Five traits that successful leaders possess

If you had to bottle up the characteristics of great leaders into five key behaviours, what would they be? While renowned thought leaders in this space differ on what exactly that recipe entails, here are the common themes that resonate with the experts.

  • Being mentored

    Great leaders don’t just rely on their own instinct and learning – they enlist the help of other respected leaders who can help shape their journey. A mentor may be someone in their current role, from a prior job or even a respected industry professional. Choosing the right mentor is crucial to being able to receive the right advice. It’s like choosing a team member – the person who is right for one job and company may not be right for the same job in another business or team.

  • Always learning

    Exceptional leaders know that no matter how many years of experience they’ve had in their industry and career, there is always something new to learn. They may be technically savvy at their role but recognise that they need to work on their softer skills or need to embrace technology. This positive trait usually means that this culture of learning flows through the whole team or organisation, allowing everyone from the top down to focus on development.

  • Challenging themselves

    Humility is an under-rated trait at leadership level, but it’s often said that a smart leader employs those who are smarter than them. Being humble enough to admit that your people may have more experience, qualifications or innovative ideas is another important trait of a great leader. A good leader will also harness these different opinions and skills to challenge their own assumptions or patterns of behaviour – which often reaps huge benefits for the organisation.

  • They role model openness

    Successful leaders know that their people respect honesty and transparency, even when the news may be difficult to hear. No business or culture thrives in an environment of backstabbing by the water cooler and toxic relationships. Good leaders encourage transparency, making people feel that it is safe to speak up when they see something wrong, or ask questions when they feel that they aren’t being told the truth.

  • It's about relationships

    Ultimately, successful teams and organisations are nothing without healthy relationships. Emotional intelligence is at the heart of being able to establish healthy relationships and being able to address issues honestly and respectfully as they arise. The basic building block of emotional intelligence is the ability and willingness to listen and communicate – and being able to recognise both verbal and non-verbal cues of their people. In terms of leadership, a good relationship also encompasses empowering their people to bring out the best in them and help them develop.

To do this, a leader needs to put the needs of the team above their own – something which is actually incredibly difficult to do, and perhaps one of the hardest elements of being a great leader.

Author: Peter Robinson
Team Leadership Services