leadership characteristics

LEADERSHIP CHARACTERISTICS

Alan Melton

It is one thing to be in a position of leadership and quite another to possess leadership characteristics. It is entirely possible to have one in a leadership position who isn’t that great at their job. They may be toxic, killing team members’ energy and just lagging the entire team behind because they do not possess leadership characteristics. On the other hand, there could be one with outstanding leadership characteristics, who are good at their job, making you feel unique as a team member.

What makes leaders effective is a set of characteristics of leadership. Some of these leadership characteristics include:

  • Accountability
  •  Agile
  • Coachability
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Decisive
  • Determination
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Ethical
  • Growth mentality
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Motivation
  • Optimism
  • Patience
  • Pristine communication skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Purpose
  • Resilience
  • Trustworthiness

Of these leadership characteristics, some of the most important traits you will find common to great leaders who are actively getting things done include humility, a sense of vision, fortitude, great listening qualities, and patience. Such persons with excellent leadership characteristics may often revolve around a set of skills they use, and you may think it’s charisma when it’s not.

mature leader

What is leadership?

There isn’t a definition set in stone for leadership. That said, some people over the years have tried to set forth some definitions for leadership. Here as some of such definitions:

  1. “Leadership is a process of influence on a group in a particular situation at a given point of time, and in a specific set of circumstances that stimulates people to strive willingly to attain organizational objectives and satisfaction with the type of leadership provided.” James J. Cribbin,
  2. “Leadership is not making friends and influencing people, i.e., salesmanship. It is the lifting of man’s visions to higher sights, the raising of man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.” Peter Drucker,
  3. “Leadership is the ability of a manager to induce subordinates to work with confidence and zeal.” Koontz and O’Donnell,
  4. “Leadership is the ability to secure desirable actions from a group of followers voluntarily, without the use of coercion.” Allford and Beaty,
  5. “Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for group objectives.” George R. Terry,
  6. “Leadership is the exercise of authority and making of decisions.” Dubin, R.
  7. “Leadership is the initiation of acts which result in a consistent pattern of group interaction directed towards the solution of a mutual problem.” Hemphill, J.K.,
  8. “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” John Maxwell

From these definitions, you’ll notice that they all emphasize the capacity of an individual to influence others towards the practical realization of organizational goals. As such, we can summarize all these definitions by stating that leadership has to do with influencing and stimulating subordinates or team members towards achieving set organizational goals to the best of their ability.

One important characteristic of leadership entails bringing people together to get things done. They don’t do this by overpowering others, but they rely on the trust of the team members and subordinates. They encourage such values as collaboration, trust, and unity as they press towards a common goal.

Leaders have a vision. They have a desire to build something or set something new into the world. They also can create lasting connections with others using leadership characteristics of empathy and understanding to ensure everyone is on the same page and track.

Leadership is vital in directing the function of management. In any instance where people work together towards a common goal, it becomes essential to have leadership. In the words of Marry Parker Follet, “The power of leadership is the power of integrating. The leader stimulates what is best in us. He unites and concentrates what we feel only gropingly and shatteringly. He is a person who gives form to the raw energy in every man. The person who influences me most is not he who does great Deeds, but he who makes me feel that I can do great deeds.”

Good leadership should inspire true zeal, enthusiasm, and confidence in people, as they get excited to be led.

leadership characteristics

Leadership Functions:

Leadership has some crucial functions in the realization of organizational objectives.

Setting Goals

Being a leader means you have to be creative in laying out goals and policies to push the team towards achieving the organizational goals. By these intuitive goals and policies, the leaders should persuade subordinates to be zealous and enthusiastic in their various duties.

Organizing

A person infused with leadership characteristics should create and shape the organization by assigning tasks and roles to appropriate individuals with the right abilities to get the job done. Leaders have the responsibility to organize the functioning of the organization and ensure all units of the enterprise.

Initiating Action

The following important function of good leadership can take the initiative in all issues that pertain to the good of the organization. They should not always wait on others to move or exact first with a judgment or decision. The leaders should be the first to initiate action, and their decisions should reflect original thinking.

Coordination

Another vital function of leadership is reconciling the interests of team members with that of the organization. He should coordinate group members towards realizing common objectives as team members cooperate.

Direction and Motivation

It is the primary responsibility of leadership to guide and direct the team and team members to invest their best towards achieving organizational objectives. The leaders should inspire confidence and keep the team’s morale on high steam as they work zealously.

