Leadership isn’t just about managing processes, systems, and staff. It’s also not just about delegating to others or only doing the necessary tasks to produce results. Leadership that drives success requires more. A company’s product, purpose, and people are its greatest assets. Without the right leadership qualities of a person to carefully manage those assets, the success of the whole business can be at stake.
Take Travis Kalanick, former CEO and founder of Uber, for example. Kalanick started the first ride-sharing business of its kind, building it up to a $71 billion-dollar company. But his method for doing so was destructive. The core company values he created for Uber fostered disruptive competition, overwork, and aggression amongst his employees. He also withheld company mistakes from board members and ultimately created a psychologically unsafe culture littered with allegations of sexual harassment. Kalanick resigned as CEO of Uber in 2017 after someone filed a lawsuit against him.
Travis Kalanick may have had the vision and entrepreneurial grit to start an innovative business, but he lacked the human traits and good qualities necessary to lead it to success.
But Kalanick is just one example of many. Studies show that between 30 and 60 percent of people in positions of power have destructive behaviors, costing companies $1–$2.7 million per leader.
Successful leaders must not only demonstrate vision, management skills, and a working knowledge of their industry. They must also possess basic positive human qualities and a mindset that people want to follow.
In this article, discover which emotional, professional, and personal traits breed influence and success. Additionally, find out the leadership qualities you’ll need to develop.
Emotional and Interpersonal Qualities That Build Connection
Being a leader, it’s the art of trying to find the balance, the right times with each individual and what they need at that moment. It requires looking outward as opposed to looking inside.kobe bryant
When the Management Research Group examined their database of 100,000 completed leader effectiveness assessments, they discovered that the strongest predictor of ethical leadership was the presence of empathy.
Leaders who demonstrate empathy and other positive emotional characteristics and personality traits tend to focus more on the needs of others than on themselves. This keen awareness helps foster positive connections and influence, which is key to building a work culture of success.
For example, Howard Schultz, founder and newly returned CEO of Starbucks, understands the importance of emotional intelligence. After eight years away, the main reason for his recent return as CEO was his love for the company and its people.
In a heartfelt letter, Schultz shared: “I am returning to the company to work with all of you to design our next Starbucks—an evolution of our company deep with purpose, where we each have agency and where we work together to create a positive impact in the world.” His career aspirations displayed passion and authenticity for himself and his intentions and exemplified some of the character traits people want in their leader.
Qualities to practice:
- Emotional intelligence: Being able to regulate your emotions in the workplace and with others, both in times of stress and contentment, indicates high emotional intelligence. Studies show that having high emotional intelligence (EI) reduces workplace conflict and increases overall team performance and satisfaction.
- Empathy: Empathy means identifying and understanding another’s perspective and feelings. A 2020 survey showed that 76 percent of employees believe an empathetic work culture inspires and motivates better performance.
- Authenticity: Authenticity builds trust with others. If you’re being true to yourself and your values, others will feel comfortable doing the same.
- Sociability: Being sociable means being friendly, agreeable, and pleasant. Leaders who are sociable naturally build stronger and more open relationships with their colleagues.
- Ambition: People absorb the habits and energies of those around them. This concept is called emotional contagion. If a leader demonstrates ambition and a high drive for success and innovation, so too will their followers and colleagues.
- Open-mindedness: No one likes feeling like their ideas or opinions don’t matter. Practicing open-mindedness helps facilitate open and healthy conversation in the workplace and allows others to feel psychologically safe to express themselves fully.
- Kindness: People like people that are kind. Giving compliments and practicing consideration create a ripple effect of positivity and kindness. These small gestures make people feel good about their workplace, their leaders, and themselves.
- Passion: One trait all successful leaders share is their passion for what they do. Without enthusiasm and drive for your vision, success and influence are impossible. If you love what you do, you’ll work hard at it and demonstrate care.
- Positivity: Having a positive attitude in the workplace can be instrumental in reducing stress and boosting employee morale. Being positive makes the workday fun and productive, facilitates interaction, and builds strong relationships.
