Essential Leadership Qualities
by David Baker
What are the characteristics of a leader that others want to follow? As you’ll soon see, this list is a very personal one. In other words, we’d all come up with different elements when building the list. What I’ve tried to do, though, is to think of a complete leader. So I’ve asked myself this question: can I imagine a leader who isn’t fair, for instance. The answer is obviously no. Each one of these, then, describes a leader’s characteristics, any one of which might hinder their effectiveness if missing in any significant proportion. What I’d encourage you to do–maybe even before you read this list–is to first make up your own list and compare it with mine. (These are not presented in any particular order.)
A leader (which is really nothing more than the ideal form of a manager) is approachable, even with bad news. There’s an evenness and steadiness that gives those who must approach him or her a confidence that they won’t be yelled at or blamed unnecessarily. At the heart of approachability is simply a willingness to listen, first, before reacting to a particular piece of news or reaching a bad conclusion.
A leader doesn’t need to be some master spokesperson or have a Ph.D. in English, but they need to be able to articulate what they are thinking and feeling. A vision is not that useful unless it can be imparted to the others who will join along in that journey. It’s not just the words, either, but the tone and the speech patterns and the actual words that are chosen. You might say that a leader doesn’t have to be articulate, but they do need to articulate.
A leader needs to be the same person on the surface as they are in reality, deep inside. Employees can smell a rat, and that rat often takes the form of a leader who dons a suit when at work, trying to be somebody they aren’t. The opposite of authentic is fake, and that fakeness can be manifest- ed in the form of fake friendship,, fake listening, fake humor, fake caring, etc. Real leaders are the same person at work as they might be if you bump into them at the grocery store.
David Baker speaks to, writes for, and consults with the marketing industry via ReCourses, Inc. He’s worked with more than 600 firms individually and thousands of people have been through Recourses seminars.
David owns RockBench Publishing Corp., a traditional and electronic publisher of thought leadership content through which he’s authored and published “Managing (Right) for the First Time”, available via Amazon; and “Financial Management of a Marketing Firm”, available at ReCourses.