The Seven Essential Characteristics of Successful Leaders
By John Spence
What qualities make for an exceptional leader? A survey of over 10,000 high-potential employees at top companies worldwide showed seven key traits they look for in a leader they would willingly follow. From this data, a framework was created, called the Seven C’s of leadership.
These principles can be applied by any person in a position of influence, not only those who build and manage companies. Every leader should strive to constantly improve their skills and characteristics. Here are seven ways to do just that.
- Character: more than 85% of those surveyed said that honesty was the single most important characteristic they look for in their leader. These high performers indicated that having a leader they trust, respect and admire was their main reason for remaining with their organization. The message to every leader should be clear. Tell the truth- all the time.
- Competence: this does not mean that the leader must be able to do everyone’s job. An effective leader must be competent in their area of expertise and have superb leadership skills. This requires a dedication to lifelong learning and continuous improvement. The best leaders set aside a minimum of 15 minutes daily to study, reflect and create action steps to increase their effectiveness.
- Courage: A leader must make tough decisions and take big, bold bets. However, what is more important is having the courage to be vulnerable. Courageous leaders are comfortable admitting they do not have all the answers and are not afraid to ask for help. They surround themselves with intelligent people and often ask for feedback and advice.
- Communication: a leader must be able to articulate vision, values, purpose and strategy. Yet, the most critical communication skills for a superb leader are asking great questions and being an intense listener. Standout leaders are curious and focused when working with others.
- Collaboration: exceptional leaders roll up their sleeves and get shoulder-to-shoulder with their team to get the work done. They treat others as partners and peers. From time to time, they might pull rank and give firm direction, but, for the most part, they are pulling their own weight.
- Compassion: this has always been a vital component. Exceptional leaders understand that people are made up of more than just the work they do. They show empathy and a genuine concern for others’ well-being.
- Contribution: the most valuable act as a leader is to build other leaders. Once a leader has attained some level of status and influence, they turn their attention to leaving a legacy of leadership. They think long-term. They plant the seeds of trees under which they may never sit.
Although these are the only things required to be an effective leader, without them, it is impossible to become a leader that people trust, respect and admire.