Think about the following words for a minute:
Do you think these are important traits for leaders to have? Most definitely, says Gene Klann of the Center for Creative Leadership. By focusing on these five key attributes, leaders can begin to understand, practice, and internalize the behaviors that build character. Klann explains that developing leadership character, as with any other goal, requires a clear picture of what it takes to get there. Let’s examine the following five points more closely:
First off, courage. There are two kinds of courage: physical and moral. Leadership character requires moral courage. This means standing up for one’s convictions and values while risking criticism, censure or ridicule. It can also mean risking loss of power, position or reputation. Moral courage inspires respect for several reasons: it is viewed as being a selfless form of behavior; it is seen as a sign of having overcome fear; and it implies that leaders take responsibility for their own actions.
Attribute #2 – caring. Caring means showing sincere interest in and genuine concern for others. It includes consideration, compassion, empathy, sympathy, and nurturing. Caring does not mean tolerating or ignoring shoddy performance, violations of company policies, bad attitudes, or dishonesty. What it does mean is seeing humans as the most important resource in an organization – and the resource with the most overall potential. Leaders who are caring will likely be rewarded with cooperative and supportive behavior in return.
Attribute #3 – optimism. This is the tendency to take the most hopeful and cheerful view and to expect the best outcome. Optimists see opportunities, possibilities and silver linings in every situation. They often contend that, with hard work, focus, resilience and a bit of luck, a positive outcome is possible. People are naturally drawn to leaders who are positive, upbeat and cheerful – who have a “We can do this!” type of attitude.
Attribute #4 – self-control. Leaders must choose what they will do and not do and then accept the consequences of their choices. This includes personal discipline in behaviors and lifestyle. Self-control implies that as a leader you have sufficient drive and initiative, as well as a clear vision and focus. Self-control keeps a person motivated and focused on goals, and it also contributes to momentum.
And finally there’s attribute #5 – communication. There are, of course, several methods of interpersonal communication – written, verbal, and nonverbal signs, attitudes and body language, as well as communication through actions and appearance. Listening is also an important part of communication. A leader’s communication casts a vision, establishes direction, shapes goals and objectives, reinforces key values and clarifies tasks. Communication makes the emotional connection that is so critical in effective leadership.
Try sharpening these five attributes in your leadership style, and your character as a leader will soon speak for itself.