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Successful Leaders – Their Top Five Traits

While not all great leaders have similar biographies, most share traits that helped propel them to greatness and kept them balanced during both turbulent and prosperous times. Through my observations, I’ve narrowed down what I believe are the top five traits of successful leaders.

Any CEO can enjoy success when the economy is thriving. A leader’s character is tested, however, during crisis. Executives show their true selves when faced with adversity, and the most effective are able to keep their values intact during difficult periods. Instead of being reactionary, they are deliberate and thoughtful. They also realize their failures will help them grow. Mistakes are valuable learning tools. Failure also reveals a lot about how a leader handles hardship, particularly how he or she treats others in tough times. A leader with character realizes every person within a company matters — that the business is not just about the numbers. Leaders gain trust and respect by giving it, not demanding it, because they take a genuine interest in people and care about them.

A great leader has a way of injecting calm into chaos. When the stock market is plummeting or the bottom line keeps shrinking, people look to their leaders for guidance and base their own reactions on those of their leaders. Leaders must be able to settle things down — not feed into hysteria and panic. One way to do that is to look at the positive in the situation. No matter the state of affairs, leaders see a positive outcome and drive towards it. There is always a way out, even if the solution is not immediately apparent. Good leaders have a knack for looking at thorny business challenges with enthusiasm. They thrive on finding the opportunity in the challenge. They have the ability of vision — they don’t get bogged down in the present, but are able to look forward. People gravitate towards positive leaders and want to work with them to find solutions.

Nobody achieves success or reaches a position of power alone. Accomplished leaders share the accolades and find reward in watching others grow and prosper. Leaders realize they cannot be everything to an organization. Secure executives know they should surround themselves with smart people and should listen to and learn from them. Encouraging every member of the team to flourish advances the organization and makes the leader look better.

Leaders should be tirelessly predictable. While predictability may seem like a negative quality, it is of the utmost importance in heading up an organization. People should know where their leader stands on an issue and be able to deduce how he or she will respond to a situation. If colleagues can anticipate their leader’s next move, they won’t be left wondering and questioning and can focus on their work. Predictability creates an environment of stability and strength.

Transparency and Communication
Leaders should communicate early and often — explaining the why, what and how. Leaders should make people feel valued, which is demonstrated in something as simple as knowing employees’ names, for example. In turn, employees will want to work hard for the organization. Leaders should create a porthole into their decision-making processes by communicating honestly and frequently. People will feel more secure, and know how they fit into the organization and its success, if they are kept informed.

Whatever professional path you choose, it may contain a leadership component. To be successful in this area, consider the leaders in your life and what you admire about them; then model your behavior after the traits you respect most.

Photo Credit: My Life at AIL