7 Leadership Traits to Cultivate
Napoleon Bonaparte referred to a leader as a “…dealer in hope.” General Colin Powell took it one step further, saying they are “almost always great simplifiers.” Issac Newton recognized the importance of innovation, attributing his achievements as the product of “…standing on the shoulder of giants.”
These three people speak volumes about the best leadership traits: confidence, strategic thinking, and humility. They solve problems and innovate. They don’t wait for change. Instead, they take the reins and run with it.
These people are vital to an organization to keep it moving forward in the face of change. However, it isn’t the title that makes the leader. It is the character of the individual.
Characteristics of a Leader
Defining the qualities of a good leader begins with identifying people time has considered worthy of this distinction. Prominent individuals come to mind, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We can think of the innovators of our day like Steve Jobs, Clarence Birdseye, and Thomas Edison. The latter possessed admirable traits, saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
These individuals share many characteristics that can help lead people and provide guidance through trying times, whether it’s a country or a national business. Traditionally, organizations have operated on a vertical leadership model with one person at the helm. What qualities must that individual have for a company to succeed?
Consistent and Reliable
The traits of a good leader mirror those employees want from their employers. After all, the mission of the person in charge is to inspire their staff and keep them engaged in their work. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is to be consistent and reliable. That means providing your team with clear expectations.
According to the 2021 Gallup State of the Workplace Report, nearly 60 percent of employees believe their job fits the description they received when hired.
A good leader recognizes that their workers want a job with a meaningful purpose that they consistently foster. If they succeed, their staff are three times more likely to stay with the company.
We all make mistakes. The difference between a bad and a good leader is that the latter will own up to them. They won’t see missteps as failures but as opportunities from which to learn. If a marketing decision didn’t pan out, the good leader identifies areas of improvement or, as American author John Maxwell quipped, “…adjusts the sails.”
The pandemic spotlighted the need for us to look out for each other, whether at home or work. One of the best attributes of a leader is empathy. According to an Oracle Fusion Cloud Customer Experience report, 45 percent of people haven’t felt happy for the last two years. A good leader recognizes that we’re all struggling and tries to understand from their employee’s perspective.
Sadly, 68 percent of CEOs think they’d appear weak if they showed empathy. Yet, 90 percent of all employers and employees believe it’s vital to the workplace. Clearly, the traditional view of leadership is sorely out of touch with the things their staff want and need.
One of the most desirable leadership traits is emotional intelligence. This term describes the ability to understand your emotions and recognize them in others. People with high levels can self-regulate. They can control their feelings and actions appropriately. They also understand the emotions of others to motivate or provide the best support.
A good leader knows how critical it is to listen to their employees and have an open door of communication. It will help cultivate other positive qualities, such as empathy.
One of the hallmarks of good leadership is staying focused on the goal. Undoubtedly, life gets in the way, sometimes throwing things off track. That’s why it’s vital to have someone with their eye on the prize still motivating and encouraging everyone. That also means giving credit where it’s due to continue to inspire your staff.
The companies that survived the dark days of the pandemic were able to pivot and adapt. No one could have foreseen the far-reaching impacts. The best strategy was to go with the flow. One of the pitfalls of the traditional leadership model was its rigidity. Flexibility and adaptability are the vital qualities that keep businesses afloat. The best leadership qualities examples embraced these traits.
Integrity is a two-way street. A good leader establishes its importance in the workplace. They will exemplify it in their actions. This quality builds stronger relationships and trust between team members. It also creates an atmosphere of psychological safety and mutual respect. This positive environment can bolster the productivity and problem-solving skills of your staff.
Traits to Nurture
Some believe certain individuals are born leaders. While we can’t speak to the validity of that statement, we know that leadership follows a journey of experience. From experience comes wisdom. Cultivating problem-solving and decision-making skills is hard unless you’ve dealt with similar issues. Sometimes, the right way is off the beaten path. It also requires resilience which these traits can promote.
A great leader is self-aware. It comes from taking the time to look within to understand your strengths and weaknesses. It’s often as enlightening a process as it is humbling. Humans shy away from divulging our flaws, especially managers. However, it’s only through understanding yourself that can you know other people. Remember, all humans share many foibles of being too irrational, illogical, and emotional.
Realizing your shortcoming can help nurture empathy, humility, and emotional intelligence. It’ll come into play later when we discuss the bad leadership qualities.
Undoubtedly, sometime during your professional career, you had an insecure manager. Perhaps, they micromanaged everything you did. Or maybe they played their cards close to their chest, keeping employees at bay during critical business discussions. Some may feel a need to roar and remind everyone who was the boss.
A confident leader trusts themself and others. This individual isn’t afraid to delegate tasks to others. They don’t try to do everything. Instead, they surround themselves with good people who can make it happen. These leaders inspire others and encourage their employees to do their best.
