Have you ever wondered how a leader manages to influence a team to achieve shared goals? And that’s regardless of whether she’s a class president or a captain of industry? Admittedly, leadership skills are as diverse as the individuals that possess them.
Yet when you look closely, you’ll find several traits that effective leaders share. They can muster incredible levels of energy, for example. And even though we entrust them with the hard decision-making, they persist in the face of crisis.
Of course, some leadership styles are more appropriate for given situations. A diplomatic style would thrive in an established and stable system. While a creative one can bring order, where there’s none.
Still, leadership development specialists show that no matter the demands placed on leaders, they more or less exhibit these traits:
1. Are motivated
Great leaders are motivated by factors that seem far-fetched at face value. They’re not driven by the need to accumulate material comforts. Instead, they work towards goals like universal education for all and affordable health care for the marginalized.
Such aims aren’t achievable overnight, though. So, effective leadership is about persistence. It’s the ability to remain optimistic even when the end is nowhere in sight.
Take Winston Churchill’s example. He rallied Great Britain to face Nazi Germany despite the massive losses that his countrymen suffered. His motivation attracted allies like the United States to defeat Hitler’s world-domination plans.
Contemporary challenges are no different. The world needs leaders who can inspire people dispirited by increasing social inequality. We require leadership qualities able to tackle the security threats forcing whole populations to live in fear.
2. Are determined
Organization heads have to work with limited resources. Public school principals have to implement programs with inadequate funding. And despite all that, leaders have the uncanny ability to keep people focused. That’s because giving up isn’t an option for them. Their resolve to remain faithful to their cause is usually unwavering.
Most times, we depend on effective leadership to take through uncharted territories. Still, we forget that those tasked with that responsibility are as unprepared for the new changes as we are. It thus takes the courage of the leader to make us believe that we’ll succeed.
Throughout history, being determined has proven to be one of the leadership skills that’s key to withstanding unprecedented challenges. There’s Abraham Lincoln who was committed to keeping the States united. And Mahatma Gandhi, who, by using peaceful protest, led the Indian struggle for freedom.
3. Are self-confident
Leading from the front is not easy. You have to deal with relentless negative criticism. Mostly from those bent on malice. Also, the doubting Thomases poison those dependent on your direction to start questioning your abilities.
Without a strong sense of self-confidence, it’s thus impossible to become a great leader. But it doesn’t stop there. Apart from believing in your leadership skills, you should also influence others to trust in the feasibility of the shared cause.
See, leaders are lonely people. Only a few can understand what the weight placed on their shoulders does to them. Without the benefit of finding emotional comfort quickly, leaders have thus to rely on themselves for support. That’s not a trivial matter when you’re not confident in your abilities.
Also, check out our article about ways to motivate yourself to study!
4. Have good judgment
Most the decisions that are carried out in leadership circles can break or make systems. It’s also common for the leader to make a judgment based on inconclusive data. When in such a situation, one’s cognitive ability plays a significant role in shaping the type of the outcome.
Those looking up to the leader also demand that she be decisive. Remember, support staff, like advisors, might contribute to the process. Still, the final course of action ultimately rests on what the leader determines.
But, effective leadership doesn’t depend on good cognitive ability alone. It relies on how well one can be impartial despite pressures from varying interests. It’s a balancing act. One where you should be ready to be ostracized by those that become displeased by your decisions.
5. Are knowledgeable
A knowledgeable individual knows the ins and outs of her profession. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the smartest in the room, though. It just suggests how advanced they are in their craft.
Let’s assume you’re the CEO of a company in the tech industry. You’d ideally be in charge of highly qualified employees. If you, in turn, can’t provide the direction that these knowledge workers need, you’d be leading the company to bankruptcy.
Same for leadership in an institution like a school. The principal should have not only the experience of a teacher but also have the qualities of a leader.
Being knowledgeable is beneficial when faced with situations that call for decisiveness. See, when you’re not bogged out by the technical details of a problem, you can make better use of your gut feeling.
6. Have integrity
Power corrupts. Without a strong moral compass, one tasked with leadership can be tempted to abuse power. Honesty is thus one of the essential leadership skills.
An effective leader should be accountable to those under her. She should own up when she makes mistakes. But also, she should advise people of the hardships they might face when they agree to adopt a particular course of action.
A simple analogy for how honesty contributes to effective leadership could be that of a lead mountaineer. The one that gets to the peak first and is tasked with designing the safest path down the mountain. Such a leader should advise the climbing party in a way that doesn’t cause unnecessary exposure to harsh weather.
After all, as a leader, you need people to trust you. Effective leaders don’t betray the trust that’s given to them.
Everyone has leadership potential. See, these six points are just a tip of the iceberg when it comes to leadership development. There are other factors, like empathy, which great leaders also possess.
It’s possible to learn some traits, like how to be an expert or be self-confident. But there are others, which might be a challenge for some individuals to adopt (honesty, for example).
What’s apparent, though, is that these traits are beneficial when exhibited by a leader in any field.