The Traits and Characteristics of a Good Leader - Important Leadership Attributes

• Are you a leader, a would-be leader or just keen on leadership?

• Then you could do worse than being able to answer this:
• 'What are the qualities, traits & characteristics of a good leader?'

• Read on to get some good - and a bit controversial - answers.


What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader?

This is a time of great changes, right? I think we can agree on that. So, we need leaders. Not just any leaders, but good leaders; authentic, conscious leaders who know who they are and what they are doing.
Not despots or tyrants, but leaders who love to lead and who can practice leadership in such a way that the people they lead feel empowered and love to be lead. People like this are the future leaders of the world.

And guess what? When you - as a leader, a would-be leader or someone who chooses to be lead - can answer the question of 'What are the traits and characteristics of a good leader?', then you are making yourself conscious in this very important area.

And there we are, ahead or ourselves, having pointed to one of the most important characteristics of a good leader ...

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

Knowing Yourself and Understanding Others - Being a Conscious Leader

I have said it before (e.g. here: Leadership Definition: What Is Leadership?) ...

As a leader you have to function at a higher level of consciousness than those whom you lead!

You need consciousness and awareness to be good leader. In other words you need to have some inkling about:

- your business
- who you are and what makes you tick
- who other people are and what makes them tick
- how life itself works

The good news is, of course, that as time goes by I will be telling you what I consider some truths about all those things right here on Which includes this leadership article where I will expand on my views.

Leadership Is Not Domination

The true leader loves leading others ... not dominating others. History shows us that domineering people are usually not true leaders (though they may tyrants and demagogues) - and they do not last.

So, what's the difference between a tyrant and a true leader? Well, there are several but perhaps the most important one is the person's motivation.

A tyrant wants power for the sake of having power - and will probably use that power for personal gain. A true leader wants power in order to make her or his visions come true - for the benefit of all.

What Is Leadership for You? And What Is IN IT for You?

So, if you are aspiring to become a leader you might benefit from asking yourself: 'WHY do I want to lead other people - what are my true reasons, what is my true motivation for this desire?'

If your true motivation is simply personal comfort or personal gain then maybe you need to rethink something, because odds are that you will not be a very good leader. If, on the other hand, your true motive is 'for the benefit of all' then you may well be on the right track.

(For clarification of both these statements about leadership, please read on).

A Leader Is a Visionary

The great 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kirkegaard said, "The talented person hits targets that others cannot hit. The genius hits targets that others cannot see."

Now, a leader is not necessarily a genius, and a genius is not necessarily a leader. Yet, the inspirational quote does have relevance to leadership because the first thing that a leader must be is a visionary.

The true leader must be able to see things that others can't see, or are simply afraid to see. This means that sometimes leaders have to say and do things that are unpopular or seem crazy to others - at first.

But when the leader is clear about, and never compromises, his or her vision, this firmness somehow creates an almost magical sense of purpose that will get others to follow. In other words: the leader leads all followers toward the common goal by the simple act of believing in and maintaining the vision.

Being Positive and Optimistic

Winston Churchill, a great leader indeed, once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Well, a vision is something you want to create. For this you will need optimism and positivity, so a leader must basically be positive and optimistic. Not to the point of ignoring facts, of course, but as a general attitude.

And then it also helps, of course, that people aren't nearly as easily inspired by something negative and pessimistic as by positive and optimistic.

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

Leading by Example

If you're the head honcho you can just order people around and not move a finger yourself, because hey, it's good to be the boss, right?

Wrong. We humans don't really follow what our leaders say, we follow what they do - their example. Kids are an excellent example of this. They never listen, right?

True, but they DO follow the examples of their parents. They don't do as you say, they do as you do.

Well, grown ups do the exact same thing. Hence the need for the leader to go first and set a good example!

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

A Leader Always Does His or Her Best

Perhaps the most important area in which to set a good example is in doing your best. Always.

If the leader always does his or her best, then others will proceed do the same, and suddenly the once crazy vision may become reality.

Besides, doing your best is just so much more satisfying and personally rewarding than any other options.

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

Creating a Spirit of Collaboration

Some leaders stress the importance and value of competition, even among co-workers. I disagree.

Collaboration is just so much more powerful!

Of course creating a spirit of common purpose and collaboration is hard work for the leader and precludes the common (and outdated) leadership strategy of 'divide and conquer'.

If you want to succeed in the post-industrial knowledge based world wide society that is emerging these years you don't need competition, you need collaboration.

Flexibility- A Prime Trait in a Leader

Being true to the vision doesn't mean being inflexible. Quite the contrary, in fact.

A true leader is someone that will always do his or her best, no matter what the situation. Sometimes this means sticking to business as usual, sometimes it means drastic changes.

In any case, in order to make a vision come true you will undoubtedly need to adjust the heading several times over. Everybody understands this, and it will not be a problem ... as long you, as the leader, are trustworthy.

A True Leader is Trustworthy

By following a leader people place their trust in him or her.

It stands to reason, then that people need their leader to be reliable and trustworthy. A leader whom nobody trusts, and thus nobody will follow, is no leader.

Having personal integrity and being true to your word goes a long way for a leader.

Build on Strengths and Delegate to Compensate

Every single human alive, and thus every leader in the world, has areas where he or she is strong and areas where he or she is weak. Knowing these areas so that the leader may use strengths and compensate by getting help for his or her weaknesses is paramount.

In any case, when the goal is big and the tasks are many, no single person can do everything all by themselves. A leader relies on other people to do the tasks delegated to them; this is sort of the whole point of leadership.

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

A Leader Is Daring and Brave

Leadership also means having audacity. Go against the odds, tell it like it is, do what must be done, even when you can expect great resistance at first.

Just remember, audacity doesn't mean running roughshod over others - rather it means letting your followers know that they are powerful and have what it takes to succeed. Which brings us to empowerment.

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

A True Leader Is Focused on Empowering People

A very important part of leadership is giving others the tools, the space and the responsibility that they need to bring forth their best capabilities.

However, some leaders seem to think that they need to 'break' their people to get them to 'behave' and 'perform' properly. In my opinion that is just plain stupid.

If you want people to do their best you need to provide them with an environment where they feel empowered and have a chance to develop and grow. Everything else ... well, that's what machines are for!

Here's a quick link if you want to know more about the concept of Empowerment Theory.

Is Everybody a Leader?

It has been said when defining leadership that not all people are cut out to be leaders, and there seems to be some truth to this, at least in the sense that not everybody wants to become a leader. Lots of people would rather follow than lead ... probably because following is perceived as easier than leading.

Leadership, however, is a skill, and skills can be taught. You can learn to be a leader, and hey, with practice you can even learn to be a good leader, or even a great leader.

If you want to know more about that you might visit the leadership article What Makes a Good Leader.

The Traits & Characteristics of a Good Leader
- Important Leadership Attributes

Leadership Is Love in Action

And then, finally, there is the much underrated concept of love.

Love in leadership - or love based leadership - is no contradiction in terms! Quite the contrary.

When you are a leader you are a visionary and a creator. Love is THE single most powerful force of creation.

On top of that, loving your vision, loving what you do, and loving the people you lead will make for a very pleasant experience - for both you and those that you lead.

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