Monday, January 10, 2011
By Seth Arcadia
Leadership is an amazingly versatile word with many different variations bandied around depending on the circumstances. The word in itself is easily defined but what are the most common attributes you might find on every leadership qualities list?
Before we get to our list, let us discuss leadership in more detail, and what makes it so vital a quality to have.
For many of us, the first thought that springs to mind is at work. No matter where we work or who we work for, it is highly likely we report to someone. He or she is the leader of the office, the division, the dept, the troop or even the CEO of the whole organization. Now this is not to be confused with the manager as the subject or leadership versus management deserves and has its own volume of discussion!
A strong and charismatic leader of a workplace or business is vital. They ensure the culture of the team or staff is in good health. They stay ahead of the game and as a result are prepared for changes and flows. A strong leader empowers his team and shows the right balance of leading, guiding and telling. A strong leader is highly respected by the team and this in turn creates good morale and major productivity and performance loops.
Another common leadership scenario is in the armed forces. Decorated leaders in this field are highly trusted, deeply respected and have the unbridled support of their troops which is so crucial in situations of war. When you follow someone into battle, you follow the command of a leader and not a manager.
Leadership is not limited to merely work and country. Have a good think and you will find leaders everywhere and in every social situation. Look around your family and you will surely be able to name someone that everyone goes to for advice, cuts the Christmas turkey, sorts out family struggles and conflicts and ensures lives stay on the right track. Leadership qualities are used and needed all around us otherwise we would all be wandering aimlessly and not getting anything done.
So then, what makes a good leader? I have been lucky enough to be around many great leaders in my career and also attended and developed many different leadership programs. The following leadership qualities list is by no means an exhaustive one however they are the attributes and characteristics I observe to pop up the most often when interviewing groups.
TRUST - Perhaps one of the most crucial attributes, trust is everything to most people. Without trust, there is nothing and you will always question the agenda, motives and reasoning behind decisions and direction.
LOYALTY - Closely aligned to TRUST, followers of a leader must know and believe unconditionally that their leader is loyal. Loyal to them and loyal to the business.
RESPECT - Leaders must be respected however the general rank and file have an unconditional need to also be respected. A leader without respect will find it extremely hard to inspire action in his or her team and the old adage of "You must give respect to get respect" is never truer than in this situation.
RESPONSIBILITY - Strong leaders take responsibility for their actions and decisions and never let anyone take the fall for them. They know when to shoulder the load and when to allow freedom.
MOTIVATION - Leaders must have the ability to motivate their team. In all facets of business there are peaks and troughs. A good leader enables the team to get through the hard times, enjoys the successes of the good times and motivates the team to continually innovate and find new and better ways of thinking and doing.
ABILITY TO CONNECT - As an organization grows, the ability to connect with all levels becomes more important. The world is full of complex and varying personality types and a strong leader has the ability to transverse all and speak freely and easily with all types.
PASSIONATE AND ENTHUSIASTIC - We all need to be motivated. Sometimes our enthusiasm wanes or we may forget about what we are trying to achieve. A strong leader speaks with passion and emotion and their pure high level energy is an amazing tool for keeping morale, fun and innovation at a high level within the organization.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE - Also called "Walking The Talk", any leader that does not lead by example is doomed. Many team members and staff rate this as one of their biggest criticisms of a poor leader. The old saying "Do as I say and not what I do." simply does not wash anymore. Today's workers expect their leaders to talk and act exactly the same way a general staff member would in the same situation. A poor leader has major differences in between what they say and what they actually do.
As stated above, this is not the be all and end all for our leadership qualities list. There are many others that people may feel I have missed out and there are probably some above that some people do not agree with. That's fine, the main question is are leaders really born or can they be made?
The answer is YES to both! Yes some people are truly born leaders. From an early age they show signs of leadership and generally progress through life the same way.
On the other hand however, leaders can certainly be made. I myself can attest to that! When I first started my working career, I could not be further away from being a leader! As I progressed through the ranks and surrounded myself with not only high level leaders but also tremendous texts, CD's and other media, combined with my life experiences and major interest in the psychology of people and what makes them tick, over time I evolved to a well respected and admired leader.
Leadership at all levels becomes primarily subconscious. This is very important when you have to make quick decisions and think fast. In fact, most leaders have a very under inflated view of themselves and often fail to see what all the fuss and admiration is about!