- Balance: Successful leaders want to challenge and motivate their employees, but without generating long hours and needless stress. Finding this middle ground is key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance while also keeping a pulse on productivity. Ambivert leaders who are balanced in this way gain the respect of their employees without sacrificing company culture.
- Collaboration: Collaboration builds team rapport and enables problems to be solved efficiently and creatively. In fact, a survey revealed about 75 percent of employees think collaboration is not only important but that it’s also in the top four elements that define their future success.
- Altruism: Staying late to help a struggling team member is an example of altruism. This example and other small acts of selfless kindness not only generate a culture of positivity, but studies show that it is beneficial to your emotional and psychological well-being.
Personal Qualities That Build Relationships
Leadership can be defined in one word—honesty. You must be honest with the players and honest with yourself.earl weaver
Emotional intelligence in the workplace and interpersonal skills are one category of character traits that build leadership influence and success. Having positive personal traits, in general, is another. Being positive, however, doesn’t mean sugar-coating things or behaving inauthentically. Instead, it means possessing basic human traits and leadership skills that others find encouraging, motivating, and helpful.
Winston Churchill, the former UK Prime Minister, is one such example of a leader with many natural positive personal traits. Famous for leading Britain through WWII, Churchill’s leadership style exuded determination, bravery, and optimism. He was both resilient and realistic and was known for his efficient decision-making and inspiring speeches. These traits ultimately helped him solidify the alliance between Britain, Russia, and the U.S. During the war, Churchill also visited bombed towns and British war factories to show his support for the people, even when the situation looked bleak.
Churchill demonstrated an unwavering bold and confident attitude that people looked up to. As a result, many today consider him one of the most influential leaders in history, and the U.K.’s most famous prime minister.
Personal traits to sharpen:
- Bravery: When a project goes poorly, or the results aren’t ideal, it can be easy to redirect blame or avoid confronting the core issue. But tackling a problem head-on demonstrates bravery no matter the perception. If a leader is brave and takes accountability, others will do the same.
- Boldness: Being bold builds confidence. If you set a goal or have an idea, own it and be vocal about it. Remain confident in your skills and intuition and master the discomfort. A leader can’t be strong without also being bold.
- Honesty: Honesty and transparency create employee confidence in leadership. Employees that can trust their leaders and their work environments perform better and are generally happier at work.
- Confidence: Leaders who lead with confidence and take on challenges head-first navigate teams toward success. Remaining confident despite setbacks to achieve set goals and results demonstrates fortitude and keeps team morale high.
- Decisiveness: Exercising good decision-making skills may not come naturally for all leaders. Yet, it’s key for leading others, being an ideal team player, setting goals, and executing plans. Leaders who can make distinct and well-informed decisions for their teams and their companies will gain the trust and confidence to lead effectively.
- Intuition: Intuition may sound like an abstract concept, but leaders who possess it have a distinct advantage over those who don’t. By trusting their experience and instincts instead of their reason and intellect alone, intuitive leaders can view situations and opportunities differently.
- Studiousness: Growing and improving as a leader means committing to continuous development, learning, and practice. By being studious, you’re striving to perform at your best possible level.
- Ethical: Being ethical fosters rapport and trust from your colleagues. If employees and stakeholders feel their best interests are also supported by an ethical code of conduct, you’ll have the buy-in you need from them to lead effectively. Conversely, unethical behavior can harm a company’s public image, leading to employee turnover, amongst other problems.
- Innovative: Innovation adds value. If you’re innovative and encourage innovation from others, new ideas and conversations will be abundant, and the company will benefit.
- Entrepreneurial: Being entrepreneurial goes hand-in-hand with innovation. Entrepreneurs boldly pursue new ideas, products, and processes, stimulating economic growth and opportunity.
Professional Qualities That Build Trust
Being positive in a negative situation is not naive. Its leadership.ralph marston
If you naturally possess positive personal traits and leadership behaviors, they will likely carry over into your professional life. There are, however, a few additional character traits that bode exceptionally well in the workplace for those who demonstrate them. For example, some leaders and CEOs are not only honest, innovative, and entrepreneurial—they’re also forward-thinking visionaries who lead initiatives with real purpose.
