Real Leaders

30 Characteristics of Future Leaders

Leadership is inherently viewed as positive and good. The reality, of course, is something quite different. There are good leaders and there are bad leaders, male and female. There are those who believe that any action by leaders is better than no action at all. This is wishful thinking and absolute nonsense.

If leaders make bad decisions, those actions paralyze the organization, its members, and damage the public and society in many cases. If bad leaders are not told by their followers that they are bad, they will continue to be bad leaders. In the absence of genuine visionary leadership, people are willing to listen to anyone who is willing to step up to the microphone. It’s time we pulled the plug on bad leaders.

Bad leadership will not, cannot, be stopped or slowed unless followers take responsibility for rewarding the good leaders and penalizing the bad ones.

So, what are the personal characteristics of future leaders? Here are thirty personality traits that have been identified as being effective for good leadership:

  1. Are enthusiastic, positive, and passionate: good cheerleaders. They are positive about followers power to “envision and create their future” – which is not defined by the past and present of the leader.
  2. Are highly competent, seek continuous improvement, and embrace opportunities that no-one else wants to latch on to.
  3. They want to be in the hot seat! People in positions of leadership who don’t want to be there and embrace the opportunities and challenges will lead the organization to that infamous place known as mediocrity.
  4. Are visible examples and role models to everyone around them… willing to do anything that they ask others to do. They understand “you never have a second chance to make a first impression.”
  5. Leaders have and demonstrate integrity… personal and professional.
  6. Leaders recognize astutely that their power is only strengthened by reciprocal empowerment of those they lead and influence.
  7. Are willing to be seen as colleagues in meetings, letting go of some of the “trappings of power.”
  8. Make a habit of reflection and systematically review personal and unit performance; they develop reflection as a personal habit.
  9. Pay attention to their organization and watch for changes and retrenchments.
  10. Establish social functions and traditions, such as, retreats, informal gatherings, lunches, banquets, and other social symbols that provide social cohesion and common unit experiences – and even a sense of fun.
  11. Appreciate, value, and have faith in the collaborative process – trusting that the group will find a solution that works for everyone.
  12. Scan the environment (internal, external, and macro) looking for patterns that may impact the organization and distribute those ideas to others; keep reconstituting relevant ideas and concepts, looking for common threads; create and recreate visions and scenarios in her or his mind, and shares ideas with others.
  13. Have a tolerance for ambiguity and are prepared to leap the gap rather than tiptoe from stone to stone.
  14. Focus organizational attention on areas where collective agreement exists.
  15. Are persistent: Don’t give up.
  16. Demonstrate patience – wait for group process to coalesce knowing that group processes take time and often come together and get things done at the last minute.
  17. Do not take themselves too seriously.
  18. Know their personal strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and perspectives.
  19. Value service.
  20. Are receptive to views that counter their own. Aggressively seek out individuals with perspectives and strengths that counter their worldview. 
  21. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to be able to see the world from multiple perspectives  – and respect differences
  22. Leaders must have an international/global view of society.
  23. Leaders will need skills in problem-solving, power-sharing and creativity. An ability to achieve results, communication and interpersonal skills, resilience, and ethics and values.
  24. Education is essential to remain competitive and on the “cutting-edge.”
  25. Future leaders need to learn to listen respectfully, consult with others, work as part of a team, and take responsibility for their actions.
  26. Leaders will need to be able to optimize today’s only constant: change. They will need to thrive on chaos.
  27. Leaders MUST have mentors and role models who can teach them how to manage the political nature of an organization.
  28. In the agricultural and industrial revolutions, units of power used to be land, labor, and capital. Today, in the technological revolution, units of power are information and knowledge.
  29. Leaders will need to be politically savvy and willing to make hard decisions.
  30. Being in the right place at the right time will still be critical for leaders. Leaders must create time to make themselves available for opportunities.

The original story first appeared in “Leadership Choices for the Future” by Don Olcott Jr., Darcy Hardy, and Theresa Madden of The Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany.

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