“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
A leader is neither about a title nor about a powerful status; it can emerge from any educational level. Leadership is a complete ART as it handles mostly the invisible. What you see in a leader is only the visible part of the iceberg like knowledge and skills. An iceberg has just one-ninth of its volume above water and the rest remains invisible. This implies that the qualities that most define great leaders lay beneath the surface, and rely on the psychological and physiological factors that determine the invisible components like values, management styles, traits and others.
The aim behind this article is not to release a random compilation of qualities and attributes as it is already the case in some books and articles. I believe that there is an ORDER to respect as some characteristics remain the pre-requisites for attaining others. We cannot tackle TRUST if the person still has issues about INTEGRITY. We cannot become credible if we are unable to achieve good results even with high level of integrity. Similarly, once we create trust and credibility around us, motivation and confidence will take place naturally, and many other qualities will follow.
A great leader should also have the ability to combine between different traits and characteristics: between a privileged status and humility; between power and the ability to delegate; between failure, and the willingness to reframe the problems as opportunities and seek feedback. These combinations are the ones that create sophistication from simplicity. They make from ordinary people remarkable leaders as the efforts require human touch, adaptation and empathy. Some people are born with these talents: the ability to lead and inspire; others don’t have simply the skills acquired to become a leader or need to work hard to achieve them.
Fortunately, everyone can be a leader, but not everyone can be a GREAT leader. Whether we are talking about a president or a leader of a small organization, the characteristics required should be similar in both cases. So, what are the main invisible attributes that can transform an ordinary person into a distinguished leader? What should we strive to embrace to become a leader and how? What are the set of qualities do you see in yourself as a leader?
11 Qualities to Consider:
Integrity is the basis of credibility and trust to become a great leader. Integrity is far limited to honesty. It is the coherence between what we say and what we do. It’s the courage to be lined up with our own values and acts.
Integrity is an invisible quality of a great leader but can often lead to visible results reflected in the credibility and trust of others. With high level of integrity, you become credible when others believe in your abilities to deliver good results at work; and you attain trust when you are reliable.
When these qualities are gained, others can take place easily and follow. Hence, the raise of standards become logical, and trust is installed systematically. Can we raise our standards when we lack strong values and trust? Can we achieve credibility when we are unable to reach our goals and objectives at work?
“Integrity simply means a willingness not to violate one’s identity.” — Erich Fromm
Trust can be taught and nurtured contrary to what is said and thought. Trust as defined by Jack Welch, ex-GM of general electric, “you will recognize it when you will be able to feel it”.
Trust can be tangible and measured. Stephen Covey in his book, the power of trust” explains deeply his thinking model: trust can affect speed and cost. The more trustworthy we are at work, the more speed we get in achieving our goals, with less cost. A lack of trust at the airports, for instance, can hinder the speed of getting passengers on time, and obviously the cost increase because of the security regulations.
As it is important to be trustworthy at work, one has to trust also the team and people around because lack of trust can be costly! When trust is attained, respect is earned and loyalty is returned.
Once credibility and trust are reached, motivation can raise and prosper. “The best motivation is self-motivation” Jim Rohn. Can you feel motivated in an environment where you don’t feel trusted? Have you ever questioned your integrity when faced with a lack of motivation?
Self-motivation is simply the willingness to do things better and go beyond limits to keep moving forward. Being self-motivated involves a set of definite characteristics and behaviors like passion, perseverance, and the courage to instill and respect small daily habits that will enable you to achieve them however the circumstances.
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” — Jim Rohn
4. Optimism and Positivity
Embracing positive attitude is not a coincidence as it has some foundations like the pyramid of Maslow. A positive attitude is not derived only from external factors, but stems from the love and the self-esteem we have for ourselves. Obviously, this is earned when we are respected and trusted; when we are empowered and self-satisfied for our achievements. Can we expect a positive attitude when someone feels guilty for violating the ethical and moral codes or cheating?
Another point may hinder people from being optimistic and positive is related to their past failures and experiences. The past should serve us as a reminder of our mistakes, and not define us for the future; the best learnings come often from the failures of the past.
A positive attitude can change everything. The more positive we are, the more likely to attract positive outcomes. But success without integrity is failure.
5. Emotional intelligence
I believe at this stage, to keep evolving in personal or career journey, one has to follow up with a complete self-assessment. It is crucial as it allows us to reach, on one hand, self-awareness and self-regulation of our emotions and thoughts, on other hand, develop empathy and social skills to facilitate interaction and communication with others.
“Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” — Jim Rohn
Self assessment is not enough until we move to action and search for self-improvement; any revival starts from an understanding of our strengths and shadows. Self-improvement has never been one-shot action, but a constant process. But first, to revamp your self-worth, you need to be self-motivated and embrace discipline, and a positive attitude.
“If you want to have more, you have to become more. For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to become better. If you improve, everything will improve for you.” — Jim Rohn
Self-discipline is the fuel that will keep you moving towards your goal and achieve self-improvement. It implies hard work and patience; it also involves focus, perseverance and positive attitude.
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” — Jesse Owens
Creativity or Innovation is not only coming up with new ideas, and products. It’s also our ability to handle challenges and conflicts differently from the others following our intuitions and wisdom. Creativity enables us to find creative solutions when faced with obstacles and never quit.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King.
Communication is not merely about a good content. It is more about the confidence we have in our abilities to speak in public and DARE to share our ideas and thoughts with the others. But to be a great communicator, you need to be reliable and credible; you need to be clear and definite about your vision.
“When you develop the skill of communication, you will boost your value by fifty percent.” — Warren Buffet
Assertiveness is a big topic that can be discussed in a whole presentation. It is the result of all what has been acquired as qualities and traits. “Assertiveness is expressing opinions or desires strongly and with confidence so that people take notice” Oxford advanced learners dictionary.
Assertiveness is not only the ability to communicate our values, opinions, and beliefs in an honest way but to disagree with the others respectfully without violating their rights. Being assertive is to be able to adapt to different social changes, confident about handling conflicts, all in a positive and optimistic manner. Mostly, being assertive is the courage to express what we see, feel, and desire without harming the others.
“The only healthy communication style is the assertive communication.” — Jim Rohn
Humility, as other qualities, encompasses a variety of other characteristics. When you are humble, you are more likely to delegate, trust, and empower others so that you can help them achieve their own goals.
Humbleness allows you to be accountable, avoid blaming others, and seek feedback for better serving your team and customers. But greatness is achieved when it relies on humility that is discrete and invisible.
To acquire these qualities, you need courage, hard work, and perseverance.
But the fastest way to develop the leader within you is to be simply HUMAN, keep FAITH, and hold a great VISION.
Want to Achieve Excellence in Organizational Leadership (OL)?
Gain the knowledge and develop the expertise to become an expert in Organizational Leadership (OL). Our frameworks are based on the thought leadership of leading consulting firms, academics, and recognized subject matter experts. Click here for full details.
For both the current executives and leaders of tomorrow, our frameworks address 2 facets of Leadership:
1. How to elevate your management skills to becoming a Leader in your organization.
2. How to elevate your organization to becoming the Leader in your Industry.
Readers Are Also Interested in These Resources
Leadership Competency Model (25-slide PowerPoint presentation)
Leadership Theories (166-slide PowerPoint presentation)
Management System for Lean Leaders (150-slide PowerPoint presentation)
Transformational Leadership — Implementation Toolkit (Excel workbook)
Leadership & Motivation Theories & Models (237-slide PowerPoint presentation)
Organizational Excellence Framework — Leadership (40-slide PowerPoint presentation)