On Leadership: 21 Traits of a Leader

Leadership and the business world

Although leadership is not limited to the confines of business, the business arena is a place where leadership has a great platform. Owning a business is more than just getting to a place of being your own boss, it contains within it the opportunity to influence the lives of hundreds of people: employees, vendors, suppliers, customers, family, friends and your community. The goal of a business is success, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Success comes over time and is the result of thousands of decisions.

In Merriam-Webster’s dictionary leadership is defined as the, “capacity to lead, the act or an instance of leading”. While this is true, most would agree there are many who lead who are not leaders (I’ve often said, “anyone can be a boss, not everyone is a leader“). Being a leader is critical to long-term success in business. Plan to have your values tested, your character stretched and many opportunities to lead–or not lead–placed in front of you.

In listing leadership traits my goal is to inspire you to embody these traits though your owning a business. To live them daily and to be the source of positive change in the lives of those you lead. The first trait in leadership is so vital to not have it will eventually lead to failure in business, as well as friendships, marriage and personal reputation. Without it, all else is lost.

21 Traits of a Leader:

  1. A Person of Integrity – Tom Stanley, author of The Millionaire Mind, demonstrates from his research that first generation deca-millionaires (those with a minimum net worth of 10 million dollars) statistically had 38 behaviors or traits in common. The number one value across the board was integrity. Their vendors, friends and even fiercest competitors all noted that they had fanatical levels of integrity. Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “The supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible… If a man’s associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose.
  2. A Decision Maker – a leader decides and does not wallow in fear. They take constructive criticism and correction on the chin and are willing to change. A leader uses prudence, good reason and good judgment in decision-making.
  3. A Guide to others – someone who inspires others to trust in them, to follow them, to buy into their vision for what needs to be done. Leaders do on a daily basis the things that make others believe in them.
  4. A Servant – a leader is willing to clean toilets when appropriate. It is not their daily job, but they are willing if and when necessary to do such things.
  5. Not arrogant – a leader is one who cares, who is interested in the welfare of others.
  6. Controlled – a poor leader uses their position for selfish means; a good leader uses their position for the good of the vision, others and themselves.
  7. Inspirational – a good leader must to be able to inspire others with a vision, a cause or something to believe in. They set the bar high and encourage others to achieve greatness.
  8. A Delegator – leaders gather others smarter and more capable than they are themselves and empower them. Leaders realize others need to see their own potential. Leaders see what can be done by others and through doing, will grow and learn and improve.
  9. An Encourager – a leader encourages others to move out on their own – all the while knowing they may be helping, training and teaching someone who may eventually compete against them.
  10. An Optimist – leaders believe in the potential of others. They see the possibilities in, and the change they can effect, in others.
  11. A Learner – leaders are always in search of, and willing to gain, information and knowledge.
  12. A High-Road-Taker – when faced with a moral or ethical decision, leaders make the right decision, even at personal cost. If it costs them everything, a leader will choose right over expedient or profitable or easy or good.
  13. Passionate – people admire and are attracted to those with passion. People do not follow passion-less people.
  14. Not easily frazzled – leaders are cool under pressure and recognize that negativity is a thief. They have answers and when they don’t, they find them.
  15. A communicator – leaders always share appropriate information with those around them.
  16. Concise – leaders do not ramble on. They are not afraid to make a statement and let the chips fall where they may.
  17. A listener – listening to others is rare. Leaders focus on others and what they are communicating. They value the thoughts and opinions of others.
  18. Able to say no – when the situation needs a no, a leader will not shy away. They have the ability to say no to others and not apologize for it.
  19. Committed – when the chips are down, the future looks bleak and the personal cost is high, a leader does not waver from commitment. They have the ability to bear pain.
  20. Persistent – a leader does not give up easily. When others would have thrown in the towel, a leader will continue. When it all is falling apart around them, a leader will stand their ground and fight, encouraging their troops to rise up and conquer.
  21. Thankful – a leader is thankful. This is expressed through humility, knowing they have benefited from the assistance of others. This is also expressed in thanking others for their work and passion benefitting the cause they lead.

If you don’t feel like this list describes you, that’s OK – for leaders truly are not born, they are made. Make a personal commitment to embody the traits of a leader and watch yourself become one. If you do the things a leader does, you will become a leader.