A lot of time, energy and money has been spent in the study of leadership. Even with all the studies, there is still little agreement as to what good leadership really is. James MacGregor Burns, once famously wrote, "Leadership is one of the most observed, and least understood phenomena on Earth."
People know and feel leadership when it is present. Some people are born to be leaders and others learn it over time.
There is one fact that remains constant in leadership -- there are certain traits that great leaders have in common that anyone can develop and use. Here are 7 of those top leader traits:
1. Have confidence.
Highly effective leaders know deep down inside that they and their team can accomplish anything they set their minds to. Failure is not an option. Tentative leaders make for tentative employees. If you're confident, your people will be too.
In any organization, knowledge is power, and great leaders ensure that every employee, from the very top to the very bottom of the org chart, is provided with complete and up-to-date information about the organization's goals, performance, successes and failures. To achieve this level of connection, you should also provide ample channels for two-way communication between employees and managers, actively soliciting their ideas for improvement and rewarding employees for submitting them.
3. Have integrity.
Research shows that the top thing that employees want from their leaders is integrity. Be honest, fair, candid and forthright, and treat everyone in the same way that you yourself would want to be treated.
4. Be optimistic.
We all want to work with and for people who lift us up into the clouds instead of dragging us down into the mud. Make sure to seek out the positives in your people, helping them overcome their own feelings of self-doubt and spreading optimism throughout your organization.
5. Support and facilitate your team.
For people to do their very best work, they need an organizational environment that supports them by making it safe to take risks, to tell the truth, and to speak up ... without being punished for doing so. Support your employees by creating this kind of environment, and it will facilitate their progress toward attaining your organization's goals.
6. Inspire action.
Try to paint a vision of the future that inspires your people to do whatever it takes to get there. The best leaders also clear away the organizational roadblocks that constrain employees' natural creativity and initiative, unleashing a tremendous amount of energy in the process.
7. Be decisive.
One of the most basic duties of any leader is to make decisions. Highly effective leaders aren't afraid to be decisive and to make tough calls quickly when circumstances require it. Once you have all the information you need to make an informed decision, then don't hesitate--make it. And once you make a decision, then stick with it unless there is a particularly compelling reason for you to change it.