14 Traits That Make A Good Leader
If You Want To Know What It Takes To Be A Great Leader… Ask A Marine
They’d Simply Tell You: “J.J Did Tie Buckle”
Business owners and managers often forget or fail to recognize the difference between a boss and a leader. You may think that they are both synonymous but the distinction is in that leaders lead while bosses drive. A leader inspires and is worthy of being followed while a boss directs and is worthy of being listened to. At times they may perhaps both accomplish the same goals similarly, but for employees more often than not the quality of work they perform , dedication to that work, and pride in doing said work will typically be much greater for those who are being lead as opposed to bossed around. Simply put a leader sets themselves apart by being an example while a boss only sets or makes examples.
Now that the difference between a boss and a leader has been made clear, the more important and specific question to ask is how to become a great leader? Because as you can assume, not all leaders are created equally. Some are better than others and it is critical to understand that the qualities and characteristics of a leader are indeed created. Certainly there are a few naturally born attributes which can help to become a better leader, but overall leadership has to be learned, no one is a “Natural Born Leader” contrary to that commonly heard statement. The reason for this comes down to the simple fact that you must first learn to follow before you lead. In essence, great leadership is developed through nurturing much more than it is acquired through nature. It is developed through conditioning and does take quite a bit of work to accomplish. You certainly won’t simply read this piece and be a better leader. You must practice daily and continually strive to be great. It is only in this way that anyone can successfully become a great leader.
Now when you think of leadership and people both willing and wanting to follow certain individuals that they trust, value, and respect… your thoughts will no doubt drift towards the military. After all, quality leadership must be inherent within any military organization for it to run effectively and smoothly. By default, quality leadership is important to having an organized, competent, and effective military. Not surprisingly considering quality leaders are required, the United State Marine Corps has created a list of 14 Leadership Traits that every Marine is expected to work towards in becoming both great leaders, but great followers as well. These 14 traits are thoughts and actions that help Marines to earn respect, confidence, and loyal cooperation from their fellow Marines.
So what can business owners and managers expect to take away from learning leadership qualities from the Marines Corps? Absolutely everything! The Marine Corps understands the specific attributes that make great leaders and has refined its process of cultivating those attributes in an individual down to a science. Why should we trust the Marine Corps ability to create quality leaders? Because they’ve been specialized and have become experts in creating great leaders since 1775, the year the Marine Corps was first introduced. There are few other organizations with the heritage, history, and expectation of excellence that the U.S Marines Corps has. Therefore, most of us should certainly defer to their expertise.
So without further ado, let’s go over the 14 traits that make for great leaders. Each trait will be explained and examples of how to develop it will be given. It should be noted that of course not all of these traits must be mastered, and not all people appreciate each trait as much as another. The main goal is to be aware that each trait exists, understand that a “great leader” is in the eye of the beholder and great leaders differ in their qualities. They are respected for different reasons. You’ll realize through the daily practice and implementation of these traits that some of them come more naturally while others are perhaps a bit more allusive and difficult to attain. That is normal. No one expects perfection… just the daily work and progress towards becoming something better than you were the day before.
14 Traits That Make For Great Leaders
J.J Did Tie Buckle
The Marines came up with the clever acronym “J.J Did Tie Buckle”. Each letter represents the first letter of one of the 14 leadership traits on this list. Remembering and reminding yourself of each of these is important for embodying the overall principals of being a quality and great leader. Next time you wonder at whether you’re being a good leader or not, repeat J.J Did Tie Buckle to yourself and go through each point. Judge yourself, you’ll no doubt quickly recognize any problems or discrepancies that exist so long as you are honest. It is then up to you to decide how hard you will work to correct those issues and how great of a leader you truly care to become.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
Definition: Justice is the continual practice of being fair. Regardless of the situation or problem, a just person will take into consideration all sides of a story and only then decide whether to reward or punish.
