What Defines True Leadership
What qualities define a leader? Over the years, this question has inspired thousands of studies and incited countless debates. “More than fifty qualities have been identified that are important to leadership,” notes success expert and bestselling author Brian Tracy. “But there are seven qualities that seem to stand out as being more important than the others.” Each of these critical qualities can—and must—be learned through focused discipline, practice, and repetition:
1. VISION. Leaders can see into the future. They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish. How can an aspiring leader develop vision? “Begin with your values,” says Tracy. “What are the organizing principles of your business that you believe in and stand for? Based on your values, imagine the perfect future for your business. Once you are clear about your values and your ideal future, draw up a mission statement for your company with specific, measurable, time-bounded targets.”
2. COURAGE. Leaders are risk-takers. They are willing to move out of their comfort zones and initiate bold action with no guarantee of success. How can an aspiring leader develop courage? “Practice what is called the ‘continuous offensive.’ Dare to go forward in all circumstances,” says Tracy. As he also stresses, true courage requires patience: the ability to stay the course and continue to persevere, regardless of the obstacles or setbacks.
3. INTEGRITY. Leaders adhere to complete honesty in everything they do, both internally and externally. Truthfulness, the core of integrity, is the foundation of the trust necessary for the success of any business. How can an aspiring leader develop integrity? “Accept responsibility,” says Tracy. “Leaders continually remind themselves, ‘I am responsible.’ Leaders refuse make excuses when things go wrong. Instead, they make progress.”
4. HUMILITY. Leaders are strong, decisive, and humble. They have the self-confidence to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened and the self-awareness to admit that they don’t have all the answers. How can an aspiring leader develop humility? “Continually strive to get better,” says Tracy. “Learn from the people you meet and work with. Listen as much as you talk.” He also advocates devoting 30 to 60 minutes a day to reading in your field.
5. FORESIGHT. Leaders are good strategic thinkers. They have the ability to anticipate promising trends and potential threats, well in advance of their competitors. How can an aspiring leader develop foresight? “One of the best tools to help leaders anticipate both crises and opportunities is called scenario planning,” says Tracy. “Scenario planning gets you thinking about what could go wrong so you prepare for the future today.”
6. FOCUS. Leaders continually focus on the needs, strengths, and results of their business. Their job is to help every person on their team achieve laser-like focus on the most valuable contributions he or she can make. How can an aspiring leader develop focus? “Start by taking stock of your personal core competencies, whatever it is that you do extremely well,” says Tracy. As he assures, this positive focus will lead the way to focusing on the core competencies of the organization and becoming intensely solution-oriented.
7. COOPERATION. Leaders work well with others. They have a gift for getting everyone pulling together for the success of the whole enterprise. How can an aspiring leader develop cooperation? “Make a commitment to getting along well with each key person every single day,” says Tracy. Leaders who truly believe and show that people are their most valuable asset are liked and respected by everyone around them. What’s more, as Tracy points out, they don’t have to do all the hard work alone.