When I think of leaders I have most respected and enjoyed working with, there is a theme that emerges. This story says as much about me and who I am as it speaks to the leadership style I most admire. And so it goes for most people that the aspects of a leader they most appreciate are, in many cases, a reflection of themselves.
Case in point. Last year Entrepreneur published the article 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader. Around that same time, similar posts and articles were cropping up on LinkedIn and other social media. It was as if all the world were suddenly focused on leadership, which got me to thinking, too. In particular, I was amused by the business school qualities that, in theory, sounded great but in practice didn’t include enough people passion for me. My study of leadership qualities reinforced aspects of myself that speak to the kind of leader I am.
My Top Five Pick
The top five qualities I would pick from the list started a bit further down. What I like to see in leaders are:
Passion (#6 on Entrepreneur). Passion is contagious, especially if a leader has the passion not only for the business objective but also for the people bringing the objective into reality. What about authenticity? (#11 on the list). I want to know that my leader is for real. I bring my whole self to work every day, and I want to believe my leader has the courage and openness to do that as well. Doing so strengthens the bonds of trust. I want leaders who are empowering (#12) to others. I need them to exhibit open communications (#20), be approachable (similar to personable at #14) and accountable (#21).
Peter Economy published a shorter list that resonated with me on Inc. The 5 Traits That Define Great Leadership included empathy, awareness, honesty, decisiveness, and optimism.
Now we’re talking! Let’s just keep it real, and get it done, okay?
Lists aside, what I want to see when I look up is someone I can trust to continually evolve the company in a way that is not only good for business, but also for employees. That means a leadership style that is innovative, flexible, and willing to embrace change.
I want leaders who actively engage diverse perspectives to move the needle and inspire a vision that everyone can sink their teeth into. Finally, I want to see leadership that recognizes and rewards individuals and teams for exceptional results.
Being a leader is not an easy task. After all, leaders are ultimately responsible for success or failure — not only of the business objectives but also for modeling the behaviors that will make for a successful company culture.
DiSC Leadership Assessment
Recently I took the DiSC® leadership assessment tool to evaluate my leadership style. DiSC stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Those behavioral traits represent how you express yourself in the work environment.
Many years ago, a team I worked on had taken the personality assessment, and for months afterward, we had our “color” assessment visible on our badges so our teammates could better understand how to relate to us. That preceded the Strengthsfinder assessment where we all had our top five strengths framed and displayed on our desks. I always enjoy these kinds of assessments, as they give me talking points to share with others — another way to establish better connections and enhanced working relationships.
According to the DiSC survey, my leadership is a high i. That means I am good at influencing or persuading others. I believe in being open and establishing collaborative working relationships. I am optimistic, enthusiastic, and sincerely passionate to the bone.
It’s no wonder that when I look up, I want to see the same thing. And if it’s not there, I can only hope for leadership who will be aware and empowering enough to recognize the value I bring to the table and are willing to give me the latitude to contribute authentically.
What leadership qualities are most important to you?
Do these qualities reflect you as a leader?
Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational coach, and longtime communications and change management professional.