“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
If you are reading the recent U.S. economic and jobs growth reports, you most probably can assume that the economy has finally turned around and that we are entering a new period of growth and economic development. Headhunters have started to call prospective employees again, recent college graduates are starting to see more interest from companies, and job ads are starting to show an increase in management consulting and mid level management jobs; a clear sign that companies are expecting and starting to proactively work on building the armies that are going to be needed in the short term. We all can agree that the recent economic developments are good news for employers, employees, customers, and even shareholders in general.
In these times of rapid economic and employment growth, leadership traits are as or more important than the classical management traits that are in demand during the previous lean and cost cutting periods. Leaders can help shape the future of their organizations by catalyzing their followers and focusing their strength in order to achieve or exceed their stated goals. In order to accomplish this leaders must understand the basic leadership traits as described below, and be able to choose from them according to their specific needs, goals, and environment.
One of the primary tools used to identify the leadership traits is the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) assessment tool that measures and identifies five primary leadership traits, and ten specific behaviors associated to them. The five leadership traits are:
Challenging the process:
- Search for Opportunities
- Experiment and Take Risks
Inspiring a Shared Vision:
- Envision the Future
- Enlist Others
Enabling others to act:
- Foster Collaboration
- Strengthen Others
Modeling the Way:
- Set the Example
- Plan Small Wins
Encouraging the Heart:
- Recognize Individual Contribution
- Celebrate Accomplishments
While very few people will have all of these leadership traits, we can expect that at least our current leaders will show some if not most of these traits on their behavior and on the way they interact with others. Some of these leadership traits are easy to identify in some business leaders such as Steve Jobs (Apple) to whom we can easily assign the “Challenging the Process, Inspiring a Shared Vision, and Modeling the Way” leadership traits, which are some of the reasons for the seemingly correlation between his tenure at Apple and the company success or failure rate. Other leaders such as MLK, or Gandhi seem to have all of these leadership traits at the same time, and that can help us understand their charisma and ability to lead their movements against discrimination and on favor of equal social rights for individuals.
In addition to these leadership traits leaders and leadership can come in many forms, from servant leadership to authoritarian or autocratic (command and control), leaders have been known to span almost the whole width of human behaviors. In our next article we will explore these leadership models and help you identify which ones you or your current bosses have.
If you are already in a leadership position today, or you aspire to become a leader; you should already have or be developing at least some of these traits. Thinking about them which ones do you have or would you like to develop?
Level Three Leadership: Getting Below the Surface (3 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ, US: Pearson Education, Inc.
Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in Organizations (Six ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ, US: Pearson Prentice Hall.
7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders (inc.com)
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