A lot has been written about leadership and none may be clearer than the research done by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner of The Leadership Challenge. The authors have interviewed hundreds of thousands of participants and asked them what key attributes they expect their leaders to demonstrate before they will enlist that leader in a common cause and commit to action.
So what are those key attributes of leaders? According to their research, people want their leaders to be: Honest, forward looking, competent and inspiring. These four attributes of leaders rank well above all others and they are the only four that have been selected consistently by almost 70% of respondents.
Honest. Honesty is selected more often than any other leadership characteristic. For people to willingly follow someone, they first want to assure themselves that the individual is worthy of their trust.
Forward-Looking. Leaders are expected to look to the future. Some call it vision but one thing is clear: leaders know where they’re going and they expect others to willingly join them on the journey because they communicate their vision openly.
Competent. The type of competence that constituents look for may vary somewhat with the context, but whatever a leader’s role people need to believe in the leader’s ability to get the job done.
Inspiring. People want to work with leaders who are dynamic, uplifting, energetic, positive, and optimistic. The enthusiasm of leaders is contagious; it lifts people up and spreads the belief that they can make extraordinary things happen.
These four characteristics provide a highly useful guide for leadership selection, action, and self-development. The best news of all is most great leaders were not born that way. These characteristics come alive with certain specific behaviors and these behaviors can be learned.
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