Leadership is not a solo act.
Leaders need others to succeed. Not just followers, but other leaders who are growing and emerging as leaders.
This isn't the way we have traditionally looked at leadership.
The Usual Leadership Qualities List Includes
Charisma. Drive. Innovation. Courage. Integrity. Intelligent. Independent. Big-Picture Thinker. Achievement. Passion. Determination. Competence. Inspirational. Presence.
You've heard all these before.
In more recent years, we've also been hearing about the importance of vulnerability and transparency.
These are all admirable qualities. They are all characteristics we'd like to see in our leaders. We want to follow people we trust, people we admire and people who can get things done (the things we believe should get done).
What's Missing from the Usual Leadership Qualities List
There's a gaping void in this list. Maybe that's why there's a leadership crisis (or the perception of one).
Take a second look at that list of the characteristics commonly associated with leaders. Notice how they are all subjective conclusions that would be based on a leader's actions. The problem with subjective conclusions is that they depend greatly on the person drawing the conclusion.
It's easy, after the fact, to say someone showed courage. It's not a stretch to apply "big picture thinker" or "innovative" or "inspirational" to an individual who broke new ground or changed course. We don't apply those words to people who try and fail, only to those who are perceived as succeeding in making a change.
What's missing from this list is the quality that enables most of the other qualities on this list. It's the key that unlocks a leader's potential for being seen in these ways.
You'll Have an Advantage If You Put THIS at the Top of Your Leadership Qualities List
The one quality that makes it easier to acquire all those other qualities is humility.
Let's define that. It's a word that's often misunderstood.
Humility is NOT thinking less of yourself.
Humility is thinking of yourself less.
Ambitious individuals strive to become independent and to prove they are self-sufficient and eminently capable on their own.
People striving for a next-level title focus on achievements and proving themselves. They don't want to show any lack of knowledge, presence of competence.
Humility gets lost in the shuffle. Instead of accessing a deep well of humility to acquire these abilities, many leaders "fake it til they make it." They operate with a constant dread, a fear of exposure because they don't know as much as they've portrayed.
Due to a lack of humility, they never asked. They don't know because they masked what they didn't know instead of openly acknowledging the areas where they had opportunities to learn and grow.
Humility enables you to access others and tap into what they know and do and excel at. Humility requires vulnerability. It also builds trust and credibility. It bolsters self-confidence and courage. It makes you more capable because it expands your pool of resources, knowledge and input.
People who are genuinely humble and confident, too, have a magnetic charisma. Others know they will be given a chance to shine, too, when working with someone who is truly humble (but not misunderstanding that word to mean simply self-effacing).
If you've ever worked with a leader who prioritizes true humility as a top trait, you have had a rare and wonderful experience. This is the kind of role model we need more often in leadership.
What's on your list of leadership qualities to develop? Maybe we can help:
Deb Calvert is a certified Executive Coach, Certified Master with The Leadership Challenge® and architect of leadership development programs for nearly 100 organizations. She helps leaders at every level discover and achieve their leadership goals. Deb is the founder of People First Productivity Solutions, building organizational strength by putting people first since 2006.