The 3 Most Important Leadership Characteristics

November 3, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

An article, titled The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day, that appeared recently at Forbes.com listed skills that for effective leaders had become part of their unconscious competence, they were so familiar and developed the leader didn’t need to think about doing them.

Research is pretty consistent in telling us that our leadership capabilities are about fifty-percent preset or innate and fifty-percent learned or developed. Yet to master something requires building on your natural talent – even Michael Jordan practiced, a lot. Getting to the point that something is instinctive and can be used even under the most stressful conditions takes concentration and repetition, and if a skill doesn’t come naturally…

I’m going to guess that most of what you do at the office every day is done fairly mindlessly. You arrive, you do your thing, you get done what needs to get done and then you head home, or to the airport. Mindful leadership is about being intentional about what you do as a leader, every day. Start this practice by having a list of 3 to 5 skills you want to develop or use more. After using your target skills mindfully, they eventually become part of your unconscious competence. Fifteen items makes for a big list. Start with these three critical and not-so-obvious skills if you want change or leverage a potent culture. Research is saying these are critical and they may not even be on your radar screen:

  1. Be Positive – at least 3 to 5 times as much as you are negative or critical (see Losado and Fredrickson’s research on this). Positive leaders foster engaged employees, with an attitude that any challenge can be overcome, and that you and your team can do it. Positivity also promotes optimism and a vision of success. As Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
  2. Expect More – from everyone, including yourself. As inventor Charles Kettering once said, “High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” This is true for everything from coaching athletes to teaching young people, as well as in business leadership. The more you expect from your team, and yourself, the more you are all likely to get.
  3. Create a Zone of Safety – for others to speak out and speak up. Employees who fear to speak up will never become fully engaged and you never stop getting surprises, and I’m not talking about good ones. Effective leaders encourage others to voice their opinions, within a zone of safety and without the conscious or unconscious fear of recrimination.

How have you learned to be a better leader? What qualities or skills are you working to master right now? What works for you that wasn’t on this list?

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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