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Common Leadership Qualities and Traits

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 10 Feb 2014 | comments*Discuss
Traits Leadership Management Leaders

While there is no specific blueprint for effective leadership, there are several qualities and traits that great leaders have in common. These are the characteristics that are typical of quality leadership. These are also the qualities that leaders must possess in order to produce them in their teams or organisation – for example, if a leader wishes to encourage confidence, self-discipline, dedication or good communication skills, he or she must first possess these traits themselves. Leading by example if one of the most powerful forms of leadership.

So here are the traits and qualities that a good leader should seek to develop within themselves, in order to be able to encourage these same characteristics in their team:

  • Vision – a good leader should have a clear, strong idea of the direction of the group and the goals that need to be achieved, as well as a firm grasp of what success should look like and how to get there. In addition, they must not only have a vision but also be able to share the vision, communicate it clearly to others so that they can buy into it and act upon it. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion."
  • Dedication - good leaders have the single-minded determination and discipline to work towards his or her vision and to direct the team towards the goal. They will spend whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish the task and complete the project. Dedication is one of the traits which is most easily inspired by example.
  • Integrity – integrity inspires trust and respect, which in turn inspires people to follow someone as their leader. A leader who displays integrity can be trusted because he or she never veers from inner values, in spite of outside pressure, stresses and temptations. Integrity not only refers to values but also to behaviour – so for example, a leader who displays honest dealings, predictable reactions, well-controlled emotions, and does not indulge in tantrums and harsh outbursts shows signs of integrity as a person.
  • Magnanimity – “To spread the fame and take the blame is a hallmark of effective leadership “. In other words, a leader who is magnanimous always gives credit where it is due and also ensures that credit for successes is spread as widely as possible through the team or organisation. At the same time, this leader will also take personal responsibility for failures – helping members of the team to feel good about themselves and thus drawing the team closer together.
  • Openness and approachability – leaders who show themselves to be open to new ideas, even if they do not conform to the conventional ways of thinking, are more likely to be effective and successful. The ability to suspend judgment while listening to others’ ideas as well as being able to accept new ways of doing things, as suggested by other members in the team, are all signs of great leadership. This openness between the leader and followers helps to build mutual respect, as well as encouraging creativity and the development of new ideas which continually benefit the group as a whole.
  • Humility – this does not mean that a good leader has to be self-effacing; rather it means that a good leader tries to elevate everyone in the team as they recognise that they are no better or worse than other members in the group. Mahatma Gandhi is a great example of a “humble” leader who was nevertheless very powerful and effective.
  • Creativity – good leaders have the ability to think outside the box; to take a lateral view on things and some up with solutions despite constraints. They will see the things that others may not see and thus help to lead their team in new directions. They will also encourage this creativity in other members of the team and create an environment which fosters and supports creativity.
  • Fairness – again, an important part of achieving trust and respect is consistent fair dealings with all. For example, a good leader should check all the facts and hear everyone out before passing judgment – and definitely avoid jumping to conclusions based on incomplete evidence. Fair treatment of followers will reward the leader with loyalty and dedication.
  • Assertiveness – often confused with aggressiveness, which is not a desirable trait in a good leader – assertiveness refers to the ability to clearly describe expectations so that there are no misunderstandings and to display a sort of “diplomatic determination” in order to achieve the desired results.

And Lastly…

Almost as important as anything else, a sense of humour is essential as it not only relieves tension and defuses hostility within a group but also helps to strengthen the bond between team members. In fact, humour can be used to energise followers and can even be used as a form of power to provide some control over the team environment.

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