Take Hubert Joly, the former CEO of Best Buy, for example. When he joined the company in 2012, he tapped into his sense of purpose to reignite the business as it struggled to compete with the other large retailers like Walmart and Amazon. By re-focusing the company’s purpose on its people, customers, and the common good, Joly uprooted the existing company culture and planted seeds for a more human- and growth-oriented one. He also invested in the company, improving store floorplans and giving employees better perks. Over time, this created a corporate environment at Best Buy that focused more on employee development, success, and support, rather than on profit and quotas. Today, a recent survey reveals that Best Buy is one of the leading online retail companies in the U.S.
Top qualities to embody:
- Purpose-driven: Leading an organization with purpose indicates alignment with the company’s core values. Being aligned will help you overcome challenges, make the right decisions, and achieve set goals.
- Intelligent: To handle difficult situations, make informed decisions, and see opportunities when they arise indicates high levels of intelligence. Teams and organizations want this quality in a leader to trust the direction of their company.
- Methodical: Being organized means following an established system or procedure. From processing invoices to hiring new employees, an organization should have clearly defined methodologies for getting things done, and leaders who follow them.
- Disciplined: Disciplined leaders set their own opinions and feelings aside to follow set procedures and achieve their goals. They also use their sharpened willpower and decision-making skills to honor boundaries and processes.
- Creative: Creativity is all about thinking outside the box and being open-minded. What are some new products or services the company can develop? Are there any better ways of doing things? These questions prompt us to explore new avenues for success. Thinking in this way is vital for leading effectively and innovatively.
- Strategic: Having a sense of direction and the steps required to reach a destination is leading strategically. You won’t go far or reach company goals if a plan to get there doesn’t exist. Therefore, being a strategic leader is key to being successful and respected.
- Accountable: If you communicate goals, purpose, and objectives to others and follow through, that’s accountability. Stating one thing and acting differently fosters confusion and mistrust. Instead, hold yourself and your team accountable by accepting responsibility when something goes wrong and honoring stated roadmaps.
- Resourceful: Leaders who use their assets effectively to prioritize and solve problems demonstrate resourcefulness. This trait also leads to quick, creative, and clear ways to overcome obstacles, improve processes, and ensure that everything is working efficiently.
- Influential: As John C. Maxwell says, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” True leadership requires the ability to influence and inspire others.
- Successful: People want to follow other people who are successful. A history of success adds validity to your role as a leader and inspires others to lean on you for growth and support for their own success.
How to Drive Results as a Self-Developed Leader
Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time, and energy needed to develop yourself.denis waitley
Exhibiting positive emotional, professional, and personal traits will make you a leader capable of effectively guiding and influencing others, no matter the situation or challenge. This is the level or position you want to strive for. Having an arsenal of these character traits prepares you for the journey of leading a team and organization forward with success.
Unfortunately, a 2021 quarterly report highlights a global leadership crisis. A survey revealed that fewer than 20 percent of organizations currently have a pool of leaders that are prepared to fill critical leadership roles. Further, only 10 percent of CEOs report believing that their company’s leadership development training has had any impact on themselves or the business.
This data is why self-developing any character traits you may not naturally have is important for leadership success. If you’re in a leadership role or want to be, your company isn’t going to train you to be honest, bold, innovative, or resourceful. You have to devote the time to develop these leadership characteristics yourself.
Ways to develop successful leadership traits:
- Read biographies of other positive leaders or learn how to become a CEO.
- Find a successful leader who can mentor you.
- Subscribe to leadership development channels, newsletters, and podcasts.
- Attend business conferences.
- Network with other successful leaders.
- Join a mastermind group.
If you can master these emotional, professional, and personality traits, the leadership skills and qualities will follow you into any role or company you pursue. Additionally, for more information on building and leading a team for success, continue on and read “Attract and Retain A-Players by Becoming a People-Oriented Leader.”