Improvement: Avoid favoritism in the work place, employees catch on to this quickly and it severely hurts moral. Make sure to treat every person, whether customer or employee, underling or supervisor, with absolute respect and dignity. Be honest with yourself about why certain decisions were made, if you ever believe the wrong decision was made, own up to it, apologize, make amends, whatever you have to do to right the wrong. The more truthful you are about the decisions you make the better you will be able to introspectively view yourself with an unbiased lens. And justice, most importantly, is never… ever… a dish best served cold. Justice is not to be guided by emotions. That goes directly against what being just means because emotions often cause us to do things aside from what is absolutely right. If you are ever concerned that you are not being fair or just for some reason, take a moment to clear your thoughts as well as quell any biases that may be lingering and affecting you. Truly consider what would be considered fair. Injustice doesn’t seem like something that would be naturally inherent within many businesses, but injustice comes, and builds up, in many forms. Preferential treatment of employees. Pointing blame where it is not due. Not giving credit where it is due. Racism, sexism, religious intolerances… the list goes on. Now individually most injustices can be made right with relative ease and little backlash, especially if the correction is prompt. But cumulatively over time, if numerous injustices are occurring, and worse yet if they are unknown to the leader either due to negligence, ignorance or otherwise they will build up to a critical mass that can have any untold number of disastrous results. Anything from low moral and being generally discontent to high employee turn over rates and even criminal acts such as theft.
You have to remember that when people view the scales of justice to be imbalanced they are likely to put weight on one end to even them out. This is especially true when the injustice directly affects them. So when you notice an employee being overly leisurely or taking certain liberties with their employment, such as: longer lunches, numerous sick days, slow performance, showing up late, leaving earlier, complaining to other employees, being seemingly agitated when bothered and so on, chances are, you can trust, that they’ve felt these scales of justice were a bit imbalanced in another regard against their favor. This injustice can take many forms and is not always financially driven, and that point is important to keep in mind. But after all, it’s quite clear and relatively obvious when employee moral is high, work ethic strong, and everyone is overall passionate about doing their job. If a job was just, for any and every job, there would be no room to complain and the scales of justice would be perfectly balanced and even. So when it is obvious to both leader as well as subordinate that the scales are swinging wildly, in constant agitation, how could anyone respect yet alone follow a leader that allows for that? It’s absolute mayhem. That in itself shows a lack of leadership, bedlam should not be erupting within the ranks. And even if somehow a leader were completely innocent, even if he acted with his best possible intentions and still somehow failed, it still reflects poorly on the leader. That is in itself the problem of being a leader in general. It’s hard to be king as heavy lies the crown.
“You can develop good judgment as you do the muscles of your body – by judicious, daily exercise.” ~Grenville Kleiser
Definition: Judgment is the ability to think, consider, and judge with a clear and calm mind so that good and accurate decisions can be made.
Improvement: In business making rash decisions is a rather obvious mistake most managers and owners can recognize and avoid. They understand that if they’re worked up, upset, tired, depressed, or rushed they may not exactly be able to devote all of their mental faculties to solving a problem with honesty, accuracy and efficiency. So they take a break, rest, and clam down before big decisions must be made. But for many the problem actually lies in recognizing the multitude of biases and logical fallacies that plague each of our minds unknowingly everyday and severely affects our overall judgment. The topic of logical fallacies is far too large to cover here (though we have covered it elsewhere), but in essence if you want to make unbiased, accurate, and fair judgments about anything, you need to watch out for any cognitive errors and missteps in your thinking. In short a logical fallacy is simply believing, for any varying degree of reasons, that something is true when it was actually false. The importance and impact of logical fallacies makes them well worth learning. The hard part is that though many are known, documented, and recorded… the only way to know your own cognitive missteps is through judicious self examination and introspection. An individuals ego is hard to overcome, especially when they’re ego is telling them everything is fine.
“Without dependability one’s ability may be a liability instead of an asset.” ~Woodrow Wilson
Definition: Dependability is the quality of being trusted and relied upon to complete the duties and jobs expected of you. A person will also be viewed as more dependable when the duties and jobs completed are undesirable, stressful, or even dangerous. Dependability is the basis of trust.
