The four traits every successful leader has


To strongly advance an unpopular opinion one must first be certain that it is grounded not just in blind belief but by research and/or experimentation. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

It seems like every day we walk past the bookshops at the Hub, Yaya Centre, Village Market, Sarit Centre, or peruse Amazon’s book lists, we see a new book on leadership peering at us.

A new self-proclaimed leadership expert declares that he or she discovered new techniques, traits, or styles to help you, a company CEO, uncover your leadership potential.

Not surprisingly, when faced with the barrage of choices for leadership reading material, many professionals get confused about what options exist as legitimate versus quack ideas.

So, scores of otherwise well-intentioned leaders just pass by and neglect to purchase any leadership material at all. Inasmuch, visionary leadership often lacks in companies and organisations.

But exhaustive research by James Kouzes and Barry Posner uncovered that successful leaders exhibited four traits exceptionally well while other traits, though seemingly important or nice sounding, actually existed secondarily at a distance.

The top four leadership traits necessary for successful leaders include honesty, forward-looking, competence, and inspiration.

A leader must demonstrate these four leadership traits in all he or she does. A good leader often reflects along with a mentor or executive coach and ponders their success in the four leadership trait areas.

Employees crave an honest leader. One could say integrity, but specific to integrity, the trait employees need most includes honesty. Next, a leader must provide a forward-looking view of the future for the organisation and the employees’ role in it.

Further, a leader should clearly exhibit competency in the industry as well as managerial skills. Finally, a leader must inspire his or her workers.

Take a minute and rate yourself on a scale of one through five on each of the four leadership traits. Utilise one as the lowest rating and five as the highest.

If you scored yourself above 16, good job and keep up the good work. Below 16, investigate how you may perform better as a leader. However, your own perception of yourself may not hold realistic truths.

Ask colleagues and employees to rate you on the same scale on the leadership traits. Do they rate you higher or lower than you rate yourself? In the event that they rate you lower, you may hold a perception gap between how you view yourself and how your workers view you.

In leadership, how your workers view you matters far more than how you view yourself. Take active steps to fix the problem and enhance your leadership traits.

Now comes the “how” part. Suppose you agree that you must enhance your leadership traits. But, how to do so might come across as confusing.

First, understand that leadership exists as a two-step process: transformational versus transactional. Too often, leaders focus on the latter transactional component.

Transactional entails more managerial skills such as linking job performance to rewards, ensuring employees possess the resources to complete their tasks and following up on those tasks.

Transformational leadership, on the other hand, involves the development, communication, and enacting of an organisational vision and adapting the company to fit its changing industry environment.

Combining transactional managerial skills with transformational leadership techniques requires a full demonstration of the four leadership traits.

As Kouzes and Posner discovered, you may enhance your traits by first modelling the way for your employees. Colloquially speaking, walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Such model behaviour wins you respect as you lead from your own values, spend time with your employees, share stories, and ensure your visibility during times of crisis or uncertainty.

Next, enhance your inspirational trait by developing a vision of what the company can be and a total belief in making that vision a reality.

Inspire the shared vision to get your employees to commit to the vision. It requires enthusiasm and forges an organisation-wide unity of purpose.

If you succeed to build a unity of purpose among your staff, you will reap tremendous organisational and bottom-line profit rewards.

Moving on towards leadership greatness, do not be afraid to take risks. Challenge accepted processes. Pioneer and do not fear the unknown and step in to change the status quo.

Your employees, after a possible initial shock, will gratefully follow your lead with excitement and vigour. Next, encourage your employee’s morale.

Genuinely foster heart-warming bonds that make them feel strong, capable, and valued. Show appreciation and celebrate successes with recognition.

Daniel Goleman elaborates that a leader must possess heightened emotional intelligence in order to foster such bonds.

A leader, therefore, must work with others to enhance his or her own self-awareness and social skills, among others.

Finally, but most importantly, empower your employees to act. Create an enabling environment of teamwork, trust, autonomy, discretion, and purpose. Do not micromanage your employees to death and give them no real power.

In summary, leadership success revolves around your honesty, competency, inspirational abilities, and your forward-looking demonstrated vision.

Utilise the above techniques to enhance your traits and realise significant employee commitment improvements that will return your shareholders greater profits.

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