12 Qualities of a True Leader

August 31st, 2014   •   no comments   

12 Qualities of a True Leader
Not exactly the best illustration of leadership (courtesy of Joe Lafferty)

What is true leadership all about? How should a real leader distinguish herself from the rest?

While there are plenty of leadership models around (including some which I have previously blogged about), it may be useful for us to think of true leadership as a list of vital traits which such a person should exemplify.

By studying and more importantly applying these attributes to our daily lives, we can hopefully move ourselves closer to being better and more effective leaders – be it at work or at play.

So what are these qualities like? I’ve counted a total of 12 traits, and they are as follows:

#1 Rank Unconcious

A true leader doesn’t merely depend on his rank to get things done. Instead, he knows that leadership means winning the hearts and minds of people, regardless of one’s rank or title.

One can be a leader across all levels of an organisation so long as one demonstrates the qualities of leadership.

#2 Self Sacrificial

A true leader looks out for the welfare of her team. She knows that there will often be days where she has to put in extra hours to see to the completion of certain tasks.

She also understands that leadership sometimes means going above and beyond the call of duty, and putting aside her personal time to see through the work that needs to be done.

#3 Servant-like

A true leader doesn’t shy away from doing the “dirty work” when push comes to shove. He will happily roll up his sleeves and pitch in on days where his colleagues simply cannot cope with the sheer amount of work needed.

#4 Imaginative

A true leader needs to have an endless fount of ideas and inspiration. She needs to constantly tap the flow of creativity and innovation, motivate her team to move forward and embrace a seemingly impossible dream. Often, she is also the one who is able to see beyond the horizon and far into the future.

#5 Optimistic

A true leader should have twice the dose of optimism and positivity than others.

There will be tough days when nothing goes right – criticisms from the bosses, attacks from competitors, or complaints from customers. However, he will still be brimming with enthusiasm, helping to spread happiness to the team.

Indeed, a true leader tries his best to see that the glass is half full rather than half empty.

#6 Risk Taking

A true leader must be the first to cross the chasm of uncertainty. She has to demonstrate courage in pursuing an unknown future, and be willing to decide on a course of action, sticking her neck out in murky situations.

While it isn’t about being foolhardy (after all you do not want to lead your troops down a ravine), there will be elements of risk that one has to embrace in any leadership situation.

#7 Salesmanship

A true leader must be a salesperson. He has to convince many people that the preferred option is worth pursuing – bosses, shareholders, customers, and colleagues.

Often, this requires him to be highly savvy in the art of inter-personal communication, negotiation, objection handling, following up, and closing the deal.

#8 Resilient

A true leader has far thicker skin than the average person in the organisation.

She has immense grit, and is able to withstand hardships and difficulties along the bumpy road to success. Often, she has to face her fears and stare failure squarely in the face without wincing.

The mantra “If at first you don’t succeed…” is emblazoned on her chest (OK, maybe tattooed on her forehead).

#9 Energetic

A true leader is like a Duracell bunny, able to persevere for long durations to see a project through. With a dogged determination, he taps onto seemingly endless supplies of energy and can motivate the rest of the crew even when things seem dreary.

#10 Relational

A true leader has a deep liking (some may even say love) for people. She feels deeply for her team members, bosses, colleagues, customers and other stakeholders.

Displaying deep empathy (you read about the Power of Empathy here), she often works with and through people. She knows that true power lies not in one’s authority but the strength of one’s relationships.

#11 Gives Credit

A true leader doesn’t hoard the limelight for himself. Instead, he knows that much of his success is attributed to the combined efforts of his team.

Pushing his colleagues to the limelight, he prefers to work quietly in the background, influencing them to do their best work.

#12 Accepts Blame

Finally, a true leader is able to accept responsibility for failures. She doesn’t point the finger at anyone but herself, and treats each setback as a learning opportunity first for herself and then her team.

Indeed, a true leader looks out for her people and ensures that she’s “got their backs covered”.

Are there other qualities which a true leader should possess and demonstrate? Meanwhile, as an added “bonus”, do check out some of the differences between a boss and a leader below. Let me know if you agree.

Boss-versus-leader
A boss isn’t necessarily a leader (courtesy of Forbes)

What other qualities should a true leader have? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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