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5 Common Traits of Successful Leaders

What is leadership? What are the necessary qualities of a leader? I have been fascinated by these questions throughout most of my adult life. In my work, on average I speak with 20 pastors a week who have a wide range of leadership responsibility and influence. I don't have all the answers, but I have found two things to hold up:

1. Anyone can be a leader

2. Leadership can look a million different ways, but there seemingly is a consistent set of attributes that separate good leaders from ineffective leaders.

This post will focus on five common traits among successful leader. In my next post I will specifically look at Biblical leadership but for simplistic sake today, 5 traits that are universal and apply in most context.

1. Self-Awareness: Having self-awareness is vital for any leader so that you can build out your team with people who balance your own strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not aware of your own developmental needs, you may be more confident than you should be, and you may not realize the need for a particularly critical skill on your team. Do an anonymous 360 review with your team, and listen carefully to what it says.

2. Humility: Have you ever worked for a boss that thought he or she was right all the time, even when they weren’t? When you become a leader, people just automatically look to you for answers and direction. Resist the urge to always just offer direction, especially if you’re not entirely sure what the best answer is. Ask your team for their thoughts and demonstrate your willingness to take their advice, and you might be surprised how the culture in your group changes.

3. Curiosity: I try to surround myself with people that are curious about a wide range of issues. Leaders who immerse themselves purely in their business or ministry silo can miss emerging issues or opportunities, as well as connections with other people or networks. And, it’s way more fun to have a team with diverse interests.

4. Authenticity: I value leaders who don’t try to be one thing in the office, and another thing elsewhere. Inevitably, the real person comes out, particularly in times of stress. And, if your team senses that you’re not authentic in your words and actions, they’ll question whether you’ll have their back when issues surface, and it’s a safe assumption that they’ll start looking for an exit from the organization.

5. Humor: Let’s face it: work is hard, and we spend a lot of time in the office. However, just because work is serious doesn’t mean that we need to take ourselves too seriously. Particularly when the going gets tough, a little humor can go a long way to keep the team motivated. Don’t get carried away in thinking you need to be a comedian; just be yourself. A team who laughs together will have lower turnover and higher productivity.

Remember positional leadership is the lowest level of the leadership pyramid. Real leadership is given by those who are willing to follow your direction. That is often earned, and proven based upon the traits you possess that your followers relate with and admire.