The link between Management and Workers

Leadership is the liaison between management and the workers. He translates the policies and programs instituted by the management to his subordinates and accurately represents the interests of his subordinates to management. A leader becomes good when he can effectively act as a faithful guardian of the interests of his subordinates.

Importance of Leadership in Management

The importance of leadership cannot be over-emphasized as its glaring and obvious. As stated earlier, whenever a group of people comes together to achieve common goals, leadership, to some degree, becomes necessary. In fact, with the current trends, leadership may substitute management.

The importance of leadership can be summarized in the following:

Leadership enhances motivation and morale

Having people with leadership characteristics will improve the motivation and morale of the subordinates. A good leader influences his subordinates such that they work voluntarily towards achieving the goals of the enterprise.

It serves to power motives and group efforts

Good leadership serves to power group efforts, thus leading the group towards a higher level of performance.

Leadership aids authority

Desired results cannot be brought to fruition using just authority alone. There needs to be leadership to aid authority to influence, inspire and initiate action.

It rectifies the imperfectness of the formal organizational relationships

The average organizational structure cannot provide all necessary relationships. As such, people need to surpass the more formal relationships to work. These informal relationships may provide more effective control and regulation of the behavior of subordinates. Effective leadership makes use of such informal relationships to accomplish set goals.

Leadership provides the basis for cooperation

With good leadership comes greater understanding among subordinates as well as between the subordinates and the management. This promotes cooperation in the organization.

leader and team

Leadership Characteristics

When it comes to leadership, it is possible to learn these leadership characteristics and incorporate them to become a good leader.

Accountability

Accountability as a characteristic of leadership means being able to take responsibility for your words and actions. Good leaders don’t flaunt the blame for their actions or words on others. When you make a wrong call, then you must be ready to take full responsibility. This will go again to build trust in you from your subordinates.

Accountability as a leadership characteristic also means taking responsibility for the failures of your team. You are responsible for the actions of your subordinates, and it’s up to you to find solutions to problems they may create. And when you feel you need to accord any blame, be sure to do it privately, like in a small team meeting or to the particular individual(s) involved.

Agile

When we speak of agility as a leadership characteristic, we mean someone quick, precise, and flexible.

Good leaders have a mastery of the market and are ready to direct their team towards the path of profit. This could necessitate a change in the specifications of the product being supplied and changing timelines based on changes in the market.

The market isn’t always stationary, and change isn’t difficult when it comes to the market. As such, the leader should be able to make pivots that can make or break the business. That’s what agility as a characteristic of leadership means.

Coachable

A critical trait among the leadership characteristics is coachability. Great leaders know not only to coach but also to be coached.

Being coachable requires a degree of self-awareness as well as a desire to improve. To be more coachable, here as some specific ways to get about it:

  •         Self-evaluation: You need to know your strengths and weaknesses as a leader as well as your limits.
  •         Seek feedback: Don’t be afraid to seek the opinion of others about your methods, how you’re doing and what ways you could become better.
  •         Act: Take action on your weaknesses and seek to implement new methods, all in a bid to improve and be better.

Workflow becomes a lot seamless when the team works with a leader who is open to change in methods, attributes, and behavior. If a leader didn’t let go of ego and become coachable, team members wouldn’t be encouraged to put in their best. So, are you coachable?

leadership attributes

Confidence

Confidence is another imperative leadership characteristic. Great leaders are confident. They have the self-assurance, as well as the charisma that stems from the trust in themselves.

Such confidence radiates from calmness and a sense of success being inevitable. This makes a leader more trustworthy and strengthens the resolve of the team.

To some, confidence may come a lot easier than for others, but as you live according to your values, you can better incorporate courage and honesty, which build your confidence as a leader.

Courage

Being courageous is a critical characteristic of leadership. This does not mean you’ll never feel afraid as a leader, but you’ll still need to act even when you’re afraid.

On average, leaders face fears daily, and they need to overcome them:

  • Fear of conflict: This often comes when you, as a leader, need to tell people what they may not want to hear.
  • Fear of vulnerability: As a leader, you need to be responsible to take ownership of mistakes.
  • Fear of scarcity: There is the fear of not having enough, and it may be challenging to cultivate a healthy mindset of balance.
  • Fear of failure: There is a decision when there is little or no surety of the outcome.

Courage may very well form the foundation of other key leadership characteristics.

Creativity

Creativity is that leadership characteristic that births innovative ideas that bring about solutions to problems and improvement in operations.

