key attributes of a leader
How to Unlock Exceptional Leadership: 15 Must-Have Attributes for Success.
Over the last 20+ years in the professional world, I've come to recognize the key attributes of a leader.
There are commonalities that exist, across industries, among those whose teams make meaningful impact.
Use the following as a checklist to perform a self or team audit. You'll discover:
✅ Where you shine
✅ Where improvement can be made
In No Particular Order, Here Are The 15 Key Attributes Of A Leader.
↳ The leader has a vision of the desired future state, and communicates this clearly with internal and external stakeholders.
↳ Honesty and ethical behavior are hallmarks of great leaders, accompanied by visible action in holding themselves and others accountable for their actions.
↳ Where the integrity of leaders is in question, employee silence, where workers withhold information, ideas, and insight, is enhanced (Erkutlu & Chafra, 2019).
↳ The feelings of others are understood and shared by the leader.
↳ Geisler (2022) suggest that the empathetic leader relaxes focus on personal agenda and objectives to allow space to recognize, understand, and provide feedback for the views and emotions of other stakeholders.
↳ Where uncertainty and risk are present, the leader makes decisions quickly and effectively.
"Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all."
~ Brian Tracy
↳ Thoughts, ideas, projects, strategies, and changes are communicated proactively with clarity, honesty, and good frequency, through channels that are easily accessible by the audience, and with opportunity for feedback and dialogue.
☐ Strategic Thinking
↳ Similar to being a visionary, the leader is able to anticipate opportunities and threats, and to organize appropriate adjustments to align with organizational objectives.
↳ Eschewing of the status quo, the leader seeks unique perspectives, innovative thought, and fresh ideas. The leader challenges themselves and others to find new solutions that improve products and/or services and the stakeholder experience.
↳ A leader understands and appreciates that failure is a necessary step in learning, adjustment, and progress. The destination is not reached without encountering potholes along the way.
"It's not the winning that teaches you how to be resilient. It's the setback. It's the loss."
~ Beth Brooke
☐ Emotional Intelligence
↳ The leader understands, appreciates, and manages their emotions, those of their team members, and other external stakeholders.
↳ Where emotional connection is absent in the leader, the motivation, inspiration, excitement, and loyalty of the workforce toward the manager will be diminished (Venera, 2019).
↳ A leader holds true to the intended destination, and encourages flexibility in the path to get there.
"In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
~ Thomas Jefferson
↳ Alignment of the leader's words and actions is obvious to onlookers, earning trust and improving buy-in.
↳ A leader charges forward in the face of critique and at the risk of failure. While cognizant and considering of opposing views, the leader braves the path amidst uncertainty and potential consequence.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
~ Winston Churchill
↳ No excuses here. The leader takes responsibility for their decisions, actions, and behaviors, and does the same for their team.
↳ A leader, while possessing of individual strengths, recognizes the expertise of others, and values their insights and contributions. The leader fosters an environment where team members feel encouraged to collaborate.
☐ Continuous Learning
↳ A leader recognizes that a commitment to learning is the foundation of preparation for the challenges of tomorrow. Their own personal and professional development, and that of their team, is of priority.
"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
~ Pablo Picasso
Key Takeaways Of The 15 Key Attributes Of A Leader.
While not an exhaustive list of the qualities of a leader, I've found many of these attributes to be common among the best leaders with whom I've worked.
As knowledge alone does not make one adept at application, it's important to remember that you don't need to be a pro in every single area on day one. Give yourself permission to make mistakes, learn, apply, and improve.
Your team will appreciate the vulnerability you display, and will feel encouraged that they can chase perfection with the knowledge that mistakes will be the stepping stones to new achievements.
For More On Organizational Leadership.
This section of the site is an excellent foundation for developing leadership skills, understanding different types of leadership, and exploring leadership styles.
To continue your learning:
David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
Erkutlu, H., & Chafra, J. (2019). Leader’s integrity and employee silence in healthcare organizations. Leadership in Health Services (Bradford, England), 32(3), 419–434. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1108/LHS-03-2018-0021
Geisler, J. (2022). Empathetic leadership: What it is and why it’s important. HFM (Healthcare Financial Management), 76(3), 38–39.
Venera, T. A. (2019). Leadership and Emotional Intelligence. Annals of “Constantin Brancusi” University of Targu-Jiu. Economy Series, 6, 160–166.
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