The Top 5 Characteristics of a Leader

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What defines a leader? What makes individuals excel in leadership roles? How do we develop and improve our organization's influencers?

In order to understand leadership and its essential components, it is important to define the concept. Leadership can really describe anyone - as long as they have someone following them. Some of the most successful organizations have great leaders throughout - from executives to front line employees.

No matter what your space or title may be in your organization, the role of leader is truly something entirely separate. Some individuals may have very comprehensive titles and high-ladder positions, for various reasons they may actually provide little, if any, leadership to the organization.

This complex, and somewhat ambiguous role that leaders play in our organizations can be difficult for many to define. We must delve a little deeper by outlining the key qualities that create today's greatest leaders. Here are the 'Top 5' characteristics that describe the essential leadership attributes.

1. Courageous

Leaders must be willing - at any time - to swim upstream. Leaders have the sense to empower others, but they also know when to go it alone. Courageous leaders are honest with themselves and create opportunities for feedback - so their followers can help them improve. Leaders cannot live in a bubble.

2. Listener

Leaders are experts in communication, and they are able to truly listen to others in regard to their ideas and conditions. Leaders have empathy, and they build trust with their open and honest two-way communication.

3. Approachable

Leaders are often responsible for many decisions... and decisions are much more easily made when you know the facts. As a leader, availability is critical. Great leaders encourage their followers to tell organizational "truths." If your followers are intimidated, afraid, or sense that you are irreproachable for any reason, you've formed a barrier to the facts. A leader cannot help if they don't know where help is needed.

4. Visionary

Great leaders see the potential in their followers and in their organization. While everyone else is busy with tactics, leaders keep busy with strategy. Communicating the 'big picture' is critical. Everyone in your team and your organization should understand it.

5. Decisive

Individuals leading others need to be able to make some tough decisions. While having all available information is helpful, not every decision made will always be correct. If you build solid relationships within your organization, your decisions stand a much better chance at being sound and well-received.