Leadership. This crucial skill has so many important attributes that it is difficult to define. Succinctly describing leadership is a challenge. We think we know it when we see it, and surely feel when it is lacking. Perhaps the best way to define this desirable characteristic is to take the word apart. Here then is our definition of
Strong communication skills always rank high on the list of desired traits in a leader. We were each given two ears and only one mouth. Someone once suggested that we should listen twice as much as we talk. Hearing what others around you have to say is an important trait of good leaders.
E motional Intelligence
Sometimes referred to as EQ (as opposed to IQ ), this qualitative factor encompasses traits like one’s self-awareness as an individual, ability to work well with others, and how others perceive and relate to you. It is not about being smart, but rather about having compassion for others. This is hard to fake.
One of our favorite leadership characteristics, authenticity refers to how others perceive your intentions and motivations. Being genuine in your approach to people, and consistent in your behaviors as a leader, will allow others to view you as being the real deal.
This may be one of the more obvious traits of successful leaders, as few who are not dedicated to their craft and organization will make it to the top. But dedication often means going beyond the obvious level of hard work, however, make sure not to mistake activity with achievement. It is leading by example, so that if you expect everyone to show up on a weekend for a meeting, you are also there.
E nergy and Enthusiasm
It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to lead an organization. Few successful and respected leaders can gather real support without being highly visible to their followers. This takes a great deal of time and effort, but others will notice, and enthusiasm is contagious.
This is not just about earning respect for yourself, but also respecting others. When a leader’s behavior exhibits a loss of self-respect or respect for others, it is almost always the beginning of the end of their time at the top.
One of the biggest challenges facing all organizations today, whether yours is a small community organization or a large multinational institution, is the issue of leadership succession. Good leaders consistently focus on developing the next generation of talent, and make succession planning an ongoing organizational focus.
People need to trust their leaders. If you say you are going to do something you had better do it. Keeping your word with others sets the tone for how your followers are expected to behave when representing the team.
This is probably the most important characteristic we look for in a leader. If being honorable means being true to your word, then your integrity sets the standard for ethical behaviors and best practices across the organization. The highest compliment anyone has ever given to us is to say that we have a lot of integrity in our organization.
Leaders can’t cave in at the first sign of resistance to what is right or necessary for success. While there are surely times to reverse course in life, having a “stick-with-it” attitude is critical. People need to see their leaders driving forward and persisting when the going gets tough. This is how breakthroughs occur.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of every trait a leader must possess. These ten resonate with us as being the kinds of personal elements we see exhibited in our most admired leaders, and which we seek when searching for a new leader of our team. Our hope is that we can each instill in ourselves as many of these qualities as possible, as we strive to be better leaders in our respective fields.