Leadership Traits: 5 Things Great Leaders Do
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Leadership Traits: 5 Things Great Leaders Do

Are you a great leader or an "at risk" failing leader? How do you know? What would your staffers say? What would your own supervisor say?

"While there is a seemingly endless list of things to consider when asking yourself 'how am I doing?,' it's prudent to specifically focus on your attitudes and behaviors," says leadership authority Roxi Hewertson, President and CEO of the Highland Consulting Group. "These are the biggest differentiators between great leaders and failing leaders because they demonstrate the four core emotional intelligence metrics: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. These four factors are directly correlated with attitudes and behaviors that work for you or against those in a leadership role."

As an expert who helps emerging and entrenched leaders excel, Hewertson details five winning behaviors and attitudes that show up consistently in leaders who succeed.

1. Read/understand own emotions and recognize the impact on self and others.
It all begins with the amount of emotional self-awareness you demonstrate, which others around you use as a cue. By developing an accurate view of, and aptly managing, your own emotional responses to situations--and the ways in which you impact others'--the rest of your skills and talents will be duly magnified and leveraged. Great leaders know what pushes their buttons. They know where their passions lie. They know how to manage themselves and others in times of high stakes emotion, crisis, conflict, and when backs are to the wall. Great leaders know their impact on others matters regardless of intent. Great leaders also pay close attention to their impact, regularly seeking feedback so they may recover gracefully when their impact and intent are not in synch.

2. Know one's strengths and limits.
The best leaders understand they can never know and do everything...and don't pretend that they do. Instead, they recognize what they are really good at and leverage those skills, spending time doing what they do best and continuing to learn in areas where they are not as accomplished. Great leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter and more experienced in areas of their own personal gaps. A great leader will assert, "Great question. I don't know the answer to that, so let's find a super star that does." When you understand what you know, don't know, and how you tick, you can more readily understand how to lead others to their highest potential, honoring their unique needs, motivations, strengths, and challenges.

3. Know and have a good sense of one's self-worth and capability.
There is a big divide between confidence and arrogance. Confidence comes from a strong sense of self-worth and self-awareness. Arrogance comes from fear in many cases and a sense of entitlement in others. The best leaders are very confident in what they know and can do from an objective view, rather than an assumed view. These leaders continuously test themselves to see what they are capable of, stretching and growing and learning. At the same time, great leaders tend to be grounded, centered, stable people who are calm during a crisis, and rock solid in modeling their core values, particularly under pressure. A sure sign of this quality is when others say, "I always know and respect where (s)he stands, even if I disagree."

4. Think and act with optimism - seeing the "upside."
There are two kinds of attitudes in the world--those who think and act through the lens of abundance, and those who think and act through a lens of scarcity. Attitudes shift throughout our lives for many reasons, and great leaders know the message they are sending about whatever attitude is current. Great leaders go for solutions, new ideas, and silver linings, even in the worst of times. They may change course, but they never give up. They thoughtfully navigate their staffers to a better place--often to places their subordinates didn't even know or believe possible. The best leaders will tell the truth even if the "sky is falling" and then shine a light on the path to get everyone to a better place. These are the leaders whose employees say "I would follow my boss anywhere."

5. See and seize opportunities for contributing to the greater good.
Despite conventional thinking, great leaders have low ego needs because of their solid confidence and self-worth. By not wasting time and energy to shine up their image, this kind of leader frees up energy and time to create something greater than themselves, often building a legacy that contributes to something far more important than their personal agendas. Great leaders have an achievement orientation that is laser focused on the greater good. The highest caliber set will say, "Win/Win or no deal." And, "How can we use our resources to achieve the greatest good?" They proactively look for ways to get the best for the most, even sacrificing their personal agenda to achieve a greater overall solution or result. Great leaders believe in a shared vision and continuously drive to the best outcome for the most people involved. These are the leaders people talk glowingly about long after they are gone from the job or from life.

Hewertson concludes, "Most leaders and others can learn, develop, and increase their own emotional intelligence. It takes assessment, self-motivation, learning, awareness, practice, and feedback. Improving one's emotional intelligence is a life-long journey--one that great leaders relish!" Next time Hewertson will review some not-so-great characteristics of leaders who don't thrive.

Leadership authority Roxana (Roxi) Bahar Hewertson has served on the executive front line for more then 35 years, revealing myths and honing truths as to what makes a leader successful in their role...or not. Revered for her no nonsense, nuts-and-bolts, tell-it-like-it-is approach, Hewertson helps both emerging and expert leaders boost quantifiable job performance in various mission critical facets of business, including service, sales, education/training, productivity, and profits, to achieve or exceed organizational and career goals.

Published: December 12th, 2012

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