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Dissecting Character Traits of Great Leaders

Updated: Apr 3

The biggest need in the world right now is leadership. (Myles Munroe)

The first time I heard that, I thought it was an interesting statement, but the more I delved into the discipline of leadership, I started to understand why he said it.

People are dissatisfied with the leaders of their countries.

In North America, 91% of Americans feel their nation has a leadership crisis. In Canada, where I live, the numbers are around the same, and one expert believes that “[Canadians] seem not to know what the word leadership means anymore and have lost sight of its essential moral underpinning.” That statement cuts across the board in every facet of society including business, government, the military, and the church.

In a recent corporate survey, 61% of people feel they work for a bad boss.

33% say that poor leadership at work contributes to the most stressful part of their workday. From my experience, all you have to do is look at the employees of the organization to get an understanding of what’s right or wrong in its culture.

Clients come to me often lamenting leadership at work and not knowing how to handle the situations that they’re dealing with. They talk to me about:

  • Personal and interpersonal struggles

  • Their dissatisfaction with their jobs

  • They are frustrated with their leaders, and their leaders are frustrated with them

  • Poor-performing teams and chaotic instructions

When I dig into all this, it all ties back to a leadership issue.

Leadership is first personal before it becomes public, and if you, as an individual, haven’t mastered leading yourself emotionally, spiritually, or mentally guess what’s going to happen? Your inadequacies will affect those around you, especially if you take on a leadership role in any organization.

One of the things that I’ve seen many leaders struggle with is insecurity. And Boy! What a mess that creates for the teams they lead!! How do you know when a leader is insecure? The biggest sign is control – they can’t let go of anything, and because of that, they end up micromanaging their teams to frustration. Control is unhealthy in any environment, and in the same survey I mentioned before, 79% of employees say they’ve been micromanaged at least once in their careers.

I know the pain of micromanagement and how emotionally draining it can be. Believe me. I worked for a micromanager for almost eight years, believing it would change over time. I eventually left that company and went to another, and what do you think happened? The new manager was no better. I had had enough of it and confronted him about the behaviour. He didn’t like my directness, so he fired me. Hahaha! The pain of dealing with an insecure leader is no joke.

That is but one of the traits of leadership that is frustrating to so many people in organizations these days. I think this is a topic we can do a much deeper dive into as time passes, but suffice it to say, the best leadership is not one where people feel controlled. It's where people feel empowered, trusted, and free to express themselves and be creative.

So what are some desirable characteristics that you want to see in your leaders?

Here are a few of mine:

  • Honesty – Great leaders cultivate an environment of honesty, integrity and trust. It goes beyond telling the truth to leaving people with the right impression.

  • Be honest

  • Tell the truth – Don’t distort facts

  • Be bold enough to call a spade a spade

  • Don’t manipulate people – This is another problem I’ve found among many leaders

  • Use your authority and position to lift or empower others

In my article that was published in the Winter edition of Chartered Managers magazine today, I suggested ten leadership qualities that industry leaders should practice. These are not exhaustive, but they’re a good range and cover a lot of ground.

  1. Improve your self-awareness.

  • Self-Awareness is king in leadership. Self-awareness is the ability to know who you are intrinsically and understand your uniqueness apart from others. What steps do you need to take to improve in this area? You can start by watching my self-awareness video on my YouTube channel.

2. Get aligned with the right people

  • It takes people at all levels to accomplish the leader's vision. Who are your allies, collaborators, supporters, competitors, and detractors? Know who's who and align with the ones who have the capacity to push your vision forward.

3. Lead with character

  • Skills and competencies are wonderful, but without solid character, they won't

take you very far. As the adage goes, "Talent will get you in the room, but it's character that will keep you there." Invest in your character.

4. Communicate your vision clearly

  • Great leaders use vision as the roadmap to guide their followers toward a destination. Is your vision known and understood at all levels of your organization? Does the staff understand how their work contributes to the vision?

5. Don't micromanage

  • Nothing drains your energy and decreases motivation and productivity like a micromanager! Trust your staff. It's an indication of how much you trust yourself and the choices you made to hire them.

6. Don't be critical

  • Yes, I can see the raised eyebrows at this one. What I've found over the years is that constructive feedback is NOT criticism. Criticism is designed to tear someone down. Feedback builds you up and helps you to grow. It is imperative for leaders to know the difference.

7. You are always under construction

  • This includes constant reinvention of self and the business. Be willing to eliminate what's not working and strategize innovative, progressive products and services. Both you and your business are constantly evolving.

8. Be committed

  • Commit to something and give it your all. Don't conform or go through the motions. People are astute and can pick up on inauthenticity easily.

9. Invest in yourself

  • Never stop investing in your growth and development. Check out our leadership courses if you're ready to start something new.

10. Live a balanced life

  • The best leaders practice balance. Their lives incorporate spiritual, physical, professional, and personal time that keeps them on their A-game. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. So take the time to replenish when and where necessary.

I go deeper into these discussions in my leadership courses, Leading With People In Mind and Lead With Intention.

These are my thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. What are the characteristics that you would expect to see in someone you want to follow, and which ones do you need to work on if you are in a leadership role?


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