Leadership is a mysterious thing. It’s hard to define, though easy to recognize. Many people call themselves leaders and yet we are in desperate need of leadership. One of the things we can do is try to know and recognize the qualities of leadership when we see them. So here are ten attributes of leadership.
1. Leadership provides the courage to begin. Leadership is about action – taking action, moving the group toward the highest good, toward the goal, the mission. Nothing happens until someone takes action that requires leadership.
2. Leadership is about self-control. While a leader can’t control circumstances and others, he certainly can control himself or herself. He can respond rather than react. He can do the next right thing rather than wallow in excuses for an activity.
3. Leadership has a keen sense of awareness in what is just. This is the leader’s ability to gain respect of those who follow him. If they know the leader is always going to do the right thing, then it’s easy to follow him to the destination.
4. Leadership is about definiteness of direction. Leadership is not about meaningless activity for activity’s sake. It is about direction. He or she knows where the group must go and guides them methodically, but purposefully toward that direction.
5. Leadership is about definiteness of plans. You’ve heard the old saying that you must plan your work and work your plan. Leadership is not about guesswork. It’s about knowing what the next right step is. Leadership is like a rudder on a ship, guiding it where it should go along a predetermined path of intentionality.
6. Leadership is in the habit of doing more than it’s paid to do. I’ve often heard it said that if you do more today than you are paid to do, you’ll be paid more for what you do in the future. It’s all about going the extra mile, not just quitting at 5:00 and walking away.
7. Leadership is about likeability. Agree with it or not, the truth remains that people follow people they like. To be successful, people must know you, like you, and then trust you. Likeability is important; not just filling a role, mindlessly grunting your way through a day, or through meetings. Nothing can substitute for a smile, a handshake, eye-to-eye contact, and engaging people.
8. Leadership is about empathy. Leaders understand their followers. They understand those for whom they are responsible. They don’t care because it’s their job, they make it their job to care. The genuine, caring, understanding people they know, those they work with, have other lives. And the complexity of their work lives, personal lives, and family lives have to be taken into account.
9. Leaders have the willingness to know more than anyone else. Leaders are students. Leaders are learners. Leaders are readers. Leaders are constantly gaining knowledge about the subject at hand. If they don’t have the knowledge, they find someone who does, and bring them in to create a mastermind group for achieving the goal.
10. Leaders seek and gain cooperation. Leaders understand that you don’t pay people to excel. You pay them to show up. You create an atmosphere of cooperation. A great leader understands and applies the principle of collaboration and alignment, and he sets the standards for those who follow him, and their teams.
Leadership is a mysterious thing, but an absolute must if we’re going to succeed. These are my ten attributes of a leader. There are many more. How many more can you add to the list?