7 Essential Traits of Leaders

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

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

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.

Emotional Intelligence
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.

Vision

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.

Judgment

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
Courage

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

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

A Village is a Port in a Storm

There was a homicide in Delray Beach a few weekends ago.
A 26-year-old man was shot and killed outside a community market on our Main Street, in our downtown. His name was Jamar Gabbage.
The shooting happened not far from our “gateway” feature, in the 1100 block of West Atlantic Avenue; the entrance to our downtown.
Last week we learned that three people died after overdosing on heroin within 24 hours in Delray.
The same day this story led the local news I saw a young man on a bike heading toward A1A screaming at passersby. I wondered whether he was ill or under the influence of “flakka”, the new scourge that is laying waste to young minds. This week came more news of someone allegedly under the influence and violent requiring several police officers and a K-9 to subdue.
But when I stop by to visit friends at a local restaurant the talk isn’t about murders or what to do about substance abuse. The talk is about “A frame” valet signs and whether a part on the beach pavilion is rusting.
When I browse social media I read about change and how sad it is to see a chain store downtown. Valid concerns, but definitely first world problems, I think to myself.
Then I read about an unattended death at a local rehab and see a slew of insensitive comments.
And I feel sad.
These are people we are talking about.
Someone’s dad. Someone’s child. Someone’s friend.
I see a lot of lost people in our city. I see them outside the local Walgreens and watch them slowly cross a parking lot in front of my office on Lindell Boulevard.
Some are homeless and worn, like weathered driftwood. Others seem cooked with vacant thousand yard stares as they make their way across streets only to disappear in crevices.
We have it all here.
Mansions on the water.
Craft cocktails.
Fancy cars.
Valet parking.
Big Boats. Expensive private schools. 100 foot Christmas trees.
We also have murders.
Drive by shootings.
Kids whose parents beat them. People suffering from cancer and dementia. Heroin. Homelessness and drug deals done in alleyways.
It’s there for all to see in the village. If we care to look.
When I drive through town I have memories everywhere. That’s what happens when you’re anchored in a place for a long period of time as I have been in Delray—happily.
I remember being able to seeking solace in people whenever the going got rough.
On South Swinton there was Father Stokes. Chip, he would insist you call him.
He became Bishop of New Jersey.
But before he left he was a confidant; a trusted partner.
He cared about the poor people who lived just west of his church. When you talked with him you could see his passion about education, social justice and racism. Before he got his post in New Jersey he was up for another big job in the church.
A team of senior church leaders came to Delray to discuss his work in our city. I was asked about Chip’s work in the community and when I began to answer I noticed that I was choked up describing the care and leadership he provided. I realized that if he left, he would leave a gaping hole. He didn’t get that job but a few years later he got an even bigger one.
And you know what? We miss Chip Stokes’ leadership, courage and ability to focus on what was most important.
On Lake Ida Road, there was Nancy Hurd who spent decades loving the poorest children in our village at the Achievement Center. Nancy was always a port in a storm. On the darkest days, the days when I couldn’t sleep because I saw images of a 15 year old boy in a casket I knew I could visit Nancy and she would hold my hand and together we would visit pre-schoolers with their smiles, hugs and hopes. By the time you left, you had hope in the future. It wasn’t that reality changed, but in that corner of the world you could see goodness and love.
On North Swinton, at Old School Square there was Joe Gillie and Frances Bourque who were always excited about the arts and about serving children by exposing them to culture. Their passion was infectious. You wanted to sign on to their mission immediately and we did.
Years later I would sit on an interview panel and listen to 17-year-old Stephanie Brown talk about her love of photography stoked by a class she took at Old School Square. She would become one of our first set of Dare 2 Be Great Scholars. A year or two later she was named one of the top young photographers in Savannah where she excelled at the Savannah College of Art and Design. But for that class…it might not have happened.
Near Pompey Park, lived the Pompey’s, lovely people, educators, community builders whose love of this city made you fall in love too. Their history was painful; fighting for the right to go to the beach, better schools and parks and for local children denied opportunity.
On the southwest side, you could sit with Mrs. Wesley. Libby to some…and she would sing to you or read you a poem that left you a puddle. Libby was beauty personified. She believed in Delray. She believed in young people. She believed in roots. She inspired everyone.
At City Hall, you could pop in and feel the energy of achievement and pride. In the clerk’s office were Barbara Garito and Chevelle Nubin and lots of happy faces, Sue and Jim and others. There was DQ and Lula and a busy planning department with smart people like Ron Hoggard and Jeff Costello who could figure out any problem you threw at them. And we did. We threw a lot their way.
And there was tough Paul Dorling, who could be disarmed with a joke.
Perry held court at Boston’s and Bill at the Chamber. Lori could be found at the market and Nancy was always planning a festival.
Solace; everywhere you looked.
Pame, Jen, Evelyn, Skip, Bob, Susan, Kerry, Rachel and Tom Fleming in the Grove. Mrs Gholston and Miss B.
A village.
There were murders and drugs. Always. There was crime and blight galore. Businesses went bust. People said rude things.
But we were a village.
Always a village.
I’m not sure if those same havens exist these days. I hope they do and I suspect they do. Many of the players mentioned above have moved on in life which is what happens, but I’m sure they were replaced by others who are caring as well.
My wish is that current and future leadership seek advice and solace. You can’t do these jobs on social media, as great as Facebook is. It’s only a village if we talk to each other. And listen—with empathy.