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Leading The Way: 10 Essential Qualities Of An Effective Leader

The iconic football coach Vince Lombardi once famously said, “Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

Although leadership may be attainable through dint of hard work, it’s also true that some of us might be more naturally suited to leadership than others, simply because of certain qualities that we possess — although we can certainly strive to improve ourselves in those areas, as well.

Let’s take a closer look!

1. Integrity.

Having the courage of your convictions, a strong moral compass, and a never-failing belief that doing good is the right thing to do all demonstrate the importance of integrity. It is difficult to lead others when your own path is crooked.

2. Confidence.

No one wants to put themselves in the hand of a doubter, a waffler, or a nervous Nellie. Even if your confidence starts out as skin-deep, it is imperative to project a self-assured facade. This is one area in which the old adage “fake it ‘til you make it” is not dishonest, but rather very good advice. As you continue to make forward progress (note that we didn’t say “succeed”!), your confidence will grow.

3. Charisma.

You have no doubt heard the phrase “charismatic leader” but what is charisma, anyway? Well, for starters, it’s a difficult characteristic to pin down. It involves attracting other people to you but it’s not to be confused with beauty or physical appeal. Charisma is charm, likability, that certain je ne sais quoi that makes others want to sit next to you, make your acquaintance, do business with you, or even emulate you.

So can charisma be taught or developed? This quality might seem like it falls squarely on the side of “nature” but in fact, you can nurture it.

4. Passion.

Can someone lead a team when they aren’t passionate about the destination, let alone the journey? Technically, it is possible — but it will be harder and it won’t reap the same results. Note that passion isn’t necessarily directed at the subject itself, but often to the human component in any equation.

Take, for example, a company that sells used office furniture. There isn’t much to get passionate about when it comes to gunmetal gray desks, beige cubicle walls, and utilitarian rolling chairs. However, that company’s leader can feel passionate about what that furniture does for the workers who use it. It can make them more comfortable and more productive. It can save them money, to help them provide for their family. It may give them a sense of pride, since buying used furniture keeps these items out of the landfill.

5. Accountability.

A great leader never tries to shift blame or point fingers. Even if an error or flub-up is clearly attributable to someone else, she will acknowledge her responsibility — perhaps she didn’t communicate effectively or provide the proper oversight.

When she is in the wrong, a leader doesn’t make excuses, get defensive, or go into hiding until the storm blows over. She owns her mistakes and actively tries to learn from them. Humility is another quality that leaders require, and it goes hand-in-hand with being accountable.

6. Creative Problem Solving.

Making mistakes is a surefire way to improve, if you can avoid the pitfalls of pride and pessimism in the wake of a poor decision. Great leaders know that a fundamental key to leadership development is learning how to “fail up.” They also recognize that good ideas can spring from some truly unusual circumstances. Creative problem solving often involves risk, daring, and persisting in the face of possible failure.

7. The Ability to Delegate.

While we think of followers as being dependent on leaders, the opposite is also true. To lead effectively, one must be receptive to, and place value in, the contributions of everyone on the team. Soliciting ideas from team members is one way to problem solve, but it’s equally important to delegate tasks and responsibilities to them.

Leaders can’t lead if they’re up to their neck in paperwork, decision making, and details. And followers don’t have a chance to shine unless they are given the opportunity to spread their wings and take over new duties. Control freaks aren’t often good leaders because to lead others, it’s essential to let go and to cultivate trust.

8. Compassion.

Leadership will fall flat and fail to get off the ground if the would-be leader is cold and clinical rather than compassionate. In order to motivate others, get their buy-in on projects, and build a cohesive team, the leader must understand what makes its members tick. What’s more, they must empathize. This is the stuff of standard behavioral psychology; to effect change in another person, it’s necessary to walk the proverbial mile in his shoes.

9. Communication Skills.

Great leaders recognize that compassion and communication are two sides of the same coin. Without compassion, communication is hollow and meaningless. Without communication, compassion doesn’t do anyone any good.

In addition, the ability to communicate effectively is useful in every single facet of our work and, indeed, our daily lives. It can smooth rough paths, inspire action, encourage empathy, create emotional bonds, engender loyalty. In short, it can move mountains.

10. Selflessness.

The business world — heck, the world in general — can seem pretty cutthroat at times. Everyone else appears to be working solely in their own best interests, or at the very least, taking action only if the results will benefit them at some later date, so why shouldn’t you? If you’re a leader or inspire to be one, you cannot be selfish or self-centered, greedy or attention-grubbing.

Those who lead effectively learn to celebrate others’ successes. They focus on the overall project or goal, but also acknowledge the individual contributions that made it possible. They will sacrifice recognition or praise from higher-ups to gain the trust and respect of their direct reports and others. Their own needs or desires? Well, those come last. If they are fulfilled, great; if not, that is the nature of the leadership beast.

How Many of These Qualities Do You Possess?

Do you think you are a good leader? Have you ever had the privilege of working with or for someone whose leadership qualities were inspiring? On the flip side, what about negative experiences with people who were in a position of power but terrible leaders? Have your say by connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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