The Character Traits of Successful Leaders
I have a simple definition of leadership: A leader is a person others choose to follow voluntarily.
Why Do People Follow?
You really can not coerce followership. Some people think leaders are those with leadership titles. Titles like Mother or Father, President or Lieutenant, Pastor or Priest may have a certain sway. But it’s not the title people follow.
People follow those able to get them going in a direction they believe is best. Nearly everyone has some leadership responsibility in some aspect of their life — including you.
John Baldoni wrote in his article, "Humility as a Leadership Trait," published in the Harvard Business Review on September 15, 2009:
A sense of humility is essential to leadership because it authenticates a person’s humanity. We humans are frail creatures; we have our faults. Recognizing what we do well, as well as what we do not do so well, is vital to self-awareness and paramount to humility.
Yes, Harvard Business Review agrees with the Bible.
No one knows everything. (Big surprise!) Each of us only sees things through our eyes, through our own perspective. Leaders have to define reality, and we can not understand reality without others’ points of view.
Humility is not a ‘woe is me’ attitude. The best way I know how to explain humility is by looking at a well-trained horse. It is a powerful animal on its own, but under the command of the rider, it maximizes its power. That is what I believe leadership should be like.
Authentic humility is a very attractive character trait. And it is a huge part of emotional maturity, because it makes you a lifelong learner. Emotional maturity is when someone can manage their emotions, no matter their circumstances. I like this definition of emotional maturity, especially because it requires self-awareness.
The ancient Greeks were known for the term, “Know thyself.” The Apostle Paul said it this way:
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
That’s it: leadership in a nutshell.
2 Traits of Great Leaders
1. Understand the Gifts God Gave You
Another way to look at self-awareness is to know what gifts and talents God has given you. There are lots of different gifts. Understanding yours can help you maximize your productivity and happiness.
This requires you to take the time and get to know who you are and what God made you to do. This is called being your authentic self. Or — not trying to fake it.
2. Seek Out Others with Different Gifts & Lift Them Up
The corollary of knowing your gifts is that you can seek out people who have different talents. As a leader, this is essential. It allows you to build a well-rounded team.
The more you find people with different gifts and encourage them to utilize those gifts, the stronger your organization will be. Lighting their fire is the key to helping your mission succeed.
One Final Thought
The most important person you have to lead is yourself. Take responsibility for your own growth and training. No one else will. Get it done over your lifetime.