Lately my family and I have been talking about what makes someone a great leader. With all that is in the news these days, this has been a valuable discussion to have, particularly with our daughters. Children often see authenticity so clearly that it is they who can remind us grown ups of the standards we ought to hold for ourselves and for those who influence us. In our narrowing down a list of essential qualities that we believe excellent leadership requires, five questions emerged.
1) Does the person have INTEGRITY? “Integrity,” the dictionary states, is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principals.” That makes the top of the list, because there’s nothing to work with if you don’t have integrity.
2) Is the person INTELLIGENT? Having assured one has a strong character, the next quality a leader needs is to be intelligent. As a good friend of mine says, there are many forms of intelligence. It’s is not just about academics and high IQs. Intelligence includes really knowing yourself and your skill set so you can be clear about what you have to offer. It also includes the ability to reason things out and discern wisely.
3) Is the person PRODUCTIVE (i.e. do they get proven results)? Assuming one has solid integrity and intelligence, people expect a leader to demonstrate that their work makes a positive difference in their sphere of influence (e.g. a team, company, society, etc.). Being productive is about achieving something significant and of worth to others.
4) Is the person CREATIVE? Productivity is greatly enhanced when a leader has also developed the ability to be creative. Creativity can take many forms, be it resourcefulness, innovation, or utilizing imagination to think outside the box. Embedded in creativity is the willingness to take risks. Thus, creativity requires a unique form of courage.
5) Is the person INSPIRING? We want a leader to have the capacity to challenge us and to move us, at the soul level, toward an improved way of being. A great leader knows how to cultivate a vision laden with purpose, teach it in a way that connects individuals, and therefore motivates them to participate meaningfully. Powerful inspiration has the capacity to bridge today with tomorrow by means of joyful anticipation. Simply put, inspiration fosters hope.
These five qualities may seem obvious and, of course, there are many more ways to describe a great leader. Yet starting with these questions — when looking at all kinds of leaders in our midsts as well as simply looking at ourselves — can be a helpful analysis that initiates improvement. May you be inspired!