Leadership in today’s constantly changing world is important but can be daunting. There are many experts, coaches and consultants who talk about ideas, strategies, and methods to lead well. Sometime the details of these models can cause leadership to feel overwhelming and challenging to implement. To keep it simple, here are 7 attributes that great leaders share. With the right blend of attributes, you can thrive within any leadership system. It’s possible to develop these characteristics with study and effort.
While most leaders have these to some degree, mastery of them help upgrade your leadership. Maybe give yourself a 0-5 rating on each and pick one to upskill in 2022.
How could developing these attributes enhance leadership effectiveness?
- Humb-ition. A term I read in Todd Henry’s Herding Tigers book. It is humility with ambition. Leaders who can tame their ego yet have healthy drive and ambition are confident leaders who take calculated risks that push the edge needed for growth and innovation without killing or sacrificing their people. This confidence and grit help to inspire confidence in others to work toward the goal even when they do not fully understand or see it themselves. Confidence is contagious. Humble but driven leadership shows you are not above the challenge rather with the team. This builds culture, team, and hopefulness especially when setbacks occur.
- Integrity. Doing what you say you are going to do builds trust. One of the most important attributes of a great leader is character. Character is knowing the person will do what is right even when no one is looking. People need to trust someone before they will follow them. When a leader is honest, walking the talk, respectful of others and follows through, people feel safe to trust you. Your word is only as good as your actions. Make sure your integrity is top notch. Note: sometimes this means if something changes you follow up and communicate the change or update. If you said you were going to do something or the company is promising something and things change, updating the team is critical because it is directly connected to your integrity.
- Communication. Dovetailing on the point above, not only is regular and frequent communication important for your integrity of doing what you say, but communication is critical for the team to understand where they are headed. This might be sharing the vision, getting feedback, soliciting ideas, providing information, etc. Communication is a strength for some, but it is not a pass for those who do not naturally have this gift. It is a skill that must be learned because leadership without communication is not leadership. It leads to frustration, ambiguity, and disempowerment. Leadership with communication provides, clarity, focus and clear direction. It elevates and empowers people so they can take and run with their part. Communication skills are paramount to all leaders. If you’re looking for a single skill to enhance, this is a great place to start.
- Optimism. A key emotional intelligence (EI) variable is optimism. Those who lack optimism can struggle to take risks and feel burdened by the fear of failure or weight of responsibility. Those with optimism are enthusiastic and trust that they and the team will figure it out. They trust the process and see what is possible more than seeing what is not possible. It is a measure of a growth mindset, which allows you to be positive and encouraging about the task at hand. Teams need leaders who believe in the mission. If the leader (who knows more about what is going on) has doubt and trepidation, it causes the team to be anxious, apprehensive, and uncertain if this can work or be successful. No one wants to be on a losing team. Be enthusiastic and lead the team everyone wants to be on. Have fun, enjoy the process, and constantly work to see the possibility and make things happen. Demonstrate the type of enthusiasm you’d like to see in your team members. Let everyone know that you believe in your mission and its importance.
- Focus. Leaders usually have several things coming at them. It is easy to be pulled in many directions. It is critical that leaders have the habits, structures, and systems to help themselves rise above the noise, assess the situation, and find clear focus. This focus is necessary for a leader to find the target that the team is headed too. Leaders must cut through the noise, find what is important and distill into next steps and a clear direction for overcoming obstacles and challenges. It isn’t about knowing it all or seeing to the end of the road, it is just having a clear view of what’s next and knowing it aligns to the bigger picture/direction. Return to your mission statement frequently to keep your focus fresh.
- Flexibility. A growing EI skill is that of flexibility and adaptivity. While some visionaries are a little too good at changing direction, flexibility isn’t erratic hard left turns, it is the ability to swerve, exit and U-turn if needed. Practice the skill of seeing several options so the one that came to mind first isn’t the only way. Be open-minded enough to alternatives and challenges. Make course corrections a regular part of the process. Avoid confusing steadfastness with stubbornness. It’s important to realize when it’s time to make some changes. Be mindful to do that in a way that respects and works with the team so that your flexibility is not chaos for the team.
- Resilience. There will be obstacles and times of uncertainty. Great leaders can weather these situations and demonstrate steadiness to keep the rest of the team focused and optimistic. Challenges should be expected for any ambitious project. Challenges however create tension and strain, and these are the times your team will look to you the most. Be positive. Be confident. Be a rock. It’s natural to have doubts. Have an outlet to work through your thoughts and doubts so when you lead the team you can be clear, strong, and leading forward. Resilience is the ability to be hard pressed but to stay levelheaded and able to bounce back from trials and adversity. Resilience is critical in today’s rapidly changing and strained workplace.
It’s possible to develop these characteristics with study and effort.
There are many more attributes we could talk about, but these seven will serve you well. They promote strong emotional intelligence and excellent stable leadership that is encouraging to follow.
Growing in these attributes will enhance your leadership abilities and increase your power and influence at work. Leadership skills can’t be learned and developed in a day. Assess yourself, find one to upskill, develop a plan to grow the skill and work on it daily. It will be a gift to yourself, your team, and your work.