Great leadership characteristics are something that most people aren’t born with. For many it’s a learning process where we make continually mistakes. I could tell you stories from my own life that would make you laugh. I’ve always had some good leadership traits, but sometimes I’ve allowed my pride to get in the way.
In the early days of leading, I worried a lot about getting the job done efficiently. I saw a goal, and cared about metrics. The people creating them were secondary as far as I was concerned. I kept hitting road blocks, but after a few horrible attempts at managing, I realized how much of a jerk I’d become. I wasn’t being me, I was a tyrant. So I decided to make a change and become the leader I’ve always wanted to follow. First I needed to understand what that looked like.
A Few Questions About Leadership Characteristics
To begin, I asked myself a few questions. Below I’ve distilled it into 3 simple questions. Feel free to use them as a jumping off point. I had a longer list, but I always go back to these three.
- Who have I followed willingly, and why?
- Do I have character traits that can match that?
- What abilities do I have? And how can I lead with those?
Once I started to get into question #3, I had a realization. I was comparing myself to other leaders, and that was no okay. When you compare yourself to others, you stop thinking of yourself as an individual. Instead you focus on becoming a copy, and a copy is never as good as an original.
It took awhile, but I finally stopped comparing myself to other leaders. Instead when I see another leader, I look at their skills and wonder if I had a complimentary one. Then I shrug my shoulders and move on.
Top Leadership Characteristics
- They Need To Communicate
- Leaders Delegate Authority
- They Hold People Accountable
- Leaders Encourage, And Inspire
- They Have And Share Their Vision
- Great Leaders Have Integrity, And Are Honest
Before I get into it, I’ll say this isn’t an exhaustive list. I’ll probably look at it a month from publishing and realize I skipped a few. I can’t cover all the leadership traits in one post.
Also as a side note, don’t feel bad when you realize some of these traits are absent from your life. These are traits I’ve seen in different people throughout my life, and I don’t have all of them either. It’s like a talent, I’m good at some but not all.
Look at the ones that fit you, and strengthen those. As a side note, if you’ve ever taken the strengths finder test, I’d recommend doing that because it’s a psychological profile test that will give you the top 5 themes in your life.
These themes encompass the areas of greatest impact and growth. Keep in mind it’s a test, and those things can be accurate, but they also can be really screwy. I’ve taken many personality, talent, skills assessments in my life, and that one seem to fit my life really well. However, I always say take it with a grain of salt.
So without further ado, here’s my list of leadership characteristics for a great leader.
Great Leaders Communicate
Communication is one of the most important leadership characteristics you can develop. Communication means everything. Whether it’s good or bad, if the team needs to know it, then share it. Holding onto information doesn’t make you a stronger leader, it makes you a foolish one.
One of my biggest pet peeves stems from a lack of communication, and power hungry leaders. When you don’t share, you’re slowing your people down, frustrating them, and you lose credibility in their eyes. In the past I’ve shared everything with my teams, however use common sense depending on the industry and job you’re doing.
When you’re a leader, and the followers don’t need to know a piece of information, or understand it during that moment in time. Make sure you’re still giving them the respect they deserve. For example, I remember once in ministry school asking a question, and the person in charge said something that made me angry. Over the next few years I’d hear it quite a bit, I even probably used it a bit myself.
“That is a need to now basis, and you don’t need to know.”Anonymous
This answer was offensive to the entire school and staff. I know you can’t explain everything, but not telling people the plan, or communicating things that are happening is destructive to morale. It also plants seeds of distrust, and separates the leaders from the followers.
It wasn’t necessarily the message that was said, it was the delivery. Always respect the team and maintain the team cohesion at all costs.
Leaders should be forthcoming with an answer to questions. Even if the answers need to be vague that’s okay. Share what you can, and say why you’re unable to share the rest. Respect gets respect.
Leadership Delegates Authority
When a leader isn’t comfortable in their job or the process of it, they tend to feel insecure, and have issues with delegation. This brings on feelings of doubt and fear that they’ll be found to be a fraud.
