A quality is defined as an essential, distinctive or defining characteristic. Certain team lead qualities distinguish the most effective team leaders. They stand out because they display these distinctive team lead qualities.
In last week's post, we reviewed five essential (but surprising) skills for team leaders. This week, as our series on being a good leader continues, you can assess yourself on 15 team lead qualities that will make you a stand out. According to the research by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge® and the newly released book Learning Leadership, four items consistently rank highest when people are asked to identify the characteristics of leaders they admire.
Those four team lead qualities from the Kouzes/Posner research are:
Taken together, three of these team lead qualities parallel the primary ingredients for credibility. We believe sources when they are trustworthy (honest), have expertise in the subject-matter (competence), and display dynamism (are inspiring). As a team leader, these are your "price of admission" qualities, the ones that first enable others to consider you as a person they might willingly follow.
The fourth -- being forward-looking -- distinguishes a leader from all other credible sources. It's looking beyond the status quo that engages followers. A team leader who is going somewhere is more likely to enlist followers who support that forward motion.
Mike Sprouse, author of The Greatness Gap, offers five more essential team lead qualities.
The first of Sprouse's suggested qualities -- humility -- is a prerequisite for the other four he lists. Humility is not a sign of weakness, as some mistakenly perceive it to be. Instead, humility is a show of strength. It is the admission of limitations and the openness to continually learn and grow. Failing to acknowledge limitations is defined as pride (the real weakness).
With humility and the accompanying openness to learn, a team leader can more readily collaborate and empower others. The team leader who doesn't let pride get in the way will want others contributions and will see value in drawing out others' ideas.
To facilitate engagement and collaboration, this leader will also be highly communicative. That's 2-way communication, listening for others' ideas and feedback at all times.
Finally, humility makes it possible to operate with less fear. A prideful leader becomes a fearful leader, afraid to be exposed for what isn't know and clinging desperately to an unrealistic standard. By contrast, the leader who is more humble can experiment and take risks. By being open to learning and seeing the value in learning, this leader can understand the value of failure as a teacher.
The author of 18 Holes for Leadership, Nancy Clark, names these three team lead qualities.
Clark's selections illuminate the balance a strong leader must establish between self-awareness and other-orientation. Effective leaders aren't wrapped up in themselves, their egos or their own agendas. They do, however, possess an ability to understand how their words and actions impact others. They are thoughtful about how they will impact others.
Simultaneously, they are not manipulative. Even as they think through the impact their words and actions will have, they are genuine and authentic in what they say and do. With an intent to be supportive. they are able to genuinely calibrate how they respond to others.
John Maxwell's contributions round out this list of team lead qualities you may already be displaying.
Maxwell is the author of 13 books on leadership (which he defines as influence). Among the qualities of leaders that he believes are paramount, he offers these three that matter in keeping things moving forward.
The courage to act, even when afraid, sets strong leaders apart from others who let fear stand in their way.
Focusing on outcomes and doing what's best bolsters a leader's courage and commitment to act. Without focus, a leader bounces from one interest to the next, never really building momentum in any area.
Generosity also fuels forward motion. An effective team leader has generosity of spirit, giving others the benefit of the doubt, giving others trust and opportunities to grow. This leader is also generous with his or her time, available to coach and mentor people as they grow. By building people, this leader ensures long-term and sustainable success will result from the team's efforts.
How did you stack up in these 15 team lead qualities?
If you're like most leaders (whether titled or not, new to leadership or not) you already display some of these qualities. Recognizing why they matter may help you to display them even more often and more deliberately.
If you're like most leaders, there are some items on this list that you don't display as often. Making a conscious choice to increase your awareness and use of these qualities will help you to become more effective.
Leadership is largely a choice. All of these qualities are within your reach. They is nothing on this list that is reserved for a select few who were born innately able to do these things. You can choose to act in any or all of these ways. Doing so will require no special training or discipline. Each is simply a choice.
If you'd like to stand out as a team lead, don't bank on the authority that comes with a formal role. It won't guarantee success the way displaying these qualities will.
This is the third in a 4-part series about being a good team leader. To get the final post in this series, subscribe to the CONNECT2Win Blog. If you'd like to read the first post, "Being a Good Team Leader Requires THIS Above All Else," click here.
- Download this free eBook "What Is Team Effectiveness & How Can We Get Some for Our Team? Stat!"
- Sign up for free e-mail training for Emerging Leaders. You'll get 8 days of leadership essentials and follow-up activities to build your leadership skills.
- Learn how to make the business case for bringing leadership development programming into your organization. Watch this free, on-demand webinar.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, the company that helps you build organizational strength by putting people first. Book Deb today to speak at your leadership or team events, to conduct MBTI workshops to improve team effectiveness, or to work with you as your Executive Coach.
Editor's note: This blog was originally published May 2016 and has been recently updated..