Excellent verbal skills are almost a lost art in these days of emails and texts. Interpersonal communication is a critical trait in a leader. It’s worth mentioning that it’s precisely what employees want from their employers. It saves time and energy if everyone is on the same page. It is one of the best leadership qualities.
This skill set includes active listening. Instead of framing your response, you’re engaged with what the other person is saying. It also means reading non-verbal clues. People often try to hide their emotions at the workplace for various reasons. Luckily, our bodies have a way of communicating our feelings no matter how hard we try to bury them. A good leader will pay attention to these signs.
John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Truer words have never been spoken. Good leaders don’t coast along the path. They drive the bus and learn from what they see. Technology doesn’t sit still. It keeps moving. To stay ahead of the path, you must know your industry and its influences.
Learning encompasses many things. It’s learning new software or other technical skills. It involves reading from other in your field and following the blogs of industry leaders. You can also master aspects of empathy by reading some fiction. Good leaders are teachable and lifelong learners. Leadership training ensures they have the appropriate skills.
Bad Leadership Traits
Unfortunately, too many bad leaders exist. Sometimes, it’s simply a lack of communication or a mindset stuck in first gear. We’ve probably all been through the experience of a manager who wasn’t a leader. We’re not talking about individuals who cross moral or legal lines. Some characteristics are much more subtle.
Failure to Delegate
We discussed the insecure leader who is loathed to delegate anything. They want to have control over everything, presumably to get all the credit. It’s detrimental to an organization because it stimies its growth. New perspectives can inspire novel ideas, which can lead to better things. One reason these situations develop is we’re doing things the way we always have with one person in charge.
That puts a lot of pressure on a manager. Add job insecurity to the mix is a lethal combination. It can lead to burnout, stress, and a host of physical problems.
Negativity takes many forms. There is the manager who vetoes anything new, suffocating creativity in the process. A hostile leader can close the door of open communication in a blink of an eye. Then, there’s the more subtle but still pessimistic individual we call the Eeyore. These people won’t take chances. They’re finished before they’ve started. Unfortunately, they often take others with them.
Unwilling to Change
We understand a reluctance to shake things up with something new. The executives at Coca-Cola can speak to the pitfalls of that issue. Nevertheless, an organization must follow the trends if it hopes to stay relevant. That’s true even with the varying demographics your company may try to reach. It’s something that the wine industry is becoming painfully aware of as it tries to tap into the millennial segment.
We referenced Clarence Birdseye at the beginning of this article. Perhaps many of you were shaking your head about the name. Next time you go to the grocery store, pay attention to the brands in the freezer section. It exists at all because of the out-of-the-box thinking of Clarence Birdseye.
DISC Profiles and Leadership Qualities
Identifying potential leaders in your organization is often a daunting task. That’s where using DISC profiles can help. An assessment provides insights into how individuals:
- Approach problems,
- Influence others
- Other vital on-the-job skills.
It’s simple yet effective. After all, even a person with well-developed leadership qualities might not succeed if the fit isn’t right.
We all bring something different to the table. DISC profiles are a tool for matching the right leader with the best team. A manager isn’t a cookie-cutter position. Some people are better suited to customer service, whereas others excel at keeping projects on point. Let’s face it. Leaders need motivation, too. The power of delegating comes from putting them in the jobs that match their personalities.
The Future of Leadership
The characteristics of a good leader include an optimal blend of hard and soft skills. The latter will become more critical in the coming years, particularly in handling the challenges of an evolving global economy. The leadership model must also adapt to the transition to a hybrid workplace. Tomorrow’s leaders will have to navigate between an in-office and remote work environment.
Instead of vertical leadership with one person in charge, we may move toward a shared leadership platform that recognizes the strengths of all team members to handle different tasks. Organizational stress isn’t confined to employees. We have all dealt with the consequences of the pandemic. We can find solace that it put the spotlight on mental health and work-life balance.
We’ll likely find that future leaders will wear many hats, including a coach, mentor, cheerleader, and healer. Self-awareness and strategic thinking will provide the necessary traits to stay true to an organization’s vision and goals. In times of crisis, our leaders will be the guiding light that keeps us moving forward.
A great leader is one of an organization’s most valuable assets. They bring direction, enthusiasm, and a relentless drive to a company. These individuals have a profound impact on a company’s culture. Choosing the right person can make the difference between an average workplace and one that attracts the best talent. The investment in encouraging leadership qualities is more than worthwhile.
If you have questions about leadership development or team assessment, contact Kutsko Consulting today. Together, we can bring clarity and strong team-building to your organization.
Sign up now and get access to our Free Preview as well as the freshest tips and tricks delivered to your inbox once a week. Our weekly newsletter is trusted by thousands of managers, executive leaders, and learning & development professionals.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.