Improvement: It’s likely not hard for most business owners or managers to remember a time when they were let down by an employee. Either for being consistently late to work, failing to complete a project on time, or even for remaining an employee. As expected employers do indeed depend on their employees. But conversely, and perhaps a little less obvious in this regard, employees depend on their managers. When a business owner or manager misses scheduled meetings, goofs up on payroll, or worse yet, points the finger of blame in the wrong direction rather than taking responsibility… this degrades the value of a good leader. Make sure you can be relied upon and trusted to perform the tasks and duties set before you. Don’t attempt to preform more tasks, do more work, or fill up your day with more than you can reasonably expect to accomplish. It’s a hard sell to claim someone is not dependable when you yourself are not dependable either. The importance of understanding this is that you must lead by example, don’t be hypocritical by becoming upset when others are late or missing when you yourself are often late or missing. Of course that is the luxury of being a manager or owner and you of course may have legitimate excuses and even a right… but as far as being viewed as a good leader by your employees, well often times they simply don’t see it that way if they are unable to depend on their managers and then are expected to be dependable themselves.
“Genius is initiative on fire.” ~Holbrook Jackson
Definition: Initiative is the ability to take useful and meaningful action without guidance, orders or help from others. It is also the ability to be resourceful and creative when solving problems with a lack of expected materials or methods available.
Improvement: There is nothing more discouraging to an employee than raising a concern, offering a solution, or simply asking a meaningful and impactful question only to have it disregarded or ignored. When an employee voices their opinion, a great leader takes those opinions seriously and acts promptly. This not only shows respect to the employee but proves you as a manager or owner actually value their input. Great leaders avoid being listless, lazy, and unmotivated. They take action not because they want to, but because it must be done. Even what could be considered minor events or factors can make a big difference in how you are viewed as a leader. Did you notice an employees birthday coming up and has anything been done to celebrate it? Have you noticed an employee having a hard time in some way, perhaps complaining of sitting in traffic on the way home? Can you offer to let them leave earlier or even later to help alleviate the stress of having to sit in traffic daily. Does an employee complain about the time it takes to produce monthly reports and have you looked into ways to reduce or refine the process for their sake? Essentially when a leader does something unexpected for an employee and takes initiative to solve problems that have yet to be voiced (complaining is different than expecting a solution) or have even been raised as a concern, this shows you are looking out and actually care. It shows you are aware and alert, which in the end, is absolutely necessary for possessing initiative. How do you act if you don’t know what exactly to act on?
“The way to develop decisiveness is to start right where you are, with the very next question you face.” ~Napoleon Hill
Definition: Being decisive is the ability to make good and accurate decisions without delay. Sound decisions are made based upon facts, not assumptions. Being a sound decision, decisiveness also embodies the characteristic of being resolute. Once a good, accurate, and sound decision has been made it should remain that way and a good leader is unwavering.
Improvement: Nothing will dishearten employee moral more than a leader who is often uncertain about their decisions. This is especially true if those decisions immediately determine certain tasks to be completed. Nobody enjoys doing work for nothing and without purpose or meaning. A common theme nowadays within organizations is the idea of transparency, which can be both meaningful and positive overall. But if it can be avoided, attempt to keep uncertainty to yourself or at least to those who need to know. This of course diminishes the idea of transparency. But if it’s not needed, there is no reason to raise alarm or concern. If able, you can also change the perception of uncertainty into an opportunity by viewing it as it actually is, a problem that needs a solution. This is all to say, you can still attempt to be decisive in your indecisiveness, which then doesn’t neglect this trait of being a great leader, but rather embodies it.
In all of your actions and decisions you should at least appear to be confident if you cannot actually be. Trust, along with Dependability, relies upon confidence. How can you trust a leader that is not confident in themselves? Furthermore timeliness is important. Making employees wait around for a final decision raises doubt and concern in the least. In the worst it may result in idle time. Causing employees to twiddle their thumbs rather than be industrious. And as the age old maxim goes… “The devil finds employment for the idle”. All in all the time you waste making a decision as a leader wastes your employees time as well, which they will no doubt find a better use for. Also always remain confident in your decisions, because your decisions should be based on logic, facts, and reason. They are therefore worthy of being trusted and having confidence in. That should be your guiding light, your lighthouse you keep your gaze fixed upon in a turbulent sea when you have doubt about your own decisiveness.
“Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.” ~Isaac Newton
Definition: Tact is the ability to deal with employees that help to maintain good working relationships and avoid problems in the future. Tact means remaining kind, polite, courteous, calm, and civil in all discourses all the while staying firm in your beliefs. It is the art of “Getting To Yes” without quarrel.
Improvements: This should go without saying, but Tact boils down to treating others as you would like to be treated. Even more accurately it would mean treating others as they’d like to be treated. Though that is much more difficult to know so we rely more on our own social experiences to guide our daily interactions with other people. But a good leader helps to develop their tact in a number of ways. For starters you can attempt to be cheerful when in negotiations, starting in a good mood is better than starting in a bad one. Check your emotions prior to speaking with someone, if you have a moment do your best to breath, calm down, and gain a level head. If you can go further, attempt to go from calm to happy. Take a walk, stretch, or even just quickly eat a cookie. Anything that you know helps to elevate your mood should be done. No one wants to talk to a grouch or someone in a bad mood… that much we all know for certain. If your discussions do become heated because of the topic, just remember that the words you use, the emotions you evoke, and messages you send across stick. First impressions aren’t the only ones to last and you’d hate to sully a relationship because you couldn’t see eye to eye on some minor point. Even if you believe the point to be major, it is minor in comparison to working relationships and even more so to your own reputation. You’d hate to be the person known as a “Stone Wall” in meetings who is also considered rude, short fused, inconsiderate, and generally discontent. Who wants to do business with, be lead by, or befriend someone with those characteristics?
“A single lie destroys a whole reputation of integrity.” ~Baltasar Gracian
Definition: Integrity is the ability to remain honest and truthful in what you say or how you act. Morals, ethics and a strong sense of duty guide a persons overall integrity.
Improvements: The absolute best possible way to keep your integrity in the business world is to be frank, candid and remain honest at all times and in all dealings. Speaking the truth, even when it’s hard to hear, is much more appreciated than hiding it. Also people understand that half truths are whole lies, so if you can’t tell the whole truth don’t say anything at all. Lying and contorting the facts is worse than omitting them, even if only by a small margin. This is especially true if the lies are found out and brought to light. You should always not only stand up for what you believe is right, but make yourself heard as well. It’s a hard thing to recognize but people often can’t say all that they mean nor do they mean all that they say. Whether through miswording, miscommunication, or misunderstanding… a persons integrity can be compromised if their stance is not made both clear and known. For instance, if an issue of workplace harassment has been raised, taking no action at all against it is equal to condoning it. If you overhear someone making a racist joke or comment, not calling out the offense is allowing for it. Integrity is having backbone and standing firmly behind your own convictions and beliefs regardless of the potential backlash that may come. More than anything… integrity means to be a person of your word and continually remaining just. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
“Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” ~Pele
Definition: Enthusiasm is the sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duties or tasks. Remaining optimistic, enthusiastic, cheerful, and willing to accept the jobs and challenges that have been set before you.
Improvements: As a leader, there are two big problems that occur which diminish enthusiasm overall. The first is whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about performing some action. The more you doubt the chance of success, depending on the importance or severity of the task, the less enthusiastic you will be to perform it. The second, beyond chances of success, revolve around the interest in performing said task. Obviously if some job is dull, boring, or uninteresting you will not be as excited to do it. Fortunately, each of these problems, your optimism and interest, can both be monitored and positively altered. For starters, if you are pessimistic that performing some task is worthwhile, find the facts to quell any uneasiness you have moving forward. Employees don’t want to perform a task that their managers themselves don’t believe will help. It also hurts moral when an employee presents a plan that you are not as enthusiastic about as they are. If this is the case, demand more evidence that the plan they’ve created is worthwhile. Don’t simply doubt… find proof. Your enthusiasm will rise the more you understand as certainty naturally brings excitement. This is because knowledge is inspiring. It should also be mentioned that for some, uncertainty as well can bring excitement and wonder. This is because the pursuit of knowledge is also inspiring.