Admittedly, it can be challenging to stay creative and inspired when you’re daily or weekly caught up with stressful tasks and tight deadlines, but you need to make time for it. Creativity will go a long way to prosper the cause of the organization.

Decision-making

Being firmly decisive is another crucial leadership characteristic. As a leader, you need to confident in your decisions. If you can’t stand by your decisions, then don’t expect your team to.

As earlier mentioned, you need not fear being wrong. Though you can’t always be sure of the outcome of your decisions, you should be bold enough to stand by your decisions and accept the consequences – good or bad. Even when you feel tempted to second-guess yourself, be confident and active.

Determination

The following leadership characteristic is being determined, even amidst challenges. In your work as a leader, there’ll never be a shortage of challenges, and that may even come from your team, for example, team members quitting on you in the heat of the moment.

Determination is the characteristic of leadership that helps you keep pushing through the tough times and your team by encouraging and inspiring them to maintain their resolve.

As a leader, when things get tough, you can’t just drop the ball and quit, like employees. You must combine the leadership characteristics of perseverance and passion for getting through tough times. That’s called grit.

Leadership Characteristics

Emotional intelligence

With it comes to success in leadership, the ruthless and oppressive approach has faded into history. Empathy in leadership yields better results and, likewise, emotional intelligence as a leadership characteristic.

Generally, EQ has to do with the awareness of emotions in yourself and others. EQ is a measure of how well you can manage emotions. Being able to read emotional cues and respond appropriately is an essential characteristic of leadership that breeds success.

But just EQ wouldn’t do the trick; you need to include compassion into the mix. The more care you portray, the more love and devotion you win from the subordinates.

Ethical

When we talk of ethics as a leadership characteristic, we aren’t limited to just corporate crime. It also has to do with treating others fairly and sustaining a healthy atmosphere that’ll encourage team members.

But here’s where it gets tricky: ethics may vary from person to person. A such, you, as the leader, should establish organizational core values and models to follow. A code of ethics, for example, may be necessary to detail your priority of values, like freedom and mutual respect.

It is also possible that one thing done right for one person may be perceived as offensive for another. With such conflicting values among individuals, it’s up to you as the leader to make the call amidst such an ethical dilemma.

The best approach is to be genuine in the care and interest to portray to team members because even when you can’t give everyone what they want, you can make everyone feel respected and understood.

Growth mentality

As a leader, it is essential to sustain a mindset of growth and progress. This is a critical leadership characteristic.

Instead of monotonously revolving around existing skills and abilities, leaders seek growth. They desire to learn, improve and attain mastery of skills. This mindset keeps the challenge to learn, improve and be better in every member of the team.

Honesty

Another essential leadership characteristic is honesty. This leadership characteristic is important because honesty will keep the ball rolling with your team, even when things aren’t going so well. When you can be transparent with your team, it builds trust in your subordinates towards you.

Research shows you can get enough stress to hamper your performance in your brain and body because of dishonesty. That’s why it’s essential to be clear about your dealings, aims, and expectations to your team. Even when giving a critique, you need to be honest. However, there are instances that you’ll need to include compassion into the mix to get even better results.

leader goose

Humility

Humility is an essential characteristic of leadership. In leadership, arrogance in leadership is often portrayed in that such leaders make excuses, transfer the blame of failure or setbacks on others, and even lie to save their skin. Such behavior erodes trust and kills creativity.

Humility reflects in the little things that leaders do, making it one of the most important leadership characteristics. Being humble enough to admit when you’re wrong is a sign of good leadership. Taking responsibility for your failures and shortcomings serves as a model for other employees to follow suit and act when they also falter. Believing that you can improve as a leader gives you the motivation to rise from failure and improve.

You can also practice humility. One way is to acknowledge you do not carry on all the work for the company. Realizing that you’re just a rudder that guides your crew to be the best version of themselves will allow you to humbly acknowledge the efforts of every single employer under your charge. To be an exceptional leader, pay attention to the talent you’ve got and not yourself. When there is a successful venture, don’t ascribe to yourself all the credit; share that success with those who contributed and encourage their effort and collaboration, no matter how big or small their contribution was. Remember, there’s no “I” in “Team,” and it takes the collaborative effort of all employees to achieve organizational goals.

Motivation

To achieve your goals and the set organizational goals, you need to have substantial intrinsic motivation. Such strong motivations will drive you to be hardworking and push towards achieving results. And as you are fired up, so too will your team be inspired to work harder with you.

