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4 leadership traits

I don’t believe that leaders are born.  They are cultivated through their own experiences and guidance from peers and superiors.  A leader can come in many shapes and sizes.  Leadership is an evolving process, some say it is more art than science.  It is a journey that does not have a set path and can be very different for each person.  I do believe that anyone can be a leader.  Some may have an easier time than others but in my experience everyone can improve themselves and their leadership qualities.

Stand up and step out.

I taught military leadership for two and a half years at a small college in Ohio for the Army ROTC program a few years back.  It was a fantastic opportunity to interact with emerging leaders.  These students knew that they would soon be Army Officers so they soaked up as much information as they could in the class room each week.  One can only learn so much from the classroom though.  Leadership isn’t best learned through books but through experiences.  For the cadets, their leadership traits were cultivated in the mud, forest and frozen landscape of central Ohio during field exercises.

The field training consisted of military maneuvers and orders writing while under a strict time limit.  In order to properly complete the mini missions, the cadet, would have to apply the classroom knowledge of the given maneuver and orders production process.  They would also have the added stressor of an evaluator documenting everything they did and said from start to finish.  At the end of the  maneuvers they would be given a grade an overall grade of Not Satisfactory, Satisfactory or Outstanding.  Talk about a pressure cooker!

They only way to improve ones leadership skills are to practice leadership.  But what if you aren’t in a “position of leadership”?  That’s not a problem.  At its fundamental basis, leadership is leading people.  Peers can be leaders.  You don’t need a fancy title or a proclamation from some authority to be a leader.  You simply need to motivate people to follow your lead because they trust your judgment.

When the opportunity presents itself, raise your hand and take the reigns of a project or event.  Experience is a great teacher.  You might not have all the answers but that hardly matters.  You need to have the drive to seek out solutions.  The more you practice the more you’ll learn about yourself and your own leadership style.

Here are some leadership traits that I find to be most useful.

Be reliable. Be early and be where you say you are going to be.  You’d be surprised at how many people cannot do that.  Keep your emotions in check when events seem out of control.  Be reliable in what you say and do.  Be the one people can count on.

Be knowledgeable. You need to be knowledgeable about the tasks at hand but also know the people you are working with.  Know their strengths and weaknesses.  Without the people, you aren’t leading anyone.

Do what you say you are going to do. Hold those accountable to what they agree to do.

Delegate, follow-up and assist. When assigning tasks be sure to follow-up and see how they are going at designated and agreed upon times.  Do not hover around those who have been assigned a task.

These are just a few leadership traits and skills.  I’m sure I’ll write more on the topic in the future but for now, good luck.  Go raise your hand and volunteer to lead.

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  1. January 5, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Matt,
    Solid list of leadership traits. Well said. I add the following two that I find critical in this era of diversity in the workforce:
    —–
    #5 Learn about people. Know your own personality type and be able to detect those of your teams. Excellent people skills are critical to great leadership.

    #6 Inspire commitment. I think the one difference between leadership and management is this very quality.

    Keep the great posts coming!
    Kate

    • January 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Kate,

      Thank you so much for your comments. Without knowing your team members, leaders fail to understand their biggest asset. PEOPLE! People are everything to an organization. If the people are not motivated and free to do their work, the organization will not move forward.

      The best leaders I’ve ever worked for were focused on the people of the organization and truly cared. It was evident through their words and actions. Those who were not great leaders, lacked the ability to connect with the team.

      Many bosses fail to recognize the difference between leadership and management. I like to think of the difference between them is leadership is people centric. Whereas managing is focused on inanimate things like inventory and the bottom line.

      Lead people, manage things.

  2. January 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

    What did you find were some of your most helpful lessons for the cadets?

    • January 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Jill,

      As the cadets are still learning about themselves and how to lead, I liked to see steady improvement in the following abilities; Decision Making, Planning and Executing the plan early on in their college career. These are teachable skills that cadets can work on themselves.

      Once they began to develop after a year or two, traits like team building, self assessment and motivating others become much more important because now the cadet is learning how to influence others.

  3. ChrisT
    January 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    I printed this list and stuck it where I will see it everyday with or without the use of technology. Thanks!

    If I might humbly add one more item to your list, it’s this: Acknowledge with sincere enthusiasm! You get it.

    • January 5, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      Chris,

      You are absolutely right. Praise and reward those who reserve it. I’m reading a book this month about that very topic. So far so good. If I like it I’ll post it to the reading list once I’m finished.

      I really appreciate the support too. Knowing that you’ve posted this to help focus your actions, helps me stay focused to write a blog everyday. So thank you!
      -Matt

  4. January 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    you are so right!

    leaders are NOT BORN! they are made as a result of their actions
    great post – tons of extremely well written and thought out details.

    I actually found your blog through comluv and do enjoy reading it – i will be coming back!

  5. February 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm

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  6. February 7, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Great, glad you liked it. Feel free to subscribe too.

  7. October 6, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I do agree on this “I don’t believe that leaders are born. They are cultivated through their own experiences and guidance from peers and superiors.” We are born all naked. Leaders are molded by their parents until they grow up. The wisdom they have inherited from their parents will be their foundation and will be used as their knowledge.

  8. March 13, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Nice and insightful post

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