How to be a Leader


How to be a leaderHere are some quick tips on how to be a leader, covering 10 key leadership traits with an explanation of what each one means.

The following leadership traits are for taking charge of people and getting work done through them. Other pages on Leadersdirect discuss how to show leadership when you aren't in charge of people.

Leadership traits for taking charge of people

  • Credibility: being able to convince people that you have what it takes to lead. This means knowing what needs to be done, having knowledge of the task, appropriate goals, how to achieve them and the confidence that you can get people there.
  • Purpose: having a clear sense of purpose along with the drive and ambition to achieve success and the determination to overcome obstacles, the ability to focus on your goals and not be easily distracted. Your goal can be practical and short-term. It doesn't need to be as grand or far reaching as a vision.
  • Energy: conveying a sense of urgency and decisiveness, working hard and quickly, with enthusiasm for your goal, creating the impression that you are unstoppable, being willing to take some risks. This includes stress tolerance or resilience, the energy to get through tough times without revealing undue anxiety.
  • Motivating people: the ability to inspire people. You don't need to be a grand orator, just convey passion for what you are trying to achieve and tailor how you motivate people to their individual needs; also engaging people by including them in solving problems.
  • Interpersonal sensitivity: showing that you understand people's worries and complaints, being a good listener, showing appropriate empathy and being willing to help people solve their problems, being diplomatic and tactful rather than blunt; never putting people down in public; emotional intelligence.
  • Team building: fostering team spirit by sharing information, creating a sense of group identity (a we're in this together attitude) and involving people in major decisions rather than giving the impression that you have all the answers; celebrating success and occasionally socializing as a team, following agreed team success criteria.
  • Planning and organizing: using processes to structure work, assign tasks and monitor progress efficiently and regularly to ensure execution, rather than ad hoc; delegating and trusting people rather than micromanaging them.
  • Communication: making expectations clear, regularly updating people and seeking their input while listening attentively, reviewing their performance regularly; showing integrity by being honest, standing up for important values and delivering on your promises.
  • Equipping people: giving people the tools, support and necessary training or coaching to be successful, empowering people to make decisions and being willing to let them learn from their own mistakes.

Where do you want to go from here?

Want to read more on the relationship between vision and leadership? If leadership isn't just an influence process, then it's a role in a hierarchy, but this is biologically primitive. See Primitive Leadership for more on this topic. For more discussion of how leadership can work as influence, see Thought LeadershipBottom-up Leadership and Organic Leadership.

For more unconventional thinking on leadership see our sister site LEAD2XL