The University of Oregon’s Holden Leadership Center, which is established to build leadership qualities, particularly those of their students, comprised a list of leadership characteristics that they aim to cultivate in the student body.
In reading over this list, it struck me of the many qualities that were listed that are not easily measurable. Skills such as being a good communicator, respectful, and having quiet confidence, while being great traits in every leader, are difficult to measure and are often overlooked.
We have a tendency in looking to our leaders, whether those that have influence in our lives or ones we help develop along the way, to overlook many qualities in search for some of the more hard leadership skills, such as technical or industry-specific knowledge and financial acumen. We do, however, acknowledge the more important soft skills that are coveted in leadership – communication, credibility, aligned values. But what about other leadership qualities that we may overlook; qualities that are important but possibly eclipsed in searching or developing other traits that we may feel are more essential.
The below list of qualities are listed merely to generate thinking beyond our routine process and look deeper into those hidden leadership characteristics:
Kinesthetic – This is the energy, even physical activity, of the leader. A leader with a high kinesthetic is generally a person of boundless physical energy, always on the move, not sedentary. Leaders with this quality set an infectious pace by the speed in which they go, and are great having the ability to connect with people that are in various physical locations across the company.
Ability to Instill Hope – Over at Lead Change Group, I wrote a post entitled “Is Hope A Leadership Trait?“ In it, the ability to instill hope is a quality that the best leaders possess. Leaders are visionaries, and casting a huge vision that engulfs their people and creates the hope, the possibility, that the goal can be accomplished is a solid core leadership tenet.
Willingness – An effective leader is a willing individual. Willing to do the mundane, support their people, make a stand for what is right versus what is popular. Willing to admit they don’t know it all, and continuously pursue their growth. For further thoughts, see this post on Willingness – THE Key To Growth.
Connected-ness – This is the leader’s ability to bring people and teams of varied skills, talents, and philosophies together towards a common vision. It’s an ability to bring people together to forge meaningful alliances and stronger networks. It also how the leader can bring their professional relationships into play to enhance and influence everyone else’s world.
Proactive – This one seems to get overlooked more than we would expect. Many organizations highly revere a leader’s ability to accomplish goals, but how many are truly proactive in their roles? There are numbers of leaders who work best under a ticking clock, “clutch hitters” if you will, and prefer to work that way. but a proactive trait will allow time for more thoroughness and working ahead of the curve to place other initiatives into action. A proactive person is a leader who uses time and resources wisely for the organization.
Sincerity – A sincere leader is one whose motives and agendas are pure, clear, and not hidden. This is simply an attitude of meaning what they say and making good on their commitments.
Discerning – A discerning leader is one who processes all information carefully. He or she do not take one side of a problem, or the side that cries out more loudly. They pause, reflect, then make wise decisions after asking questions, finding the truth, and eliminating emotions, urgency, and bias. For some other thoughts on this, see Jon Mertz’s recent post over at Lead Change Group. His thoughts on using impatience to breathe and discern gives leaders some basic strategies to get this fading skill back into every leaders’ repertoire.
Resourceful – in Holden Center’s list, but an overlooked quality at large. We ask leaders to use more with less – especially with time, people, and finances – but a resourceful leader will make the most out of fractured team dynamics, remote locations, and unclear goals and missions to create opportunities for others that benefit the organization.
Studious – The saying “Leaders are readers,” while somewhat cliche, is true. But a studious leader is a learner in every aspect of life. Through observation, and in application, they look for object lessons and methods to improve their company, their people and themselves. Like a professional baseball pitcher who studies other batters, or a scientist who makes detailed observations in both controlled and non-controlled environs in a variety of theorems, a studious leader learns from the world around them to make the world around them better.
I must impart a word of caution here. The list of leadership qualities, on the whole, is extremely exhaustive and no two organizations, let alone two people, will agree completely on what are the best or essential traits. Leadership qualities are always a subject of some great conversations, and if not careful we can fall into the same habits and miss opportunities to grow leaders that have some otherwise desirable traits.
More From Paul LaRue
Paul LaRue is the creator of The UPwards Leader and Instigator for Lead Change Group. His background in senior leadership,. strategic planning, culture change, and people and organizational development gives him unique insight into the workings of successful organizations. Paul has given speeches and training sessions for many public and private entities and stresses the virtue of a culture that centers around core values and character in leadership.