If in the end you realize that you were pessimistic for a reason, you lacked enthusiasm and the facts support reason for that, than you will likely devise a new strategy which you will be more confident in. Finally, you can’t rightly expect to be interested in everything surrounding your business or the one you manage. But that is what employees are for, it’s not a one person show. Assign tasks and duties according to not only skill sets but desire. One company has made an application out of the idea of finding the right person within an organization for the job, it’s called Clustree, and is a very interesting idea. But if you find that there are tedious tasks that you simply cannot become excited or enthusiastic about, find those that can. Furthermore, there should always be room for new growth and opportunity within an organization, whether to learn new skills or raise in rank. Assigning tasks based on interest is a great way to test other employees abilities and find out if there is any untapped or reserved talent available. You’d often be surprised at what people are skilled at or the knowledge they posses when they’ve been pigeonholed in an organization. Untapped power is often better and greater than what is known to be available.
In the end, the work will be more thoroughly completed, the employee will have greater job satisfaction, and you as a leader don’t have to “fake” being excited if those performing the jobs and tasks of a business both enjoy them and are enthused about them. This goes for leaders and subordinates alike. Again, you can’t expect to be interested in everything, but there are likely others who may be.
“The two powers which in my opinion constitute a wise man are those of bearing and forbearing.” ~Epictetus
Definition: A great leader keeps their bearings at all times and under any circumstance. “Keeping your bearings” is the ability to remain alert, competent, confident, and in control. In essence it is your personal conduct and the actions you decide to take. More specifically your bearings are tested and proven during troubling or hard times.
Improvements: The hardest part for anyone to improve their bearing is the fact that it can only truly be tested and tempered when things become difficult. As the sayings go, “A ship in harbor is safe but that’s not what ships are for and safe seas don’t make for good sailors.” For a leader to improve their bearing they must first wait for trouble to arise. Once it has, no matter the problem or issue, you must hold yourself to the highest standards you are capable of, those embodying each of these 14 traits of a leader. Never be content with being “average” and strive to exceed the minimum requirements in all your actions. Think before you act or speak and never make a move solely based off of assumptions, guestimates, or hearsay. Alertness is key to knowing when your bearings are being tested, you must be competent in understanding the best way to move forward, you must remain confident in your decision and stay in absolute control during these times. Strive to always remain calm and collected. One of the easiest ways to recognize when your bearings are off is when you feel lost, frustrated, and/or angry. These are also tell-tale signs for employees that your bearings are off as well which makes it all the more critical to keep them in control. A great leader doesn’t lose their temper nor do they make decisions based off of emotions. This can instill not only fear into employees, but worse yet… doubt in their leader.
“A wise unselfishness is not a surrender of yourself to the wishes of anyone, but only to the best discoverable course of action.” ~David Seabury
Definition: Being unselfish is the act of making others comfortable at the expense of or without regard to yourself. It is being considerate of others and giving credit to those who deserve it when it is deserved.
Improvements: The best possible way for a leader to demonstrate being unselfish is by not necessarily using their rank or power for personal gain. This is especially true if gains are made at the expense of others. When employees complain about low wages, paid vacations, sick days, or a lack of benefits and notices that upper management and owners are living lavishly… this does not bode well on the perceived selfishness of their leaders. Again, a great leader leads by example, they don’t make examples of nor do they set them. Great leaders practice what they preach. Now of course not all employees will receive the same pay or benefits. But if the disparity is too great or the discrepancies too numerous there will no doubt be a bit of uneasiness amongst employees. Perhaps even unrest. In everything a great leader does the most critical is simply putting others before themselves. Great leaders demonstrate selfless, austere, and Spartan characteristics. Don’t flaunt your success or the benefits of being an owner/manager. If anything, attempt to make yourself more equal with your employees and put them before yourself. This is quickly recognized by employees and is more appreciated than this explanation can give weight or credit to. Finally, and an important point about being truly perceived as unselfish, you can not be loud, boisterous, or brag about how unselfish you are. In fact, you should never mention or even bring up any unselfish or charitable acts as it devalues the act itself. No one likes a braggart, especially if your leader is one. Let your deeds speak for themselves.
