A question I hear often—from colleagues, board members, HR directors, recruiters, and people at workshops and conferences—is how you can tell whether someone will be a good or a poor leader. What are the signs, qualities, traits that predict excellent leadership? There’s no clear-cut answer, but after years of coaching leaders around the world, these are my baseline predictors, for two reasons: first, because they show up consistently in the best leaders, and second, because they can’t be faked.
Integrity. Integrity as a leadership trait encompasses honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, transparency and strong moral values. Of all leadership qualities, it’s the most important. If someone embodies integrity, I know they are capable of becoming a great leader.
Empathy. Most people don’t listen at all or, at best, listen with a corner of their attention. But a person who listens well, who sets out to understand and communicates with compassion, has the makings of a great leader.
Accountability. The best leaders take responsibility for their leadership and hold themselves accountable. They admit their mistakes and take the blame when things go wrong, but they also work on hard on getting the job done and getting results—and when they do, they give the credit to others.
Appreciation of others. If a prospective leader can’t appreciate others and recognize them for their contributions, that’s a huge red flag. Great leaders excel at appreciating people, elevating them to greater heights and getting the most out of their capabilities.
Decisiveness. Leaders are bombarded on a daily basis to make decisions, and the great ones are decisive. Period. They know how to settle tough, thorny issues and maneuver through the sea of day-to-day small decisions. A decisive leader exudes confidence and is someone people want to follow.
Trusting and trustworthy. Trust is among the most important traits for a new leader to build and grow. Without trust in every direction there is very little respect for leadership. Trust is what turns a good leader into a great leader.
Several components may go into great leadership, but in my experience poor leadership can be recognized with just one quality: it’s carried out for personal gain or to control others.
Good leaders are constantly working to help, support, develop and invest in others. A bad leader, on the other hand, thinks only of how they can get ahead and move their own agenda forward. Unfortunately, it’s easy to spot a bad leader, and they exist in almost every organization—they’re the ones who are demoralizing amazing people and teams and destroying the cultures that foster excellence.
Lead from within: I hope each one of you gets to experience a good leader and follow their lead. And if you have to be exposed to poor leadership, I hope you can learn from it as a negative example.
#1 N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: iStockPhotos
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.