During a time like this, I recommend you find a member of the team who does understand the process. Or maybe they are beginning to grasp it. Either way, if they’re ahead of you, it’s best to bring them alongside, and discuss the issues you’re facing. Walk through the processes with them, and maybe let them explain to the team what’s going on. This will help you and your team understand faster, and they are empowered to think more about the situation they are fixing.
As a leader, your team is the greatest asset you have. Learn their strengths, their weaknesses, and help them grow.
Great Leadership Holds People Accountable
Another leadership characteristic that’s very difficult, is accountability. I struggle with this one because I tend to get close to those who follow me. So holding them accountable becomes difficult and even painful.
Once a few years ago, I had to fire the guy who trained me. He was a good friend and I felt horrible doing it. However we’d discovered his conduct wasn’t up to par, and there was no question about his guilt.
At first I was going to pass it off to my boss, then I relented. How can I pass my responsibilities off and still be respected and understood by my crew. I knew it going to be a bad day but I did my job. Later I explained to the crew (legally and as best I could) what had happened, and what policies we needed to be following.
The worst part about it, we haven’t spoken since I fired him. He didn’t see me as a leader, instead I was his friend. When you’re the leader, you’ll lose friends when holding people accountable. When you do it, and it’s known, it’ll help drive the team to greater heights when they know things have to get done.
As a side note, I’m not talking about threatening or making unreasonable demands. If they’ve got a project that has been agreed upon, and for some reason it’s not done on time. Find out why? However as a leader, you should have already seen it was behind.
Leadership Will Encourage And Inspire
This is where I excel, I love to encourage and inspire a team. My inner strengths focus on it, and it’s why I’ve been able to get the best out of my people wherever I’ve worked.
A couple ways I like to inspire others.
- Congratulate them when they do something awesome.
- Help them when they’re working on something they hate or aren’t great at.
- Encourage them when they are faltering, or stressed.
- Let them see you working as hard, or harder than them.
Leadership characteristics aren’t super difficult, respect the team, respect yourself, and respect the organization you are working or serving with. That’s the basics.
Great Leaders Share Vision
One of my favorite things to do when the day begins, is gather my team and say what needs to be done. I’ll let them know what trials and hurdles we need to overcome, and what items I believe will be overcome easily.
After that, I ask for questions about overcoming some of the hurdles. I know my team can imagine better than I, and if I let them think, they might do better than me. Together we can fix the problem quicker and faster than I can myself.
That’s always how it works, as long as I can trust my team. Afterwards, I’ll assign positions and we work.
Another Important Leadership Characteristic Is Honesty And Integrity
Another of my favorite leadership characteristics is Honesty and Integrity. These are characteristics that are lacking in our culture today. We tend to glorify people who can pull stuff off without being caught, and lie without letting others know.
This is a bad idea when you’re a leader. When you speak, others are relying on you to guide them. When you lie, they don’t trust you and they won’t believe the next thing you say.
Leaders Are Creative
When you’re a leader it goes to say that something will go wrong with a project. One thing you’ll need is creativity to overcome this. I believe there’s always a solution, you just gotta think it up, and that’s the hard part.
One time, I had an issue while being a valet manager. We had more cars than we could handle. So I cut down on the valets running time by parking the cars in the alleyway. (not recommended legally but it worked out)
Circumstances require creativity and you gotta be ready to make a change to your plan at a moments notice.
Being A Leader Is Never About Power
One of the things I always try to warn others about, is that leadership isn’t about power over others. Leadership is influence over the people around you. When you have earned their respect, and they know you care, things will happen fast.
When a leader loses focus, they can become a manipulative person. This would be a dark side of leadership. It’s where they lose all the good traits I mentioned above, and they only focus on things they want. These types of leaders will lie, manipulate, and many other things to get their way.
Most of us have worked under someone like that, so lets plan on being a good leader.
Leadership Characteristics In Closing
I’ll be updating this particular post regularly. If you enjoyed reading my blog topics feel free to read more by clicking on the top of the page or on the hyper link.
I’ve also written another article titled Leadership Characteristics To Develop. In this article I go over a lot of similar ground, but also take a few turns and tell a few more stories.
I hope you enjoy them both.