Alternative Thought: It should also be mentioned (in a rather long way) that a great leader should certainly be viewed as unselfish, but there is a virtue to selfishness as well. This is a difficult topic to cover and understand, it is also largely debatable yet nonetheless an interesting idea worth exploring. But in essence, somewhat contrary to what has been written above, every action we take is actually selfish in nature. This is regardless of what that action was because no matter what an individual does, they do it in regards to the concerns of their own interests. If they didn’t want or prefer to do something, than it wouldn’t have be done. Even acts considered unselfish and altruistic are in the end selfish because the individual did them because they wanted to. Even if they didn’t “want” to do something, they did it because they couldn’t bear witness to the alternative, therefore they did it because they preferred to. Either way any supposed selfless act can be shown to be selfish in some form. The argument then being there is no such thing as being unselfish or selfless because all the we do we do for personal reasons.
Now this doesn’t mean there aren’t good people in the world. Kind, charitable, and sweet individuals. This isn’t to sound cynical. The reason this was mentioned is because a great leader must continually act with absolute best interests in mind, without regard to whether they are selfish or selfless. This is also possible considering even “unselfish” acts can be done with personal interests, and even gains, in mind. For instance, an employee appears to be burnt out after working long hours on a difficult project. A great leader would recognize this and offer some paid time off to relax, refocus, and reenergize. Of course in the meantime, the employee is happy to see his efforts have been recognized, he has been rewarded (in a sense) and it appears to be at the cost of the business. The employee in the end is overall pleased. But as a great leader you know that performance diminishes when an employee is tired or distracted. By giving him the paid time off for his hard work (unselfish act), you hope that when he returns he’ll be more focused and productive (selfish act). You as a leader will also be viewed as kind and understanding. This logic can be extended to every parameter of life and into every idea of anything being “unselfish” or “selfless”.
As a final example, and one which typically is considered the most selfless act there is; giving your life to protect that of another. Now you may wonder how anyone has anything to gain from forfeiting their own life. But if the hero was pushing a child out of the way of a moving car, a soldier was throwing their body on top of a grenade, or any other similar scenario, the hero was compelled to act because again, they could not bear witness to not helping or acting. They would much rather see themselves perish so they didn’t have to watch the same for someone else. This is indeed noble and honorable, but in regards to this argument, it is also selfish. That may be hard or difficult for some to accept, and is by no means a bad or negative thing. Really the entirety of the argument is that there is a negative stigma against the word “selfish” which makes people uncomfortable admitting to it. That for some reason we view taking care of ourselves before others a bad thing. But without people being selfish, in essence, our society, economic stability and everything in our lives would be significantly different. It follows the idea of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand:
“By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intend only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words ned be employed in dissuading them from it.”
The idea of a Virtue to Selfishness was a first brought about in a series of essays and ideas by Ayn Rand, for those that care to dive deeper into the subject. This idea doesn’t change anything except we are able to understand ourselves and our actions a little better. But in the end, what can be taken away from this idea is that a great leader is only perceived as being unselfish which was accomplished through performing selfish acts. A strange yet powerful concept worth both understanding and digging into further.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~Nelson Mandela
Definition: Courage is the ability to remain calm and collected while under the pressure of fear. Moral courage is being able to find inner strength in order to stand up for what is right and to accept blame or criticism when it is due. Physical courage is the ability to continue to function effectively when physical danger is present.
