At this point, you may be asking yourself, “So, what type of person does it take to be a successful leader?” Like defining the meaning of the word “leadership”, there is no simple way to define the mold for a successful leader. There is no cookie cutter mold you can use to identify someone as a successful leader just by looking at them or having a quick conversation with them. Much like the leadership styles we explored in the last part of this series, different personality traits are desirable in a leader in different situations.
In doing research on the qualities that make a good leader, I came across two great articles that I think are spot on in identifying traits that are important for any leader in any situation. These articles are “Top 10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader” by Tanya Prive, and “7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders” by Peter Economy. After reading both articles, I have picked out 8 traits that are consistent between both articles and I think are extremely important. Here they are in no particular order:
Optimism – I believe this is essential. Everyone is going to have obstacles to work through on their way to their end goal. If leader does not stay positive, the group will not stay positive. Without the belief that the group can overcome the obstacle, they are destined to fail.
The Ability to Inspire – This relates back to optimism. In order for a group to meet its full potential, there needs to be the belief and attitude that they can succeed and perform at the highest level. This requires inspiration. Inspiration does not need to completely stem from leadership, but without leaders being part of that inspiration, there is going to be a disconnect between leadership and the organization that can be devastating to the group’s success.
Honesty/Integrity – This might be number one on my list. Dishonesty from leadership will cause an atmosphere of competition instead of collaboration between leadership and the group. This can be extremely detrimental to the production and success of the group and no team wants to fail.
Communication – In my experience, I have found that communication is a close second behind honesty in importance for successful leaders. For a team to reach their end goal successfully, everyone needs to be on the same page. The only way for this to occur effectively is for leaders to clearly define roles within the group, and to communicate clear and explicit expectations throughout the entire process from start to finish.
Sense of Humor – It can be important to encourage your team to laugh at their mistakes and work to find a solution instead of sit around and sulk about the mistake that was made. This does not mean that you have to crack jokes at any chance you get or act like a clown. Every team is going to face obstacles and even failure on their way to their end goal. Leaders need to be able to take these hurdles in stride and keep morale high on the team. Keep the atmosphere light and you will get more out of your employees.
Commitment – Leadership needs to be committed to supporting the team and to setting a good example. This sounds like an obvious trait you look for in a leader, but it is an important one. It is impossible to gain the respect of your team if you ask them to follow a standard that you do not follow yourself.
Confidence – Confidence is a must-have in any leader. If leadership does not believe in what the team is doing, it is just about guaranteed that the team will not either. Furthermore, leaders need to remain confident when the team encounters obstacles on the way to the end goal. If leadership’s confidence is shaken by the problem the team encounters, you can bet that the team will stop believing.
Ability to Delegate – Leaders obviously need to distribute work between team members, because they just don’t have time to do everything. However, the ability to delegate requires more than just handing out work to do. Leaders need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual on the team, so they can distribute work to team members that suit their skills in order to get the highest quality results possible.
This is not the end-all, be-all of personality traits that make a good leader, but some characteristics that I believe to be extremely important in a successful leader. I hope that this is a helpful start for all of you.