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What are the key traits of exceptional leaders?

What makes an exceptional leader stand out from the crowd? Learn and apply the key behaviors of great leaders.
What are the key traits of exceptional leaders?

So much is said today about the need for better leaders, not just in the business world but in all facets of society. Yet, what does a strong leader look like? What can leaders do to improve their leadership ability?

First of all, let’s be clear that becoming a better leader is not limited to those in supervisory or management positions. Any employee can enhance their leadership capabilities and, in doing so, make themselves a more valued member of the organization. Most of us know individuals who possess significant leadership skills, regardless of their title or position.

What are some of the traits and characteristics of individuals who are viewed as strong leaders and, more importantly, what steps can you take to enhance your leadership IQ? Here is a snapshot of what exceptional leadership bring to the table.

  • Have a personal vision or mission statement. Leaders have a good sense of where they want to go. They have established goals and objectives they will work to achieve. They are constantly asking themselves, “Are the things I am doing now helping me achieve my goals? Are there new skills and abilities I need to develop?”
  • Take responsibility for their actions. Leaders don’t just revel in their successes. They take responsibility for their failures and shortcomings, and they learn from them.
  • Are well connected. They have a good sense of who the “movers and shakers” are in the organization and they build on those relationships. They look to those who serve as role models. They seek the guidance of those who are successful.
  • Are excellent communicators. They not only know the “what” and “how” of good communications, they also know the “who.” They realize the value of keeping the appropriate people well-informed.  Additionally, they are not just great verbal communicators; they also understand the importance of listening and knowing how to read a person.
  • Create “win-win” situations. They understand that much of their success is attributable to the efforts of others. They seek opportunities for others to enjoy success as well. They do not seek recognition at the expense of others. By helping others and giving credit fairly, they gain valuable allies and supporters.
  • Don’t give up easily. Good leaders are not easily sidetracked by short-term failures. They can quickly assess a situation and decide on an alternate course of action. They are flexible and are willing to change tactics, as appropriate. They also know when to cut their losses.
  • Know their strengths…and their limitations. They are good at using their strengths to maximum value. Yet, they also understand their “flat spots” and learn to lead around them. Where possible, they surround themselves with people who have skills and abilities to complement their own.
  • Have a “take charge” attitude. They don’t sit around waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Where others see problems, they see opportunities. They are highly motivated and they impart that attitude to people with whom they work.
  • Take risks. They don’t play it safe,” taking on easy tasks and assignments. They push the envelope and suggest courses of action avoided by others who are more risk-averse. With a positive, can-do attitude, they are willing to test new ways of thinking; they are willing to challenge the “that’s the way we have always done it” mindset.
  • Possess great integrity. They are viewed as people of their word. They do what they say they are going to do and they accomplish their goals and objectives through honest actions and behaviors. They have no difficulty in finding other people who want to work with them or for them.
  • Use their heart as much as their head. Excellent leaders are not only clear thinkers, strategic planners, and focused in the execution of their work, they also realize the importance that others play in their success. It’s important for them to understand their people. What makes them tick? What are their interests, concerns, and motivations? When people know you care about who they are and not just what they can do for you, you will have a much greater chance of getting their support, commitment, and allegiance.

By embracing and putting these attributes into practice, you can enhance your leadership skills. In doing so, you make your work experience more engaging, challenging, and rewarding. Additionally, you will be viewed by your organization as a more highly valued contributor. This could to lead to positions with greater responsibility and visibility, ones that could broaden your influence within the company and move you along the path to your career goals.

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