Over the years a phenomenal amount of research has been conducted in what makes a successful leader and there are a plethora of books that have been written about the subject too. But what are the most enduring traits of a successful leader? Which ones never ‘go out of fashion?’
Several traits in particular stand out:
Trust: do your team members trust you? Do they accept that you will support them and stand up for them whatever the situation? High levels of trust makes people feel empowered, gives them the courage to be creative and take risks and push themselves beyond their comfort zones. In their book ‘The Leadership Challenge’, Kouzes and Posner identified honesty as the most important characteristic that people look for in their leaders.
Empathy: Do you notice the look of anxiety on the face of one of your team when they came to work this morning? Or were you too busy focussing on the day to day pressures of work? ‘Emotional intelligence’, is widely recognised as a leadership quality. In Goleman’s book of the same name he identified five ‘domains’ of emotional intelligence, two of which were recognising and understanding other people’s emotions and managing relationships (i.e. managing the emotions of others).
Mentorship: No matter how talented we maybe we all benefit from a guide, someone who can help us and guide us to reach our potential. For example, where would you be without a number of people in your career, perhaps your boss or a trusted colleague nudging you in the right direction?
Direction: The Collins English dictionary defines the verb ‘to lead’ as ‘to show the way, to guide, to go ahead’. At its heart leadership is about taking people to new and different places. Our employees look to us as leaders to provide clarity of direction for them to follow, giving them comfort from the ambiguity of an uncertain future.
No matter whether leading a small team or a multinational business there are a number of enduring traits that define successful leaders.