Successful leadership: It’s all in the traits.
Every organization needs successful leadership, but many struggle to find or cultivate the best candidates for the job. Hiring or promoting a leader can be a hit-or-miss experience, but there is a way to increase your chances of finding the right person for the job. Successful leadership is based on a set of traits that can be learned and developed over time. By focusing on developing these traits in your management team, you can create a culture of successful leadership within your organization.
Catalogued Traits Successful Leaderhip: A study published in the Harvard Business Review by Zenger & Folkman identified 10 behavior traits that are common in all successful leaders. These traits can be learned through targeted training programs, and are essential for cultivating successful leaders within your organization. Here is my version mixed with theirs.
- Communicates effectively
- Provides clear vision and direction
- Develops others
- Motivates and inspires others
- Builds relationships
- Models high standards of ethical behavior
- Role-models continuous learning
- Action oriented
- Exercises sound judgment
Expanding on the 10
Trait 1: Effective Communication. Successful leadership communicate effectively with their teams, providing clear instructions and feedback. They are able to convey their message clearly and are active listeners, ensuring that their team members understand and respond to their instructions.
Trait 2: Provides Clear Vision and Direction. Leaders should provide a clear vision and direction for their team to follow. They should have a sense of purpose and be able to articulate the goals and objectives of the organization in a way that inspires and motivates their team.
Trait 3: Develops Others Successful leaders are invested in developing the skills and abilities of their team members. They provide opportunities for growth and development and mentor their team members to help them achieve their full potential.
Trait 4: Motivates and Inspires Others. Leaders motivate and inspire their team members to work towards common goals. They recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of their team members and celebrate their successes.
Trait 5: Builds Relationship. Successful leaders build strong relationships with their team members, clients, and stakeholders. They understand the importance of networking and are skilled in developing and maintaining professional relationships.
Trait 6: Models High Standards of Ethical Behavior. Leaders must model high standards of ethical behavior and lead by example. They hold themselves accountable for their actions and demonstrate integrity and honesty in all of their dealings.
Trait 7: Role-models Continuous Learning. Leaders are constantly learning and developing new skills. They are open to feedback and are committed to ongoing improvement and development.
Trait 8: Action-Oriented. Leaders are not afraid to take action and make decisions. They are proactive and take initiative to address problems and opportunities.
Trait 9: Exercises Sound Judgment. Leaders are able to exercise sound judgment and make informed decisions. They gather all relevant information and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
Trait 10: Decisive. Successful leaders are decisive and confident in their decision-making. They are not afraid to make tough decisions and take responsibility for the outcome.
Practical Steps and Resources for the 10
Trait 1: Effective Communication Effective communication is a vital trait of successful leadership. To improve your communication skills, consider attending workshops or taking online courses on public speaking, active listening, and conflict resolution. Practice your skills by regularly communicating with your team members, and encourage open and honest communication among team members.
- Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that helps individuals improve their communication and leadership skills through public speaking workshops and programs.
- “Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler is a book that provides practical tips for having difficult conversations in a professional setting.
Trait 2: Provides Clear Vision and Direction A successful leader provides clear vision and direction for their team. To develop this skill, set clear goals and objectives for your team, and communicate them effectively. Ensure that your team understands their roles and responsibilities and how they fit into the overall mission of the organization.
- “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek is a book that explores the importance of having a clear sense of purpose and vision for an organization.
- The “SMART” criteria (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) can be a useful tool for setting clear and achievable goals.
Trait 3: Develops Others Successful leaders invest in the growth and development of their team members. To cultivate this trait, provide regular feedback and coaching, and create opportunities for training and professional development. Encourage team members to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
- “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever” by Michael Bungay Stanier is a book that provides practical strategies for effective coaching and leadership.
- LinkedIn Learning offers a range of online courses on leadership development and coaching skills.
Trait 4: Motivates and Inspires Others Leaders who motivate and inspire their team members create a positive and productive work environment. To develop this trait, lead by example and acknowledge and celebrate the successes of your team members. Provide regular feedback and encouragement, and create a sense of purpose and meaning in the work that your team is doing.
- “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Daniel H. Pink is a book that explores the science of motivation and provides insights into how to create a motivating work environment.
- The “StrengthsFinder” assessment tool can help you identify your team members’ strengths and talents, which can be used to motivate and inspire them.
