5 Traits Every Leader Must Have

I recently had the privilege of sitting on a Leadership Discussion Panel with other leaders from all different industries, backgrounds, and organizations.  One college student posed the question "What Characteristics or Qualities Should Every Leader Possess?"  The answers that were given cannot be learned in a textbook or prestigious MBA program, they are learned over years working in the trenches - filled with both trials and errors. photo-1428968941220-58e83e6096dd


1.Integrity - Leadership is influence and influence must be earned and given.  You don't earn trust with people by being dishonest. People today are marketed to more than any other time in history and because of this, we can tell authenticity from a sales pitch, transparency from rapport building.  In the past, leaders could get away with being one person in public and another in private, but today with social media and instant news access - you have to live congruent to your values.  If someone is willing to cut corners with the little things, they will do it again on bigger issues.  Integrity is what you do and the decisions you make, even when no one is watching.

2. Vision - Leaders inspire people, managers handle tasks. Today's leaders must have a clear vision of where the organization is heading and must be able to effectively communicate their vision and strategy to others.  In the past, organizations would promote the top salesperson or people who got things done to leadership but often these people were great "doers" but poor leaders.  Leaders can see what could be and share their idea with others, long before the first concept is drafted.  Leaders also know how to effectively communicate and motivate people to take action without ever having to coerce or force others.  People naturally want to follow visionaries and be involved with what they are doing.

[endorsement]'Integrity is what you do and the decisions you make, even when no one is watching. '[/endorsement]

3. Passion - Leaders truly care about the vision, purpose, and goal. Have you ever worked with someone who was put in charge of something they could care less about?  They do the bare minimum to keep the "higher ups" happy and maintain the status quo but not much more.  Passionate leaders live and breathe their vision, it keeps them up at night and gets them up every morning.  Their passion is infectious and contagious too and soon others are following and feeling the passion as well.  The key to this trait is keeping the passion alive year after year or during hard and trying times.

4. Humility - Almost everyone wants to work for a humble, servant leader. The humble leader is not the loudest person at the table, they don't always pick their idea, and they share in success but take sole responsibility for failure.  The humble leader remembers what it was like being the new intern, they admit when they are wrong and they care more about people than sales, hardware, or metrics. I once had the privilege of spending a week with three CEO's at a private villa in Mexico, they all told me the secret to success is to dream big, bounce back from failure and never forget where you came from and the shoulders of others you stood on.

[endorsement]'Leaders inspire people, managers handle tasks.'[/endorsement]

5. Communication Skills - Leaders can effectively communicate across cultural and generational boundaries. Every leader must possess superior communication skills and be able to communicate in multiple mediums. Leaders communication must be concise, persuasive, and memorable.  Mono-tone lectures or simply conveying information or data is not effective communication.  Effective communicators know how to use words, writing, tonality, body language, humor, stories, allegories and symbolism effectively and they know which medium or mode of communication to use with a particular audience.

It was great to hear other leaders echoing each other on this specific discussion and note that GPA, what college you attended, or the title or position on your door was not brought up at all.  Every trait listed was a character or personality trait and as parents, we can cultivate and instill these in our children from a very early age.

- Lance