Qualities of a Leader—and How to Acquire Them

Education Through LeadershipLeaders are both born and made. See if you have what it takes to be a manager, and what you can do to improve the skills you already have.

10 Qualities of a Leader—and How to Acquire Them

Managers don’t become leaders overnight. Even “born” leaders don’t start out possessing all these skills. To be a strong leader, you need to:

1. Have vision. Leaders have a clear sense of where they want to go and how they intend to get there. They see the big picture, then create a strategic plan for achieving their goals.

2. Make decisions. Leaders aren’t afraid to make difficult or unpopular decisions because they have confidence in themselves and in their abilities. They know that indecision wastes resources and opportunities.

3. Take risks. Leaders have the courage to act in situations where results aren’t assured. They’re willing to risk failure.

4. Motivate others. Leaders can articulate their vision and ideals to others, convincing them of the value of their ideas. They can inspire people to work toward common goals and to achieve things they never thought they could do.

5. Build teams. Leaders create productive teams that draw the best from people. They effectively coach teams in collaboration, consensus building, and conflict resolution.

6. Possess self-knowledge. Leaders know their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to view their behavior objectively. They recognize their shortcomings, open themselves to feedback, and are willing to make changes when necessary.

7. Display integrity. Leaders must be trustworthy before others will follow them. Warren Bennis, The Leadership Institute, University of Southern California, says qualities that establish trust are competence, constancy, caring, candor, and congruity, which he defines as authenticity, reliability, and feeling comfortable with oneself.

8. Pursue lifelong learning. Leaders have a desire to continually learn and grow and are open to new ideas.

9. Communicate effectively. Leaders can convey their ideas to diverse individuals and adjust their styles to meet the needs of the people they lead.
10. Help others succeed. Leaders empower others and go out of their way to help them achieve their full potential, thereby benefiting the organization.

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