Improvements: Practicing self-discipline and remaining clam during lesser events allows you to more easily control the effects of fear when they arise during more problematic or difficult times. If there is anything specifically that you actively fear in your daily life, expose yourself to it and force yourself to face and control your reaction from it. Remember courage is gained and made stronger step by step over time. Few fears can be overcome in one fell swoop and the point is not to become fearless overall… but to conquer fears as they arise. Perhaps you’re afraid of speaking in front of large groups: Begin to have regular morning meetings where you are forced to speak in front of employees daily. Maybe you’re nervous about having a confrontation with other people: Speak your mind when your mind speaks to you. The more you’re able to speak honestly and from your heart during less difficult events, the more likely you’ll be able to speak up when it actually matters. Perhaps you’re afraid of failure itself: Well if you attempt to fail and succeed which have you truly accomplished? You should never fear anything that has yet to come as that only develops apprehension and the fear specifically may never truly come to fruition. Remember when developing courage, practice makes perfect. In all of your fears, each of them can be overcome and conquered if that is dutifully and diligently worked towards. Employees recognize courage in the sense that a great leader will do the right thing regardless of the situation, even if that situation is hard, in fact specifically so.
“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects the facts, reflection combines them, and experimentation verifies the result of that combination.” ~Denis Diderot
Definition: Knowledge is understanding and knowledge comes from understanding facts, experiences and information. The more topics you are intimately familiar with the more knowledgeable you will be perceived to be.
Improvements: Knowledge itself is power, which is great, but more importantly it doesn’t end there. Wisdom is then the ability to correctly apply knowledge, while insight is our deepest level of “knowing”. Insight is essentially what we often refer to as our intuition. Intuition is an odd sensation when it arises, to feel you just know something to be true even though you have no evidence or proof that something is occurring. The problem however with intuition is that we are so “wise” in that moment, and trust our “wisdom” so much, that we don’t attempt to actively observe, reflect, or experiment to further our understanding. We just believe we know. We’ve experienced a particular situation or something similar so many times before, we’ve previously spent the time observing, reflecting, and experimenting so much that in these certain moments we don’t believe we have to think any further to increase our awareness or understanding. The reason this is problematic is due to our inability in those moments to decipher intuition from confusion. When we think we intuitively know but actually don’t is dangerous because it can feel the same, both being odd in that you believe you know better in that moment but don’t exactly know why. Sadly, in the moment, it’s not something that is easily overcome. The best safe guard against this actually comes down to knowledge itself, as knowledge is also knowing what you don’t know as well. If you actually know you aren’t familiar with a particular topic, subject, person, or thing you can predict confusion will arise before intuition does.
A great example of intuition is for highly rated and professional chess players. During any given move there are thousands of combinations and move orders to sort through to determine what’s the actual next best move, millions at times even. To go through each move individually would take forever. Great chess players often don’t calculate all of their moves ahead, even though some have been famed to do so and can accurately imagine a position upwards of 10, 20, or 30 moves (depending on the difficulty of a position). Rather than calculating, they intuitively understand positions, having practiced and seen them so many times before. Pattern recognition is the name of the game, once you learn the patterns, intuitively you understand positions much better. You then don’t have to go through every possible move because you know intuitively that only a few are worth looking into based on the current pattern. This of course is a skill that is refined continually and made better and for those that care to know an “intuitive chess player” is often called a “positional chess player”.
In the end, there is only one sure fire way to gain knowledge and that is through learning. Specifically to your business, you should gain as much knowledge about the associated and related fields as possible. The more you know, the greater the leader you will both be perceived to be as well as actually be. This is especially true if you can perform yourself or help with specific tasks for other employees. Essentially, a great leader can display that they can come down from their top floor offices into the trenches, roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and do the work that needs to get done as well as anyone else. Even in the sense of simply rubbing elbows with your subordinates, it will be appreciated. If you display that your knowledge meets or exceeds that of those you lead, than your perceived value as a leader will be heightened. However what makes it worse is if an employee knows their leader is capable of helping, that their knowledge would be useful at a certain moment, yet does nothing to help or doesn’t make themselves available. So not only is being knowledgeable important, but using and portraying that knowledge in a positive and useful manner is as well.
“Employee loyalty begins with employer loyalty. Your employees should know that if they do the job they were hired to do with a reasonable amount of competence and efficiency, you will support them.” ~Harvey Mackay
Definition: Loyalty is the ability to continually give unwavering support and allegiance to a person or institution.
