“Leader” is not a title, it is a state of being. Peter Drucker says “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” So if “leader” is less about position and more about personality, are leaders born or made? Honestly, it may be some combination of both but in my experience, there are far more leaders made than born.
A LEADER CAN BE MADE
Some are made by their circumstances or experiences and some are made by their own pursuit of self-improvement and a commitment to excellence. Regardless of how you developed, there are a handful of characteristics shared by many of the great leaders out there. This list is not exhaustive but here are a few of the traits that usually top the list of effective leaders.
- Passion – That drive to succeed because you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that what you are doing is exactly the right thing. This passion will drive you to extreme effort to achieve. This drive is infectious and inspires others to want to be on your team.
- Tenacity – The second jab of the one-two punch that starts with passion. You will not always succeed at first. In fact, few ever do. Anything big enough to be worth your passion is probably going to be so hard that you will fail…multiple times. The people who don’t get discouraged and pick themselves up generate tremendous loyalty among their followers.
- Trustworthiness – Sometimes leadership is survival…living through the battle. How you conduct yourself through these times will define you. If you used questionable tactics or abused relationships to survive your people will note that forever. It will be tough to regain the trust of others with those skeletons in your closet.
- Ingenuity – The ability to overcome obstacles, even when it looks impossible. Solving problems is a daily fact of life in any innovative organization. If you can maintain the first three points on this list while overcoming obstacles to move the organization forward, your people will follow you anywhere.
- Personality – As Mr. Drucker said, followers are what make the leader. Authoritarian leadership structure are self-limiting. Organizations with willing followers have very few limitations. The willingness of those followers depends a lot on how effectively their leader communicates with them. Persuasiveness, the ability to tell stories, and just general likability help leaders deliver tough messages and get group buy-in. It can mean the difference between employees working for a paycheck as opposed to employees being part of a mission.
Like I said at the beginning, this list is not all-inclusive. What other traits would you add?