5 Learnable Qualities of Great Leaders
September 18, 2012
Are leadership qualities innate or can they be acquired? This question has obsessed leadership scholars for years, and while there is no consensus answer, some research does suggest that leadership skills can be developed and mastered. Here we look at five trainable (and highly valuable) traits of a good leader. The belief that we have a leadership crisis is at its highest level since 2008, based on the latest National Leadership Index It's no wonder. In the workplace alone, managers feel ill-equipped to lead. In a 2011 CareerBuilder.com The terms "manager" and "leader" are often used interchangeably, even though the roles are wholly different While there is no consensus about whether leaders are born or made "The best estimates offered by research is that leadership is about one-third born and two-thirds made," leadership expert Ronald E. Riggio writes at Psychology Today If leadership is something that can be partly learned, or at least developed, then the question is: Which specific qualities should be cultivated? The following are a few key traits and qualities of a good leader that can be improved over time. Vision - Leaders learn to regularly communicate their vision or the vision of their company to the people they want to follow them. "Setting a meaningful vision is critical to the effectiveness of any leader because it sets the stage for strategically aligning the team around a unified purpose, provides each player on the team with a role that ties back to the collective vision and serves as a rallying cry that inspires the team," Adam Bandelli, principal of leadership coaching firm RHR International Being clear with employees about standards and goals - and why they matter - helps employees focus on both the big picture and day-to-day execution. Courage - Leaders are willing to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. They realize that even unsuccessful attempts to accomplish something can prove useful so long as they learn from the experience. "The capacity to learn and apply life's lessons, whether acquired through an academic process or real-world experience, is key to becoming and remaining a successful leader," Fast Company Self-Reflection - Leaders are conscious of their own abilities and the limits thereof. Successful leaders are clear about who they are and what is most important to them, but are willing to re-evaluate. In learning to recognize what their own strengths and weaknesses are, leaders can better understand what complementary strengths they need from others, and then make the best use of the team members' unique talents. "Your job as a leader is to understand each person's strengths and place them in positions where they can flourish and grow," Nancy Clark, author of 18 Holes for Leadership, tells CareerBuilder Empowerment - Leaders embolden employees, challenging them, seeking their ideas and contributions and providing them with recognition for their work. "Employee empowerment has become one of the key characteristics of innovative and ultimately profitable companies," IndustryWeek When you give team members the ability to take advantage of opportunities, it sends a powerful message: You trust them. They, in turn, will be enthused by what they do, feel more connected to their work and ultimately return that trust in spades. Authenticity - Above all, true leaders learn to lead by example. "Leaders must be willing to serve as models for their employees' behavior by matching their words with their actions," IndustryWeek states. Leading by example not only helps earn employees' trust, but also sends the message that leaders are not asking people to do something they wouldn't do themselves. Leaders are clear on what their values are and are consistent in applying them. As part of that, they must have the courage to hold true to them. These are only a few of the achievable qualities that make for a good leader, but if you can learn to cultivate these traits, you're well on your way to becoming a true leader. What other qualities or traits do you think are necessary for strong leadership? Let us know in the comments section below.