Four Traits of Great Leadership
May 5, 2010
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Many people assume leadership roles in organizations without any basic understanding of what it takes to be a real leader. Just because you are called a supervisor or manager does not mean that you have the ability to lead. It takes more than just occupying the position to be a successful leader.

Why do people want to be leaders anyway? Is it for the power? In most instances, leaders have to get things done through other people so the amount of power they have is often very limited. Is it for the prestige? Maybe it is but there are an awful lot of leaders who have given the role a bad name. Think of the leaders of Adelphia, Enron or Worldcom and you don’t necessarily think of prestige; you think of malfeasance, theft, and corporate fraud. No wonder we have a shortage of leaders in our society.

Throughout history scholars and laymen alike have pondered the subject of leadership.

Can it be learned? Is it an inherited trait-are leaders born to lead? Is it situational, does leadership emerge in a given situation? Is style important? The answer is not very clear. It could be any of the above or none! One thing is certain; there are several popular myths about leadership.

The first myth is that everyone can be a leader. This is not true because many supervisors and managers don’t have the necessary knowledge of their own behavior or the ability to be authentic, two common characteristics of good leaders. Also, you must want to be a leader but not everyone does. Some people, who could be leaders, prefer to remain in the background, or balance their personal and professional life.

The second myth is that the people who rise to the top of the organization are leaders. Not always. Sometimes people become leaders by default-nobody else are there to fill the void. Sometimes people are politically astute and maneuver their way to the top. There are lots of reasons people rise to the top and leadership is only one of them.

The third myth is that leaders deliver business results. This is not always the case. If it were, then we would not have the extraordinary turnover in the executive ranks that we see in modern business. Nor would we see so many companies foundering in bankruptcy protection!

The fourth myth is that leaders are great coaches. If leadership is defined as getting ordinary people to do extraordinary things under difficult circumstances then the most important ability is that of truly exciting and inspiring others to follow a vision of success. That’s not coaching, that’s motivation.

So what are the characteristics of a good leader? Hard to tell. There are almost 2000 new titles on leadership every year. If the riddle had been solved there would be a lot of remaindered books out there. But, according to researchers, historians and even Shakespeare, there are four common qualities of inspirational leaders.

First, they show their vulnerability by revealing themselves as human and approachable. Second, they rely heavily on their ability to intuit the right course of action by reading ‘soft’ signs. Third, they manage employees with ‘tough love’. They relate well to employee concerns but hold high standards for achievement and accomplishment. The fourth quality is the leader’s ability to capitalize on what is unique about them and their personality. Churchill was a master at all four of these qualities.

So, look for these four qualities if you want to be inspired and become a good leader. For real inspiration, read Shakespeare’s play, Henry the Fifth. Shakespeare captured all the inspirational qualities of a leader in Henry V. Anyone aspiring to a leadership role can take a lesson from Henry the Fifth!

Article by: David A. Bratton

About author

Dr Shailesh Thaker

Dr. Shailesh Thaker is a world-renowned management thinker and trainer on organizational behavior and development. He is the CLO of Knowledge Plus Inc., a highly reputed training firm based in Ahmedabad, India, helping organizations to achieve international benchmarks in management practices.

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