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This I Believe: Key Leadership Characteristics

Based on a presentation by Dr. Chuck Phillips, recipient of the 2014 Granberg Leadership Award.

The concept of leadership encompasses an endless list of qualities. A great leader, for example, should have the ability to make decisions and communicate expectations. Equally important, leaders should also be great teachers and work to invest in relationships. The number of ideal characteristics is so numerous, in fact, that it isn’t possible for one person to posses them all. Instead, it’s better to think that great leaders have the right characteristics and talents at the right time.

“80% of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

For many people, this quote may hold true. It does not, however, for leaders. In order to effectively lead, they must not only show up, but also be prepared to listen, learn, and share. Each year, Forbes creates a list of the 50 best leaders. Many of the names on that list are unknown to the general public, but they all share key characteristics. These leaders are well-prepared and do much more than simply “show up.”

The culture and values of an organization matter

You can be open and honest, but if you’re violating the culture of the organization, you’re not leading effectively. Take into consideration the mission and vision of an organization. Working to achieve the goals that the organization values will help you to gain the respect of those you’re trying to lead.

Leadership is easier with respect

New leaders have to prove themselves. They have to prove they’re competent and that they will be a positive face for the organization. As previously mentioned, the culture and values of an organization matter, and the leader is often the one who demonstrates these values to the rest of society.

Best results come from communicating

Communication is essential for effective leadership. This includes communication of both successes and failures. If you make several miss-steps in a row, prepare to have your leadership questioned. Failure to communicate can lead to severe consequences. Explain yourself early and often.

Attitude is infectious

Choose your attitude. People will respond better to positive attitudes and are more likely to display the same. Be honest, work hard, give credit, and take responsibility – good or bad.

In summary, leaders indeed do much more than simply show up. They recognize both their strengths and weaknesses and use them to move their organization forward. The various qualities representing effective leadership are too numerous for a single person to posses. Instead, a good leader acknowledges what is needed and displays the right characteristics at the right time.