Effective leaders are worth their weight in gold because they help us to arrive at our desired destinations in life. They are found in classrooms, politics, households, workplaces – every walk of life that involves someone trying to influence others to attain certain results. This influencing capability or trait is the defining factor that a leader must learn, develop and display at the right time in the right proportions.
What makes an effective leader? This question has occupied the human mind for many centuries. Below are seven traits that are consistently ascribed to outstanding leaders in much of our current literature which has it’s basis in practical business applications. Challenge yourself by first evaluating how many of these traits you feel you have developed and secondly, develop a plan to embrace the traits that you lack and instill them into your leadership skill set.
- Openness or Honesty
This is one of the key characteristics people look for in a leader. They want to know that a leader will do what they say they are going to do, and that they will be candid and fair in their dealings with others. A good leader will speak the truth sensitively, even when it might sting. This is done because they know that the truth will ultimately free others to make wise choices and carry on.
This important trait enables a leader to maintain their focus and equilibrium when pressures mount and the going gets tough. A resilient leader is not derailed by pressures to perform, organizational change, tight deadlines or any host of other issues that come their way. They maintain their calm and stay centered directly in the thick of things.
- Self Awareness
An effective leader has a deep understanding of themselves, others and the business in which they are engaged. This includes a firm comprehension regarding motivational factors concerning peers and themselves. They are constantly striving for a positive and healthy workplace culture and environment which allows their people to succeed and thrive. An effective leader is also knowledgeable in their respective duties relating to the professional enterprise in which they are involved.
The ability to evolve a strategy and a tactical implementation process that embraces the vision is essential. A good leader has the ability to look to the future and develop a meaningful vision that will enable them to set goals and achieve desired outcomes. This vision needs to be communicated to employees clearly, so that they understand the motivating factors behind the vision and the subsequent rewards incumbent upon achieving the stated goal. It helps if a leader does not get bogged down in day to day formalities, which can act as a form of tunnel vision. Stepping back once in a while to take a broader view is a good practice for staying aligned with the original vision. Consistently moving forward is another beneficial tactic: when one vision is realized, a new one must be introduced to replace it.
Inspiring others is a mark of effective leadership. This has to do with those in a leadership position concisely communicating their plans for the future to everyone in the organization. Done clearly and passionately, enthusiasm often flows downhill, permeating all levels of staff throughout the company. People will respond when they understand that they have a significant role to play in the overall scheme of things.
- Emotional Intelligence
An effective leader has a high level of emotional awareness with respect to both themselves and others. They are aware of how to positively manage emotions in a relational exchange, in order to reach the best possible outcome. They are willing and able to self motivate, marshaling energy, willpower and emotions in the service of a larger objectives.
- Build and Maintain Trust
Above all, this trait weaves throughout the other six and really sets the leader’s capability apart from the rest. It encompasses the capability to not judge before one has all the facts. To display self accountability for one’s actions while at the same time showing others how to do the same. To share information in a complete and timely manner when necessary and to be absolutely candid or congruent without the fear of hurting feelings. Trust entails the use of all four of the key trust building skills – Acceptance, Reliability, Openness and Congruence.
Developing strong leadership characteristics is as always, an ongoing regiment. We are all leaders at some point in life, in one capacity or another. To carry the torch is an honor, but earning the honor to carry it is another thing. We must continue to strive to lay hold of leadership with courage, resourcefulness and pride.
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