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The characteristics of a leader come through in our day to day interactions with those around us. Leaders come in all shapes, styles, and forms.  If you stop to think about some of the leaders that have inspired you or even some that have infuriated you, the qualities of good leadership skills will become apparent.

When we think about the characteristics of a leader, we often think of leaders that are dynamic, which calls each of us to act or to follow.  We could take an example, such as Hitler.  He did not have the values that we should follow, but had that inspiration that could ignite a country.  If we also stop to think about the leaders today in the US, we do not get the same vision of a leader that has a dynamism that is hard to resist, but rather a leader that has that ‘good to great’ quality.  Often times these leaders are more quiet and reserved, embodying the vision of good leadership skills and calling each of us to action in a subtle way that can often times leave us asking why we’re buying what they’re selling.

The answer is a simple.  The characteristics of a leader are not skills or behaviors that will be new to those that strive to master them, but will often times be the actions we all know we should be focused on, if we only had the time.  Yes, developing good leadership skills take time, just like perfecting an idea or delivering on a project.  Without an investment of time, very few people will have the skills to become the great leaders they envision.

Let’s examine some if these traits in more depth.  The Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group recently noted the following characteristics as key characteristics of a leader.  Don’t be surprised if you don’t find the complexity you were expecting as leadership is often promoted as that advanced skill few can attain.

Key Characteristics of a Leader:

  • Honesty - Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.

  • Competent - Your actions should be based on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.

  • Forward-looking - Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.

  • Inspiring - Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.

  • Intelligent - Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.

  • A Good Coach - Coach and mentor people to acheive the best results they are capable of. Motivate and guide development within the organization one person at a time. 

  • Fair-minded - Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.

  • Broad-minded - Seek out diversity.

  • Courageous - Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.

  • Straightforward - Use sound judgment to make good decisions at the right time.

  • Imaginative - Make timely and appropriate changes in your thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems. Be innovative!

As you can see nothing revealed here is shocking, but skills we are all aware of, yet we take little time to practice.  Again, developing good leadership skills does take practice and a great deal of time.  If it were easy there would be far more leaders and far less managers.  

A number of the characteristics of a leader fall into a greater category that many of the leading executives of today refer to as Emotional Intelligence.  Achieving this level of leadership will inspire those around you and lead your teams to great heights.

So what do you do with this ‘new’ information?  It’s time to refocus on your core as a leader and to spend your time wisely on what you value and the values of your organization.  It is easy to get caught up in the daily fires that pop up but this can be the downfall of aspiring leaders.  To achieve a true leadership style you must be able to maintain these traits through good times and bad and to continually focus on the behaviors regardless of the situation.