Career Skills Development: Five Qualities of a Great Leader
By Janeen Blanton

If you asked a dozen leaders what the most important leadership traits were, you’d probably get a dozen different answers. So rather than try to create an all-inclusive list or debate what is most important, I want to talk about five qualities that make good leaders great.

Humility.  I’ve always said that if you have to tell people how wonderful you are, then you probably aren’t.  Yes, leaders must be confident.  But leaders should not be arrogant. It’s much more effective to build credibility through conversation and personal interaction. And it’s ok to admit you don’t know something. Leaders don’t have to always know the answer – they just have to be able to get the answer.  You will ultimately gain more credibility by admitting you don’t know than by faking it.  A great leader also surrounds themselves with people who are smarter than them. You don’t need to feel threatened by this.  At the end of the day, it’s about accomplishing the goal together. 

Respect. Respect is earned, and to get it – you have to give it. Even when they’re driving you nuts. Even when you’re taking the hit for their mistakes. And yes, even when they’re not being respectful.  Take the high road, and lead by example. People need to know they matter – that their contributions are noticed and their ideas are valued.  Take every opportunity to listen, and to recognize successes publicly. But always handle corrections in private and with grace.       

Integrity. I always tell my kids that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  But as they get older they’ll learn it’s also when it’s hard, or expensive, or unpopular, or even painful. Integrity isn’t only about being honest. It’s about following through on commitments.  It’s about owning your mistakes and making them right. It’s about making the difficult decisions.  And it’s not always fun. If it was, everyone would be doing it.   

Positivity.  It’s easy to be positive when things are going well. But sometimes you have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Or month. Or quarter. Those are the times when you have to really look for the positives and move forward with optimism. If you are defeated, your team certainly will be. Now, I’m not talking about blind optimism here. I’m talking about taking a realistic look at the situation and focusing on how to make it right, rather than what went wrong; how to do better, rather than how you messed up; and finding a positive path forward, rather than dwelling in the misery.

Passion. Great leaders are passionate about their jobs, about their people and about seeing their people succeed. When I say passion, I don’t mean cheerleading. I mean a genuine belief in and commitment to what you’re doing, and a real investment of your time and talent into those you lead. It’s not a one-time pep talk. Rather it’s shown over time and through fire.  And the best thing about passion is – it’s contagious.

Think about the great leaders you’ve known in your life.  Do you see these traits in them?  More importantly – do you see them in yourself?

Please plan to attend one of six leadership track sessions at the June Conference!  Monday afternoon Kevin Ryan, National Director of The Regional Leadership Forum leads a session on “Value Driven Leadership”  which will explore how corporate values impact an organization and explores our reactions when those values are tested.

Janeen has been volunteering for IASA at the national level since 2009 and has served on the Technology, Career Skills and Chapter Advisory Committees.