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Leadership Development

We Asked, You Answered: How Do You Identify a Leader? A Top 10 List

SpinalTap(Actually, this list is one better than a “top 10” list, because it goes up to 11.)

Last week, readers, I challenged you to tell me what qualities you consider most important when identifying new leaders.  I guess this question struck a chord, judging by the number of passionate responses I received in general, and the number of responses that referenced how a leader emerges during times of uncertainty in particular.

No doubt several of you were drawing on your own experiences from these past several months, as you witnessed those around you being forced to make tough management decisions, seeing who emerged as true leaders – keeping employees motivated, adapting to stay ahead in a difficult economy, thinking outside the box to keep business going – while perhaps witnessing others “falter and fail,” as one commenter put it.

While sorting through the over-200 comments, there were several words that emerged over and over again to describe leaders. Here, I give you the most frequently mentioned leadership characteristics - and a few of the reasons given for singling these traits out.

Readers’ Choice: Top 10 11 Leadership Characteristics

  1. Vision “A leader is someone that has vision. Someone that sees what is possible, not what is expected. Someone that sees the good in staff and promotes it, not the faults and prays on them. Someone who sees leadership as an honor…not just a responsibility.” – Michael Asbill
  2. Integrity “Integrity is the most important attribute. Leaders must have vision, passion, commitment, charisma, great communications skills, and on through the list. But without being true to their principles (even when they think nobody is watching) they send the wrong message and lose their follower’s trust.” – Ron Boatright
  3. Communication “I look for a manager with outcome-focused communication skills that builds trust amongst their staff, shares their knowledge and seeks feedback from associates. This allows a good manager to connect with their staff and helps create an understanding, support and acceptance critical to an organization’s success.” – Shelley Drosts
  4. Creative“In this day and age, creativity and ingenuity are certainly stressed, as uncertain economic times and other variables increase the need for thinking outside the box and the ability to shake off old paradigms or ways of thinking in order to innovate, improve, and lead.”- Daniel Hewitt
  5. Inspire“Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.’ I think this is a great template for a leader…I think a leader is one who nurtures and encourages and inspires an employee to not only do what he/she is supposed to do but to feel better about themselves as a person and feel better about themselves as an employee.” – Robert
  6. Motivate “Leadership is the ability to steer the ship during good and bad times. To make unpopular decisions that are right for the business in good and bad economies. To keep people to motivated to want more when business is good or bad.” – Susan
  7. Courage “We expect the most from our employees at all levels. We expect them to have the courage to take risks, be bold on behalf of our clients, own their actions and look fearlessly to the future and the possibilities it holds.” – Susan Leverentz
  8. Confidence “We continue to find that the most effective leaders are the ones who realize and accept that they cannot have all the answers, cannot do all the work, and will rise with the overall success of their teams. The challenge is often to find leaders with less management experience who have attained this level of self-confidence.” – RDL
  9. Integrity “A great leader is someone whom others seek to follow. What does that look like? The leader will ooze uncompromising integrity. Those around him are proud to be associated with him.” – Jill Smedley
  10. Passionate “The best leaders are those who are passionate about their work, what they represent and their ability to spread that passion by leading and motivating others in the organization to increase productivity.” – Lori
  11. Adaptable “Able leaders respond rather than react to uncertain times. Additionally, they are not easily shaken by setbacks. They find unique solution to unfamiliar problems and they look at challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow.” – Dominic Moore

Any further thoughts? You can read all comments from the previous post here…and stay tuned for my follow-up post on ways to retain your best leaders, and why now is the most critical time to do so.

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
11 comments
Ashley
Ashley

Very nice article. I love #1 and # 5 and wish more bosses would keep these in mind. I guess because my boss is lacking in this area!

Ashley
Ashley

Very nice article. I love #1 and # 5 and wish more bosses would keep these in mind. I guess because my boss is lacking in this area!

noel6
noel6

I like "empathy" instead of compassion. I beleive "compassion" can lead to being too personal and when a leader becomes personal they can make wrong decisions based on emotion. Empathy is an understanding of what someone is going thru.

noel6
noel6

I like "empathy" instead of compassion. I beleive "compassion" can lead to being too personal and when a leader becomes personal they can make wrong decisions based on emotion. Empathy is an understanding of what someone is going thru.

Kelly
Kelly

I am printing out this article and putting it somewhere at work for my boss to see. What do you think?

Kelly
Kelly

I am printing out this article and putting it somewhere at work for my boss to see. What do you think?

Theresa
Theresa

Integrity is listed twice, however, a good replacement is "Compassion".

frank johnson
frank johnson

very nice article. well written. I really like the way your definitions are crafted, rather than a dictionary type of statement.

sean
sean

points 2 and 9 are the same 'integrity'.
so this is a top ten list - please correct

sean
sean

2 and 9 are the same point 'Integrity'. This is in fact a top ten list - Ms. Lorenz you might want to correct the article and merge points 2 and 9.

Ron Hurst
Ron Hurst

Hey I did my Masters thesis on this very topic and man you nailed many of the critical aspects! Well done. The only addition I would offer is that of emotional intelligence. While not a measure of leadership in a stand alone manner it is found consistently in effective leaders

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