What does it take to be a great leader?
Once upon a time, birth order and socioeconomic status were considered powerful determinants in who would successfully climb the ladder.
Lately, though, the focus has shifted to personal qualities.
Guiding vision, passion, and integrity are well known leadership traits. But there are lesser known leadership traits, as well--in fact, some historically have been perceived as weaknesses.
These hidden traits can be developed and nurtured to help further your career and your role as a leader, at work, in your community, or in life in general.
See if you just might have some or all of these personal qualities that lend well to leadership:
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps you to manage conflict and relationships. However, it's become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their customers. People don't want to be analyzed and marketed to--they want brands to understand what they want and need. Empathetic leaders function better within the company, but can also use this trait to power the business, as well.
You might think of optimism as the quality of one being hopeful, but it also indicates confidence in successful outcomes. Of course, blind optimism isn't a good thing, but optimistic leaders can inspire and motivate teams.
No one enjoys the boss who lords every mistake they've ever made over their head. There is real power in allowing employees to take calculated risks, but they have to know it's not going to be held against them later. Doing so kills creativity and motivation--it causes people to think twice before bringing a new idea to the table, or experimenting with a new process or product. Learn how to forgive mistakes to nurture creativity and inspiration and your team will pay you back ten-fold.
Altruism means you care about the welfare of others. In business, this means you want the people around you to do better, feel better, and perform better. You are not an island. You don't need to take all of the credit for yourself. You understand that building up the people around you makes you all look better. This is an incredible leadership quality, but not one you might traditionally associate with power or strength.
The ability to speak and write persuasively has gained importance in the age of digital communications. People expect leaders to communicate and they want to be "wowed." An eloquent speech can close a deal. An eloquent memo to staff can quell fears, dampen dissent, or inspire people to reach new heights. Practice your writing and speaking to become a more effective, persuasive leader.
Discernment is the ability to judge well, whether in relation to people, situations, or business decisions. If you are discerning, you take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one. You don't jump head first into every opportunity, but think critically and find the best option.
No one likes to hear how awesome someone else is all the time--especially when it comes from that person. Let your work speak for itself; don't fall into the trap of being the one who blows your horn the loudest. Confidence is a great trait, but must be tempered with modesty.
These qualities can be powerful tools for entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders who are willing to put the time and effort into developing them.
Michael Useem: The Leader's Checklist
In 2010, the Copiapó mine in Chile collapsed and trapped 33 miners. Wharton professor Michael Useem talks about leadership lessons from how Chile's Minister of Mines Laurence Golborne navigated the crisis.