With leadership, you wouldn’t always wake up feeling excited about your job, and motivation must become a habit to you rather than a mood. Even when you don’t feel like it, you still need to pick yourself up, show up and deliver results. As you keep pulling yourself, you’d develop the needed momentum and motivation with time to get to work.

Optimism

One of the characteristics of leadership is optimism. You shouldn’t become negative, as a leader you want to stay positive. Cultivate an atmosphere of passivity, as that will bring the best in your team.

Being positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time or that all will need to go well, but you must internalize that the business is out to benefit others, and you will succeed at your goals with the team. One way to stay optimistic as a leadership characteristic is to always look out for possibilities rather than magnifying difficulties. When you see solutions rather than problems, you’re more likely to pull yourself and your team through challenging times.

Patience

While patience is a leadership characteristic, it is essential to note a fine line between patience and procrastination or reluctance. Delay to act can stagnate the business, and this may not be patience. Seeking to act at the right time is different from indefinite delay or procrastination.

As a leader, the leadership characteristic you need is patience, not procrastination. Patience stems from the ability to endure challenges in the short term to attain more significant long-term goals.

Being a good leader requires that you calmly evaluate problems, pinpoint the sources of dysfunction, and propose a logical way forward. Admittedly, you may sometimes burst out in anger and impatience, but you must calm down and become level-headed again before acting.

Whenever you lose your patience, your thinking deteriorates, and you become more likely to make rash decisions. When you are impatient, you might give up on projects prematurely and even on employees who indeed had great potential.

When you can avoid reckless decisions, your team will have greater faith in you.

Pristine Communication skills

When it comes to it, one of the most important leadership characteristics is good communication skills. When you can clearly and effectively pass on what is on your mind, you are more likely to succeed as a leader, and that is why this is an essential characteristic of leadership.

There exist many channels and contexts for communication, with different communication styles. To make it simple, here are some fundamental principles of effective communication to focus on.

Consistency: Your communication shouldn’t fluctuate. Be consistent in what you’re communicating.

Listening: Communication isn’t complete without giving a listening ear to your team. They deserve your attention by actively listening to them.

Safety: Avoid judgmental language as you communicate. Rather than attacking others, clearly state your observations, requests, and stances.

leader planning

The Three “I’s” of Leadership

  1. Initiate. An excellent leader initiates action with people and with the organization.
  2. Inquisitive. The great leader asks questions of all stakeholders prior to making important decisions.
  3. Involved. An diligent leader maintains involvement with his followers. Some manage by “walking around.”

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is another characteristic of leadership that will set you apart as a good leader. A good leader should be able to solve puzzles quickly and creatively. To achieve this, here are a few things to work on:

  •         Analysis: Train yourself to assess problems from different angles and not base your judgments and decisions on emotional reaction.
  •         Collaboration: Learn to collaborate with your team members by effectively communicating with them, receiving their input at every turn.
  •         Risk balancing: with every step, there are some associated risks and benefits. As such, you need to find an acceptable risk-benefit trade-off.

Each unexpected happening is an opportunity to better respond to situations.

Purpose

When we talk of purpose as a leadership characteristic, we base it on the fact that leadership is a by-product of finding your purpose in life. Leaders don’t just lead in business for the sake of business but seek to impact the world and bring about positive change. They see financial profit as a channel to effecting change globally, according to the dream of a better world they have in their hearts.

Resilience

The following leadership characteristic is resilience.

When the road goes smoothly, leading may seem easy. But it gets interesting when in a time of crisis.

Resilience is a quality of leadership that enables you to bounce back after hitting a wall or when things fall apart. If, as a leader, you fall apart in a time of crises, then your subordinates too will fall apart. They may get so discouraged to the point that they even resign.

When you portray professionalism and confidence even in times of crises and trouble, your team will be able to stand with you. Being strong in troubling times as a leader serves not just you but the entire team with which you’re working.

But then, we’re not saying you shouldn’t express any emotion. Expressing emotion isn’t a show of weakness; it instead shows you’re still human and even a better leader.  However, your focus should be on recovering from the challenge and charting the course forward for the entire team.

Trust

Being trustworthy is a vital leadership characteristic for success. When there is trust, there is bound to be greater efficiency and output from team members. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to make mistakes, withhold opinions and act on obvious innovative ideas.

So, there you have it…

Being a successful leader requires vital leadership characteristics that can be learned and improved upon by practice. Just be sure to go steadily, taking and developing one skill at a time, and before you know it, you will be equipped all around with the necessary leadership characteristics to excel. Check out this post on crafting a leadership development plan.