5 Traits of Great Leadership

We often speak of leadership as being either this thing or that thing (“Are leaders born or made?”). Tanveer Naseer wrote a wonderful post recently where he asked, “Is Leadership an Art or a Science?“. In this well crafted piece, he comes to the conclusion that it is a blend of a lot of things.

Similarly, a great leader’s way of interacting with those around them include a blend of behaviors. There isn’t a magic button to push that determines what behavior to switch on at what time. Great leadership behaviors require a lot of blending and the ability to balance seemingly contrasting behaviors; a lot of this’s and that’s. Here are some that come to mind:

Passion and Practicality: Sustaining great leadership over the long haul requires passion. Passion for the work you do, the organization you work for, and people you serve will keep you in the game. A good dose of practicality thrown in with the passion keeps you grounded and is generally what helps to hit the bottom line. Passion can be a wonderful driving force. Practicality anchors the drive in reality.

Collaboration and Independence: Most of the best leaders have a style that is collaborative. Involving others in decisions and working together toward goals and objectives are an imperative. Yet there are many times when you must act independently and make final decisions on your own. Collaboration is necessary to get buy in and cooperation. Independence is often required to make final decisions.

Systematic and Open to Possibility: The complexity of our organizations requires that you support some systemization within them. Systems drive efficiency and results. It is also important that your attention to being systematic be teamed with an ability to being open to possibility for new ways of doing things. Being systematic is vital to current success. Being open to new possibilities might be responsible for the spark of an idea that will drive future success.

Positive and Realistic: You can go far on a positive attitude. Positivity is energizing and encouraging, keeping your followers going in good times and bad. Realism combined with positivity grounds you in truth and allows you to reject the impractical. Having a positive attitude affirms individuals that surround you. Expressing a sense of realism about what can or can’t be done is reassuring.

Relationship Oriented and Goal Oriented: Developing and sustaining high-quality workplace relationships is becoming more important. Flat organizational structures, globalization, and employees’ desire to stretch themselves and learn new skills necessitate that you have healthy relationships. You must also have a continual commitment to communicating the organization’s goals to keep employees aimed in the right direction. Great relationships make collaboration and getting the work done possible. Continuous communication of the goals reminds people of where they are headed, keeping them on track.

These are some of the things that must be balanced by leaders. They are what makes the practice of leadership hard and rewarding. What other this’s and that’s do you balance?

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Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

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