Row of chairs & one red chair

What Traits Make a Leader?

Recently I discussed leadership development with friends. We talked about whether or not leadership qualities were innate or could be learned. But to know whether these traits can be learned, we needed to identify the key traits critical to a leader’s success.

I believe a leader is someone who can harness the intelligence and commitment of the people around her and the resources available to create change, accomplish goals, or fulfill a vision. To that end, it is critical that a leader:

  • Make decisions and hold themselves accountable for them. Nothing was ever accomplished without someone making decisions. Including making the choice to NOT decide is still a decision. Leaders make and stand by their decisions – they are not afraid of accountability. In addition, they recognize that part of that accountability is to know when to change direction – and making the decision to do so.
  • Share knowledge and experience. Hoarded knowledge benefits no one; it cannot be leveraged or built upon. New ideas come from sharing information, not keeping it to oneself. Our experiences are how we discover and learn; leaders encourage others to grow their expertise. Gaining knowledge or experience and not sharing it with others does not help you attain your vision and does not help the people you choose to surround yourself with grow.Row of chairs & one red chair
  • Recognize the value of choosing the right collaborators. The right collaborators are team members with the skills that fill in any gaps in a leader’s own experience. Recognition of the value of working with people who have skills that complement a leader’s makes the team stronger. The right collaborators are also people who will be willing to push back when needed. Leaders do not need “Yes Men” – they need collaborators that ask why, how, and what can be done to make it better. It is a part of the recognition that sharing knowledge and experience makes the collaboration stronger.
  • Engage real communication. Communication is not just sharing your thoughts and ideas; rather real communication happens through listening to the feedback and ideas of those around you. A leader understands that real communication results in shared ideas, exploration of knowledge, and quality feedback.
  • Understand what motivates their team. Anything worth accomplishing requires collaboration. Leaders understand that being able to understand what motivates a team means understanding what pushes their team to commit to the goals and vision. Unless you understand and motivate others, you will be working alone – and no one has accomplished their vision alone.

These are a few of the traits I identify as part of who a leader is; I try to bring them to my role as a consultant, volunteer, advisor, community member, and friend. I am not always successful, but it is good set of traits to try to carry as my own.

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