aren’t referring to the rabble rousers or the manipulative thieves here.

We are talking about those who can infuse their team with a strong sense of possibility in a short time.

We are all, at some point, followers and we all look up to our leaders. A corporate set-up is no different.

A leader should lead by example. When your staff sees that you know what you are talking about, are confident of the path undertaken by the company, and are raring to go, they will also throw their weight behind you.

Energy, passion, and clarity of vision are all tremendously contagious.

Bounce Back from Adversity

Tough times are the litmus test of a leader. What happens when the plan you believed in so wholeheartedly backfires and your company instead registers a big loss?

Leaders get a lot of credit and praise when things work their way. But when it all goes bad, it’s their head on the line.

Criticism can get intense and incessant, and it’s only human to be affected by it. A lot of it can also generate self-doubt.

This is what separates the tough leaders from their not-so-tough counterparts. Their confidence in themselves and a strong sense of objectivity helps them from sinking into depression and prepare for a strong comeback.

There is a lot of wisdom in failure; in fact, failure tells you in no uncertain terms just how to get things right. Tough leaders pay attention and take the guidance on board.

They slay their demons and bounce back to reclaim success.

What Are Tough Leaders Made Of?

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Mary Prescott
Mary Prescott is working as a community manager at WorkZone – A web-based project management software company. She is @MaryP_WZ on Twitter. When she’s not working, you’ll find her reading fiction or hiking with her dog.