11 Essential Leadership Qualities

When I talk to my colleagues in the Federal government, there seems to be a common theme around leadership or lack thereof. We seem to think that there has been a decline in the effectiveness of those in leadership positions. Many people in leadership positions have not demonstrated that they are sufficiently prepared for the positions that they occupy, nor display the qualities that we expect from leaders. Do you agree or disagree with this unscientific assessment?

Your Leadership Definition
When you hear the word leader, what comes to mind? Is it someone who motivates people to achieve high levels of performance? Is it someone who stays calm during adversity and challenging situations? Could your vision of a leader be of someone who puts the needs of others above their own? Does your definition include someone who looks for opportunities to learn and share knowledge with others? My definition of a leader is a combination of each of the four descriptions mentioned above.

For me, leaders are not defined by a title or position but by the qualities that he or she demonstrates. Effective leaders motivate others without needing to hold a position or title. Take a few moments to reflect on the best leaders. What qualities did he or they demonstrate? What things did they do best?

11 Essential Leadership Qualities
Here are the qualities that effective leaders demonstrate through their actions on a regular basis. They continuously improve their ability to do each.

  • Learning Agility

  • Integrity

  • Fearlessness

  • Technology Savvy

  • Flexible

  • Great Motivator

  • Change Embracer

  • Visionary

  • Strong Communicator

  • Collaborator

  • Accessible

Take the 11 Leadership Qualities Self-Assessment to identify your strengths and opportunities for improvement. Be honest...you are the only one who will see your assessment unless you give it to others to compare.

Are there some qualities that you think are more important than others? I believe that learning agility is the most important. According to Vicki Swisher in Leadership Excellence Essentials, presented by HR.com, learning agility is the ability to learn from experience in a consistent, systematic way and then apply that learning in new situations. This is the one quality that impacts your effectiveness to achieve the others. Without being able to learn from your mistakes and successes, you will limit your growth potential as a leader. What do you think are the top three qualities for leaders to be effective? Maybe your top three are not on this list.

Develop Strategies

It’s not enough to assess your leadership qualities without a plan that includes strategies to improve and enhance. You may think that certain qualities are characteristics that are innate and cannot be developed such as integrity or fearlessness, while others are easier to improve such as communication or technology savvy. You are actually right, although you can still achieve higher levels of effectiveness even in integrity and fearlessness. Here is how.

You have already taken the first step which is to determine your current level of effectiveness by completing the self-assessment that I shared or another type of leadership assessment.

Next, you need to set clear and measurable goals of where you want to be. For example, do you want to improve your ability to motivate your team to goal achievement or increase your level of confidence to your staff.
The next step is to create blended learning strategies that include formal and informal activities. In other words, do not just include training. Many of the 11 essential leadership qualities are best developed by experience, so be sure to include activities such as shadow assignments, developmental assignments, and opportunities to use leadership skills.

After you have determined your current level of effectiveness, set goals, and created blended learning solutions, you need to think about what success looks like. For example, what will it look like when you are a more effective collaborator.

Next Steps
I created a tool to assist you in creating a plan for development. It’s called My Development Plan. Whether you are currently in a leadership position with a title or not, you will be in a leadership role at one point in your career or another. You owe it to yourself to develop your leadership effectiveness which will ultimately improve your performance.