With an historic presidential election behind us, the topic of leadership in America and in our communities has become a front burner discussion. Here’s a few thoughts on what we think are essential attributes for leaders at any level of government, business, non-profits and academia.
7 Essential Attributes: All Seven Are Necessary for Success
“People would rather follow a leader who is always real versus a leader who is always right. Don’t try to be a perfect leader, just work on being an authentic one.” –Brad Lomenick
Integrity is like the foundation of a house. It’s not the first thing you notice, yet without it, the house won’t stand and all the fancy amenities won’t matter.
So what is integrity? It is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It’s keeping promises, its resisting temptation to be corrupted and it means telling the truth. But it also means a lot more than just telling the truth. It means not being silent when you see something wrong. It means being able to hold yourself and others accountable and it means always acting ethically.
Quote: “If you have integrity, nothing else matters. If you don’t have integrity, nothing else matters.” –Former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson.
Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is experiencing or feeling. It means an ability to tune into others, to listen and to understand. Leaders need to be able to connect to people. They need to be able to probe beneath the surface, to sense conflict before it erupts and nip it in the bud and they need to be able to sense the mood in a room and adjust their communication accordingly.
Quote: “Leadership boils down to strong relationships. Before I can be an effective leader I have to know the players, they have to get to know me and we have to trust and know each other.” – Coach K. of Duke.
Leaders need to understand their blind spots and weaknesses as much as their strengths. They need to evolve and adapt to new challenges. They need to work well with diverse personalities.
Quote: “Until you know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed.” –Warren Bennis.
Every good leader has vision. Leaders imagine a better future. Visionaries understand that leading is a job to do not a job to have. They are transformational leaders, with a clear vision of a brighter tomorrow. They are able to think long term and focus beyond the daily grind.
Visionary leaders inspire. They are optimistic and they never lose focus.
Quote: “Dreams are extremely important. You can’t do it unless you can imagine it.” – George Lucas.
Good judgment is essential for effective leadership. Good judgment means good decision making. In leadership positions, you will often have to make dozens of decisions on a regular basis. Sometimes you will be given time and information; sometimes you will have to make quick decisions with little information. As a leader, you can’t afford to be indecisive. You have to answer the call.
Three tips for developing good judgment and making good decisions.
1.Zero in on what’s important
2.See the whole chessboard
3.Take decisive action.
Quote: “Mistakes are not the ‘spice’ of life. Mistakes are life. Mistakes are not to be tolerated. They are to be encouraged.” –Tom Peters
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. If you want to lead, conflict is inevitable. Leadership means being on the front lines of conflict. It means having the courage to take a stand and know that you will make some people angry. You will make friends and you will lose friends. In leadership positions: you will be tested every day.
Quote: “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” -— Eddie Rickenbacker World War I hero
Passion is the drive to achieve, to make a difference, to put a dent in the universe. Without passion, without drive, you cannot be an effective leader. You have to wake up every day driven to learn, achieve, master and move toward your goals and vision. Passion drives progress.
Quote: “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” -— Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch