Traits of true leaders

November 26 2013

From small projects to antiquated institutions, organized groups benefit greatly from strong, reliable leadership. Yet despite the undeniable need for talented management, the skills and traits of effective leaders aren’t necessarily easy to find.

I’ve watched organizations as varied as religious institutions (think monasteries and churches), start-ups, small companies, government entities, and educational programs struggle beneath the weight of inept leadership. Whether you’re starting a business, building a corporation, or strengthening your family, look for ways to foster the following traits within your team:

Leadership Trait #1: Observation

True leaders aren’t necessarily the loudest in the room, but their actions speak volumes. They are constantly observing and gathering information from their immediate environments, looking for parallels and connections with “the bigger picture.” They consult a variety of sources to collect data and remain in contact with each level of their tribe.

Leadership Trait #2: Humility

True leaders recognize the talents of those around them. Instead of feeling jealousy or insecurity, they look for ways to encourage, delegate, and provide opportunities for the growth and development of their affiliates. Prudent leaders find — and create — ways to make their contingents better.

Leadership Trait #3: Foresight

You may walk by an empty store and wonder why it closed. A leader sees the vacant lot and envisions what might be. Leaders aren’t restricted by thinking only of what is best for today; they consider the long run and what might happen ten years from now.

Leadership Trait #4: Empowerment

Leaders foster a sense of ownership and commitment from their team through trust, responsibility, and reward. By handing off significant tasks — duties in which failure has actual consequence — leaders demonstrate trust in their squad. And with the gift of responsibility comes loyalty and dedication in return. Rewarding a job “well done” establishes feedback loops that promote respect and build work ethic within teams.