Great leadership characteristics are something that most people aren’t born with. For many, it’s a learning process while they’re making horrible mistakes. I could tell you some leadership stories from my life that would make you laugh and some would make you cry.
In my early days of being a leader, a constant worry I had was not getting a job done efficiently. I didn’t care about people. Instead, I’d see a goal and the metrics were all that mattered. The people on my team who were in my charge became secondary to me.
That sounds pretty awful, right?
I was like the officer leading his troops to battle, and not caring how many of them died. Looking back I’m horrified by my mindset. Leadership characteristics, traits, skills, whatever you want to call them are extremely important.
We all start somewhere, and that’s where I started. If I can learn leadership, anybody can.
What abilities do I have? And how can I lead with those?
Keep in mind that your skillset is given to you by God, and it’s going to be different than everyone else. You are your own unique person, and you’re on this planet to accomplish something that nobody else can.
You are needed.
Don’t compare yourself to others, but make note of admirable traits. For instance, I met John Maxwell many years ago. If you don’t know who he is, he’s a leadership Guru who’s written a lot of books on leadership characteristics, and he’s taught the skill all over the country.
I’d been reading his books for years, and when I met him. He exhibited all of his teachings. It was mesmerizing.
He exhibited every leadership characteristic that he wrote about. He respected me, remembered my name, and encouraged me to keep pressing on. In essence, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
6 Leadership Characteristics To Develop
Below I’ve placed some of the top characteristics that you should be looking for.
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 characteristics 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.
But you can improve them with a little hard work and self-awareness.
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 personalities, talent, and skills assessments in my life, and that one seems 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 you should develop to become a great leader.
Leadership Characteristics: They Communicate Well
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. This is why it’s at the top of my leadership characteristics list.
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.
Make sure you’re giving your team the respect they deserve. For example, Once in ministry school, I asked 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.”
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 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 Characteristics: They Delegate 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 you and discuss the issues you’re facing. Walkthrough 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.
Leadership Characteristics: They Hold Their 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 he’d been stealing from the company, and there was no question about his guilt.
At first, I was going to pass it off to my boss, but 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, is 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 Characteristics: They Will Encourage And Inspire The Team
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 of 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.
Leadership Characteristics: They Will Share The 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 questions about overcoming some of the hurdles. I know my team can imagine better than I do, 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. Afterward, I’ll assign positions and we work.
Leadership Characteristics: They Are Honest And Have Great 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.
Leadership Characteristics: They 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 valet 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 moment’s 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 influencing 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 let’s 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 any hyperlinks.
Sterling grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. As a kid he loved skateboarding but mostly did street riding. He injured his ankle badly when he dropped into his first half pipe. His skateboarding slowed down after that, but he still loved the sport.
While in his 20's he needed to make a change, so he did some world traveling with a motivational speaking group. Through it all, he visited 46 states and 3 continents and eventually lived in Mississippi. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore through the state. He jumped into the fray, helping mobilize support for the evacuees of New Orleans & The Gulf Coast. During the aftermath he helped run a shelter and drove food & medical supplies to affected areas by truck. Currently he lives in Minneapolis, runs his snowboard shop, and shreds Vail Whenever he can.