Frankly, I don't think it is any one of those, specifically. I believe successful leadership is highly influenced by context and environment. A leadership style that works in one environment may fail in another.
However, I also believe there is at least one habit that can kill any hope you have of being seen as a leader, and that is a tendency to talk exclusively about yourself: your challenges, your thoughts, your hopes, your perspectives.
In short, all things you.
Unfortunately, a lot of the leaders I've been exposed to fall into this category. Is that because they were horrible, totally self-consumed people?
No, not really. I've worked for very few genuinely "horrible" leaders.
But I have been exposed to a lot of self-consumed leaders.
Why do so many people in leadership positions seem self-consumed? One reason is that being self-consumed is often unintentionally rewarded. The importance of being able to sell yourself can't be understated.
However, it can be taken too far - particularly when combined with our tendency to also reward people who are able to have an extreme ability to focus on and achieve a goal.
For the past year I've spent a lot of time in the startup community, where the traits of self-consumption and extreme focus are particularly prevalent. To some extent, that's just life in a startup. Most people who run a startup understand the need to talk about your idea with as many people as possible.
However, very few founders apparently understand there is a limit to how effective that tactic is.
In the limited sample size I've been exposed to, the startup founders who exclusively talk about themselves and their idea almost never succeed. And, while there are a lot of reasons why startups fail, one of the facts of startup life is that you need people rooting for you. You need people who are willing to take a risk on you.
You need people who want to see you win.
It's hard for others to root for you when the only topic of conversation is you. Relationships can't be built on one-way conversations, and relationships are what you need to succeed.
It's not just startup founders, whose myopic self-consumption can (somewhat) be excused. Unfortunately, too often people who are in leadership positions at established organizations come off just as self-consumed as any startup founder.
And that's the difference between being a leader, and merely being in a leadership position.
True leaders listen. Sure, they talk about themselves, but he or she is also willing to pause a moment and hear others out. They know how the people they lead contribute to the mission, and they know why those contributions are important.
Leaders know that listening to others is not just important - it is the definition of leadership.
On the other hand, people who are merely (and often temporarily) in leadership positions talk. In fact, they talk all the time. Even if they were theoretically interested in getting to know others, they couldn't possibly do so, because it is physiologically impossible to talk and listen at the same time.
We are all trying to be heard. We all want someone to listen.
But success doesn't come from verbally elbowing your way to the front of the pack.