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12 Essential Qualities
of a Good Leader
What qualities determine a good leader? We tend to think of leadership as a quality needed only by CEO’s, government officials, and other authority figures.
However, Sheila Murray Bethel in her book, “Making a Difference: 12 Qualities that Make You a Leader” says that we all have opportunities in our daily lives to be leaders and to make a difference in the world around us. She emphasizes that true leaders look for opportunities to serve others, and that self-serving leadership ultimately fails. If you wonder whether you have what it takes to be an effective leader, compare your method of performance with the 12 characteristic ways recognized leaders perform.
1. Do you have a mission that matters?
When you think about strong leaders you have known, it’s likely they all displayed a clearly-defined purpose in life, which gave them a sense of direction. It’s also likely that their mission was not self-centered, but rather made a difference in some way for others. People such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Candy Lightner (who started “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver) illustrate that anyone who knows his or her mission in life can be a true leader. If you don’t know what your mission is, think about the things you enjoy doing and what you are most inspired by. You will know you’ve found your true life mission when you feel as though you are doing what you were meant to do.
2. Do you think big?
Big thinking is the magnet that attracts others. Big thinkers see beyond immediate realities to distant possibilities. Projecting this “vision” inspires others to join them. Important elements in thinking big include believing that for every problem there is a solution and using imagination as a creative resource to solve problems.
3.Do you demonstrate high ethics?
Being able to admit to mistakes is an example of high ethics. True leaders maintain high standards and deal honorably with others. They have the courage to put ethics first and speak up for what they believe in. Behaving ethically helps others trust them. Dr. Stephen Covey says, “If you want to build trust, you have to start by being trustworthy.” While most of us think we are ethical, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where living up to our ethical beliefs is difficult. These situations separate true leaders from everyone else.
4. Do you respond well to change?
Between 1970 and 2020, the amount of change people will experience will equal that which occurred in the 500-year period prior to 1970. Effective leaders have the ability to move with the times. They maintain a positive, flexible attitude toward change. They may even act as change agents themselves, identifying changes that need to be made and initiating them.
5. Do you have sensitivity?
Sensitive leaders show empathy for others’ needs. They give support and understanding without becoming overwhelmed by others’ problems. They are aware of how their own behavior and attitudes influence the people around them. Effective leaders use their sensitivity to help others get what they want, thereby inspiring loyalty in their followers.
6. Do you take risks?
Effective leaders have the courage to take risks. They try, even when the odds are against them. However, they stay on the right side of the fine line between taking calculated risks and indulging in foolish recklessness.
7. Do you make good decisions?
Effective leaders act decisively, knowing this can make the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Being indecisive can waste time, money, and energy. If you delay too long, other people or circumstances decide for you. Making effective decisions requires good judgment.
8. Do you use power wisely?
Effective leaders recognize the responsibility that accompanies power. They use their power to influence people and circumstances, without being manipulative. They learn to share power with others, a process known as “empowerment.” In her book, Bethel points out that personal power is much more important than position power. Those who influence others only through the power of their positions lose their power when they lose their positions. Personal power goes with you, regardless of your role or circumstances.
9. Can you communicate effectively?
The secret of good communication is not just in how well you speak, but in how well you listen. The quality of communication is more important than the quantity. This is especially important in stressful situations. For example, in conflicts, how you say something is just as important as what you say. In addition, Bethel points out that the ability to translate our own internal emotional reactions into well-considered responses is essential to good communication.
10. Are you a team player?
In today’s world, with the trend toward using teams to solve problems, the ability to help a group of people work together is becoming increasingly important. Whether a person is officially the team leader doesn’t matter. Every team member has the power to influence the climate of the group in a significant way, and the internal dynamics of the group can determine the quality of the group’s output.
11. Are you courageous?
Although we usually think of courage as being needed only in times of danger, it is also needed when decisive action offers benefits, but there are accompanying risks. Taking responsibility for your decisions and actions, whatever the outcome, requires courage, as does admitting you made a mistake.
12. Are you willing to make a serious commitment?
Commitment is the glue that holds the other 11 leadership characteristics together. You demonstrate commitment through tenacity when the going becomes difficult. Committed people make sacrifices for what they believe in.
Ways to Identify a Promising Person
The most gifted athletes rarely make good coaches. The best violinist will not necessarily make the best conductor. The best actor or techie will not make the best stage manager or director. Nor will the best teacher necessarily make the best head of the department.
So it’s critical to distinguish between the skill of performance and the skill of leading the performance, two entirely different skills.
It’s also important to determine whether a person is capable of learning leadership. The natural leader will stand out. The trick is identifying those who are capable of learning leadership over time.
Here are several traits to help identify whether someone is capable of learning to lead.
* Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past.
*A person who doesn’t feel the thrill of challenge is not a potential leader.
* People locked in the status quo are not leaders. I ask of a potential leader, “Does this person believe there is always a better way to do something?”
*A willingness to take responsibility. Carrying responsibility doesn’t intimidate me, because the joy of accomplishment–the vicarious feeling of contributing to other people–is what leadership is all about.
*A completion factor. The ability to get things done. The person who grabs hold of the problem and won’t let go, like a dog with a bone, has leadership potential. This quality is critical in leaders, for there will be times when nothing but one’s iron will says, “Keep going.” In the military, it is called “completed staff work.” With potential leaders, when the work comes in, it’s complete.
*Mental toughness. No one can lead without being criticized or without facing discouragement. A potential leader needs a mental toughness. I don’t want a mean leader; I want a tough-minded leader who sees things as they are and will pay the price. Leadership creates a certain separation from one’s peers. The separation comes from carrying responsibility that only you can carry. A leader must be able to keep his or her own counsel until the proper time.
*Peer respect. Peer respect doesn’t reveal ability, but it can show character and personality. Trammell Crow, one of the world’s most successful real estate brokers, said that he looks for people whose associates want them to succeed. He said, “It’s tough enough to succeed when everybody wants you to succeed. People who don’t want you to succeed are like weights in your running shoes.” Maxey Jarman used to say, “It isn’t important that people like you. It’s important that they respect you. They may like you but not follow you. If they respect you, they’ll follow you, even if perhaps they don’t like you.”
Quotes by Dr. Stephen R. Covey
A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.
Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
Every human has four endowments: self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom.The power to choose, to respond, to change.
I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a “transformer” in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.
If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting what we’re getting.
In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do.
Live out of your imagination, not your history.
Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character.
Public behavior is merely private character written large.
The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.
There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.
We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.
The title of leader can’t be claimed; it can only be earned. Like beauty, leadership is in the eye of the beholder. Leaders choose to be actors in the world, not merely reactors or followers. We all have the ability and talent to be leaders. Your leadership potential can be realized when you treat each day as your one and only chance to make a positive difference in your world and personal life.
Do you have what it takes to become a leader or will you be willing to do what it takes to grow into a leader?
It’s up to you!
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From one of my mentors Marsha Martone she is the most successful amazing mentor ever. Thank you
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