There are some common traits found in a powerful leader. You may already have some of these traits – and others can be developed if one of your life goals is to become a true leader. Remember, you don’t have to desire to lead an army to reap the benefits of learning leadership skills.
Seven top traits of a true leader include:
- Self-awareness and behavioural flexibility. An important area for a leader to develop – growing your self-awareness means identifying and understanding your strengths and weaknesses, your motivators (and demotivators), communication style and just what you bring to the table. It’s also important to have a reasonably high level of “emotional intelligence” or EQ, and to recognise how your words and behaviour impact those around you. Knowing when to push harder or pull back in response to a given situation gives any leader a genuine advantage. Our Extended DISC Behavioural Profiling is a terrific tool for raising self-awareness and developing behavioural flexibility!
- Maintain a positive attitude. Keeping your team upbeat and optimistic means that you must maintain a positive attitude and present an energetic front. Of course there must be productivity to meet goals, but you should be able to balance the working hours with some fun times. When those around you see your positive attitude, it will rub off. Think about what brings you to life and how you might share that in the workplace. Be someone others want to be around.
- Honesty and integrity. Hold yourself and those who work with you to a high level of honesty and ethical conduct. Treat everyone with dignity. Your family and followers are reflections of you, so if you practice honest and ethical behaviour, they will follow your pattern. As a leader it can be easy to want to take short cuts and appeal to the masses but if you want to build something sustainable you must operate with integrity and be prepared to make the hard calls. Sometimes that will be painful, but it’s part and parcel of the job.
You must be prepared to honestly assess a situation and take responsibility for it. If nothing is ever your fault, you still have work to do. Likewise, you must give credit where it is due, rather than taking it for yourself. This are the kind of attributes that will grow loyalty over time.
- Ability to communicate. Ronald Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator,” and looking back at his lifestyle, it’s easy to understand why. He was able to clearly explain and focus on what needed to be done and express it in a way that was understood. If you have trouble communicating, read books, take a course in achieving better communication skills or check out our Lead Like a Learner Leadership Coaching program. You can also give your skills a boost with our Behavioural Profiling Guide for Leaders available in our Free Resources.
- Ability to commit. George Patton, commanding general in World War II was a soldier who got up close and personal to those under his command. He fought in the trenches and made it a point to be wherever his men were experiencing difficulty. As a leader, you must make a commitment to lead by example. Commit to being there even when things get hard or complicated. Commit to taking responsibility when things go wrong. Commit to developing your leadership skills and over time your commitment will result in a team that will follow you to the end of the earth.
- Maintain a sense of humour. The day to day business of being a leader can wear you down, but if you maintain a sense of humour through the discouraging times, your followers will maintain higher morale. Beware of your ego as a leader, it requires you and those around you to stay serious, and it can bring you down faster than you realise. Taking yourself lightly and staying humble will make it much easier to see the funny side when challenges inevitably pop up.
- Wisdom and creativity. A leader should have the ability to change from a path they’re on to another path to accommodate creative new ideas. Sometimes, the decision might involve how you’re guiding others, but whatever the reason, creativity helps everyone work toward the goal you’re seeking. A leader needs to see the big picture and have the wisdom to appreciate how things connect. Again, a sense of humility and the ability to be vulnerable are important here because true creativity can only happen when you’re not afraid of making a mistake. And wisdom comes when we learn from our mistakes. Work hard to cultivate a high value creating culture and foster innovation by modelling vulnerability at work.
You must start with becoming a true leader of yourself if you want to accomplish great things or even meet smaller goals. Leading your family through trials and tribulations is another great reason to know how to lead. Regardless of your aspirations, developing your leadership skills will only move you closer to realising them.