The 10 Traits of Successful Leaders
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others” —Jack Welch
The question of whether leadership skills are innate or acquired has been debated for long and evokes strong opinions on both fronts. We have seen how certain people stand out among the crowd and are born leaders. And yet there are others who through observation, learning and focus have developed leadership traits with experience over time.
Here are 10 traits which I believe a successful leader should cultivate:
- Integrity: A leader works inside out. He/she first works on self-development – cultivating qualities like integrity, communication, empathy and resilience. They have strong faith in their core values – what is right and wrong. At the same time, they are open to feedback. Only when a leader is able to conquer himself can he inspire others.
- Direction: A leader has to have a clear sense of direction in conveying the vision, mission, values, goals and plans to the team. A leader without direction is like a ship without a captain. Without a clear direction, the employees will be lost and eventually lose enthusiasm.
- Example: A leader has to lead by example. He/she has to walk the talk. This is one of the most difficult traits to cultivate. Employees who see their leader stand up and lead will be engaged and willing to perform to their best potential. A leader who shows vulnerability and believes that he is one with the team and working with them together will be respected by employees.
- Empathize: Empathy is putting yourself in another person’s shoes to understand how they feel. A good leader not only listens carefully but also responds with care and concern. An employee may forget what you say or do but will never forget how you made them feel.
- Empower: A leader delegates authority and gives an employee the power to take risks and make decisions. This develops confidence in employees to take initiative and increases their learning curve. Empowering an employee fosters open communication and recognizes their contribution. This works better than controlling or micro-managing their behaviour.
- Collaborate: Traditional top-down leadership approach is being replaced in the modern workplace by a collaborative style which blurs the lines between the boss and the employee. Such leaders openly share information with the team, facilitate brainstorming and encourage feedback from team members. A leader is also a coach who guides the team members to achieve superior performance.
- Inspire: This trait is often held as a mystery. Some leaders have a natural ‘charisma’ a magnetic appeal around them which attracts followers. But there are ways in which this trait can be developed for example ‘expertise’ in a subject, being ‘warm and approachable’, ‘exuding passion and enthusiasm’ and being a ‘role model’ for others to follow.
- Communicate: A leader spends most of the time meeting people, so interpersonal communication is regarded as one of the most important traits to develop. A good leader clarifies the goal of the message, delivers the message clearly and with conviction and makes sure that the listener has understood the message. He/she is also open to constructive feedback and sees it as an opportunity to grow.
- Decide: A leader has to be confident to take different types of decision based on the situation. It can be a command decision-making where decisions have to be made in split-seconds without consulting the team. This applies to war and crisis situations. Then there is the consensus style where the team votes and arrives at a decision. In the collaborative style of leadership the leader invites feedback from the team but makes the final call. A leader also the team to make the decision in certain situations to empower them and develop their confidence.
- Risk: Being over-cautious and indecisive is an impediment for leadership. A leader has to take risks and encourage innovation and creativity in the workplace. This in turn develops the employees into confident risk-takers and encourages a culture of learning.