What qualities define a leader?


Leaders are leaders no matter what situation they are thrust into. The qualities that make a truly great leader are universal, although they may be applied differently to match whatever situation the leader is in.

Humility is the first trait of a leader and probably the most important. This is not the type of humility popularly portrayed in the entertainment industry. True humility is not weak, it is merely understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and accepting them. Until a person can lead themselves, they cannot lead others. Along with humility comes integrity. No one can be a leader if those who are supposed to follow have no trust.

Decisiveness is critical to good leadership. A leader will often have to act without having all the information or even a clear idea of what the problem is. That leader must be able to make a decision and act immediately when necessary. Sometimes this decision will be wrong and will require some “clean up,” but it is better to act and have to admit failure than to never act at all. Tagging along with decisiveness, and closely related, is risk-taking, another necessary leadership quality.

Leaders are also communicators. They must be able to pass on their ideas and visions to others clearly and concisely. They must also be able to communicate in a way that makes people want to listen. Donald T. Philllips, in “Lincoln on Leadership,” describes how storytelling played a big role in Abraham Lincoln’s ability to to just that. This helped him build teams. A leader’s job is never to achieve the goal. It is to set the goal and build the team that will ultimately achieve it.

A leader must also have the gift of discernment. In building teams, the leader must be able to identify individual talents and skills, as well judge an individual’s level of competency. Assigning the wrong people to the wrong roles can lead to disaster. Besides the obvious drawback, giving less capable people more responsibility will create resentment within your teams. Failure to recognize talent when its not readily obvious could mean missing the key to achieving the leader’s goals.

John C. Maxwell, a prominent expert in leadership and prolific author on the subject, teaches that leaders produce leaders. Achieving the goal is not enough; a leader must also train his replacement. If he doesn’t, then he becomes indispensable, which means he will never attain anything higher than his current level. Others will continue to pass him while he grows more and more resentful. A leader must therefore be a teacher and a mentor. Using his discernment, the leader must also be able to recognize the one individual who is most likely to be his replacement and prepare her for it.

There is no way to adequately describe all there is to being a leader. True leaders have made leadership a life-long pursuit. They read and study their particular field as well as the broader concepts of leadership. They may not be experts, but they are constantly striving to be so. The thirst for knowledge and the desire to learn something new is one of the most critical qualities of a leader.

About anasebrahem

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