Leadership qualities are a common topic of discussion in the news and among learning and development professionals. If you go to the leadership section in your local book store you will be overwhelmed by the number of book with “Leadership” as part of the title. Upon browsing any of these books it becomes obvious that leadership and Leadership Qualities mean different things to different people and in different contexts. You may also notice that the list of Leadership Qualities is getting longer and longer.
The ABCD Approach to Leadership Qualities
Leadership is undoubtedly a complex topic, but sometimes it’s necessary to make the complex simple, and so here is a quick ‘primer’.
Asking the right questions
Being the right person
Choosing by vision and values
Doing the right things
Asking the right questions
A question frames reality and focuses the mind. For example if you ask “Why is this all messed up?” then you will be answered with blame or justification, however, if you ask, “What can we do to fix this?” you are more likely to get co-operation and solution focused suggestions.
Leaders are skilled at asking questions of themselves and others. A question can be a thousand times more powerful than a statement for creating change, because people will often resist being told but their brains will automatically go in the direction you send it with a question.
The right questions assist a leader to get accurate feedback. Instead of accepting generic comments such as that was ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the leader will ask – “How specifically was it good/ bad? Against what criteria?” “When was this done?” “How specifically was it done?” “And who was it done with?”
Asking questions is a leadership quality that enables you to coach and to be coached to improve performance. So, what do you need to question?
Being the right Person
Before you can effectively lead other you must lead yourself – Self-leadership is the ability to influence yourself to achieve your objectives. Outstanding leaders have a high degree of self-awareness. They know their own strengths and limitations and accept and appreciate these.
Effective leaders have self-confidence a high level of self-belief in their own ability to take on new tasks and adapt to circumstances. The key self-leadership quality that make a successful leader is clarity around personal responsibility and group accountability; in other words, they take ownership of their actions, and set clear measurable targets for themselves and their followers.
Choosing by Vision and Values
Leaders are required to make multiple choices and decisions. Many of these choices can ambiguous, with the outcome uncertain. It therefore an important leadership quality to be able to make effective decisions in line with value and vision. A leaders with vision, is clear about where they are taking their team or organization. A leader with values is clear about how they are going to get there.
Leadership failures can quickly be traced to a lack of vision or not adhering to the values – either personal or organizational.
Doing the Right Things
We live in world that does not judge our intentions, but our actions. A leader, like anyone else, is measured by their purposeful action. Purposeful action is that which moves us towards a goal. Not all action will have the desired result, and the leader will constantly scan for accurate information, take feedback and make the adjustments to ensure they move themselves and their followers towards the stated purpose.
Leaders have and continue to develop leadership competencies. They constantly source information via networking. They have the ability to read people and know what motivates them. They give credit to others first before taking it for themselves. Most importantly leaders are prepared to ACT and act NOW.
This topic has been updated from an original post from January 2009 in www.selfleaderhship.com/blog
Photo Credit: Michel Nguire – Flickr