Are leaders born or is leadership learned?
It’s a little bit of both, but it’s more complicated than an either/or statement so let’s look more closely at the aspects of personality that make a great leader. Why? Because one thing that IS true is that calling someone a leader/CEO/President doesn’t make them a leader.
What are some personality traits of a great leader?
Someone who is not authentic or honest is obvious. This can be observed in social media interactions every single day. The ‘influencers’ who are successful are the ones who are authentic. The ones that have a great big ‘for sale’ sign on their foreheads will have a moment in the spotlight but it’s not a lasting reality.
In order to motivate people to follow your lead, you need to appeal to them at a core level. This can’t happen if you appear constantly inauthentic. Empathy and awareness of others, of their needs, is an important part of authenticity. A leader who is only concerned with the bottom line and not what is going on with his team members will not be authentic or effective, in the long run.
To make tough and important decisions, which a leader is bound to have to do, they have to be intelligent in order to be able to do this with confidence and authority. Intelligence doesn’t just mean knowing the details of a project inside and out, though.
There are other forms of intelligence: street smarts, if you will. Understanding how emotions between team members and throughout a hierarchy work and play a part in success, for example. It’s not all about knowing the ins and outs of a project or company. It’s about understanding how people work and how to work most effectively with them.
To inspire people to do the work that they need to do, a leader must project positivity. There are few who would follow someone who was perpetually negative, always assuming the worst of a situation or a person and generally unable to see the brighter side. Real optimism is part of authenticity but it is so vital to a team’s well-being that it stands apart as an important aspect of leadership qualities.
A leader who cannot keep his or her eye on the prize, all the while ensuring the team members are still on board, won’t be effective either. Ultimately, most leaders have a goal or several goals and a vision of how to get where they are going.
It’s not a question of moving forward headlong without paying attention to what’s happening in the process. It’s the ability to do both: focus on the goal and keep all the tasks in line, at the same time.
Part of focus comes from accountability. A good leader is accountable to his or her team and makes them accountable for their areas of responsibility. It’s by trusting others to get their tasks done and working with them, rather than micromanaging every aspect, and also coming through on the tasks that he or she is responsible for, that a leader gains respect.
Over to you …
While some of these traits might seem difficult to pinpoint in any one individual, over time, a good leader will show these while an ineffective leader will falter. Seeking power for the sake of it is not what makes a good leader. Seeking a solid path to a goal and taking others with them for the ride: that’s the mark of a good leader.
Do you agree? What qualities do you think are essential to being a successful leader?