Trait 5: Builds relationships A successful leader knows how to build relationships with their team and foster a positive work environment. To cultivate this trait, leaders should take the time to understand their team members on a personal level, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and provide opportunities for them to develop professionally. This includes providing mentorship, coaching, and feedback to help team members grow in their roles. Encouraging team-building activities can also help build relationships among team members and improve communication and collaboration.
Resources and tools to help cultivate this trait include:
- Books: “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace” by Gary Chapman and Paul White, “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott, and “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle all offer insights and strategies for building strong relationships in the workplace.
- Apps: There are several team-building apps available, such as “TeamworkIQ” and “Teambuilding.com,” which offer various activities and challenges to help build relationships and improve communication among team members.
- Coaching: Working with a leadership coach can also be helpful in developing relationship-building skills. A coach can provide personalized feedback and guidance on how to improve communication and build stronger relationships with team members.
Trait 6: Models high standards of ethical behavior Leaders who model ethical behavior are essential to building a strong and trustworthy organization. Leaders who demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior inspire their team members to follow their example, creating a culture of trust and respect. To cultivate this trait, leaders should set clear standards for ethical behavior and hold themselves and their team members accountable for meeting those standards.
Resources and tools to help cultivate this trait include:
- Books: “Ethics 101” by John C. Maxwell, “Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality” by Henry Cloud, and “The Power of Ethical Management” by Ken Blanchard offer guidance and insights on ethical leadership.
- Training: Many organizations offer training on ethics and ethical leadership. Consider providing your team members with access to training programs or seminars on the topic.
- Coaches: Working with an executive coach who specializes in ethical leadership can also be helpful in developing this trait. A coach can provide personalized guidance and feedback on how to model ethical behavior in the workplace.
Trait 7: Role-models continuous learning
A successful leader understands that learning never stops. They continuously seek out new knowledge and skills to improve themselves and their organization. One practical step leaders can take to model continuous learning is to encourage their employees to learn and grow. Leaders should provide opportunities for employees to attend training sessions, workshops, and conferences. They should also offer mentorship and coaching programs to help employees develop their skills.
Resources to name only a few
- The app Blinkist. Blinkist provides summaries of popular non-fiction books that can be read or listened to in just a few minutes. This app is a great way for busy leaders to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest trends and ideas.
- Another great resource is the website Coursera. Coursera offers free online courses from top universities and organizations on a wide range of topics.
- Shortform. My favorite book summary app and website.
Trait 8: Is action oriented
A successful leader takes action and gets things done. They don’t just talk about ideas; they make them happen. One practical step leaders can take to be more action-oriented is to set clear goals and objectives. Leaders should break down these goals into smaller, achievable tasks and set deadlines for completing them. They should also hold themselves and their team accountable for meeting these goals.
Resource for leaders who want to be more action-oriented
- The book “Eat That Frog!” by Brian Tracy. This book provides practical tips and strategies for overcoming procrastination and getting things done.
- Project management apps like Trello or Asana to help them organize and track their tasks.
Trait 9: Exercises sound judgment
A successful leader must make sound decisions based on facts, data, and experience. They must weigh the pros and cons of a situation and make a judgment based on what is best for the organization. One practical step leaders can take to exercise sound judgment is to gather all the relevant information before making a decision. Leaders should also seek input from others and consider different perspectives.
- The book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. This book provides insights into how the human brain makes decisions and offers practical strategies for improving decision-making. Leaders can also use decision-making apps like Decision Buddy or Decide Now to help them make decisions based on a set of criteria.
Trait 10: Decisive
A successful leader is decisive and can make tough decisions quickly. They don’t shy away from making difficult choices and taking calculated risks. One practical step leaders can take to be more decisive is to gather all the relevant information and make a decision based on what is best for the organization. Leaders should also be willing to take calculated risks and learn from their mistakes.
- The book “The Decision Book” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler. This book provides practical tools and techniques for making better decisions.
Leadership traits are critical for successful leadership of any organization. Leaders who possess the traits discussed above are more likely to be successful in achieving their goals and leading their team to success. While some people may naturally possess these traits, they can also be developed through training with Apps, reading Books, and utilizing personal Coaching to practice these traits. This is why I have tried to provide apps, books, and coaching ideas, suggestions, and resources as often as I can.
Train your people in these 10 Traits to Create Successful Leaders.