Improvements: Loyalty, as it should naturally be, is an extremely hard trait to gain from people. The only way to build loyalty is through gaining trust. Loyalty comes about and grows from being certain in your trust and beliefs about someone or something. And one of the best ways to build trust with someone is to openly display your own loyalty to them. Again a good leader has to lead by example, and in the case of loyalty that means being loyal to those that follow you from the start, regardless and without bias. You can’t expect blind loyalty from subordinates nor should you want it. However conversely you must be loyal to every individual that follows and is led by you. The “blind loyalty” from a great leader is owed to those that follow them until that loyalty has been found to be misplaced or unwarranted. This may seem counter intuitive but the building of trust to grow into loyalty has to start somewhere and we already know a great leader has initiative, courage, is unselfish, dependable, and enthusiastic. All of which points to a great leader taking the first steps in building loyalty. Since loyalty is built, if it has a good foundation to stand on, it can be expected to better withstand the many tests against it to come.
Fortunately there are countless ways you can help to gain the trust and loyalty of those that follow you beyond being loyal first. But there are also things you can avoid doing which help as well. For starters, you should never speak poorly or unfavorably about anyone openly. You can voice complaints if they are valid, but if criticisms aren’t with the expectation to be constructive, they shouldn’t be mentioned. When someone who is loyal to you witnesses you being disrespectful to another person you’re leading or are being led by, they begin to question what else you might be saying or believing. Essentially forcing them to question you. Then there is the all too obvious problem that if the person you’re complaining to is more loyal to the recipient of the complaints, than your words are negatively affecting two people rather than just one. Also talking about people behind their backs is overall viewed as rather unseemly, so it should be avoided altogether. You can always expect that eventually someone is going to make a mistake and a good leader never points the blame anywhere but to themselves. In the end, any problem to arise is the fault of the leader. Whether through oversight, negligence, ignorance, or stupidity… if an employee goofs up it is in some way the leaders fault. Now of course this is taking that concept pretty far, but the quickest way to gain the loyalty of anyone is to take a bullet for them. Plain and simple. Take the heat or burden of their mistakes and they will be more than loyal to you, they’ll owe you as well. Now of course this can’t be expected to repeatedly occur, but save someone from their own mistakes once or twice and they’ll work smarter and harder than they did before. You’ll gain both their loyalty but also a better employee.
“Come what may, all bad fortune is to be conquered by endurance.” ~Virgil
Definition: Endurance is a leaders ability to withstand mental, emotional and physical fatigue, pain and stress.
Improvements: Similar to a leaders Bearing, Endurance can only be made stronger and better through practice and experience. In the business world, physical endurance really only becomes a concern in the sense of how long you can stay physically active as a manager or owner. Essentially how many hours can you effectively work and for how long you can keep that up. Endurance for a business leader will likely not entail doing any activity that is overly physical or exhausting. Though if the business involves doing physical labor that may indeed be the case. But for most businesses, leaders need to be concerned with mental and emotional endurance as these will likely be the most tested on a day to day basis. Again, in order to improve your endurance you need practice and experience. Physically speaking, training endurance is rather easy to accomplish and straightforward. Typically revolving around a healthy diet, hydration, exercise, and proper sleep.
But training your endurance emotionally and mentally is a bit more of a difficult task to accomplish. Emotional endurance is being able to remain calm, collected, and even-keeled when stressful events arise and persist. Mental endurance is being able to effectively use your brain power for an extended period of time. Your mental faculties must remain intact and at optimal processing power. The more fatigued your mind is, the less able you will be at performing mental tasks. Your emotional endurance is likely the most difficult to train and strengthen because something emotional must happen, where you thereby withstand it’s affects and become stronger. And knowing that, it’s hard to create an emotional scenario to train with, rather, you have to wait for them to arise. Mental endurance can be made stronger by playing games that stimulate and exercise the mind. Though on a day to day basis, your mental endurance is likely tested enough simply from your job alone. You can however further train yourself through the use of mental brain-games. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Chess, Tetris, even sites like Luminosity offer cognitive training. If you want to train your mental endurance in a more useful manner… learn a second or third language. One free website that is great for learning another language is called DuoLingo, where you can learn Spanish, English, Danish, Irish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Dutch. It’s a pretty great resource.
Finally, it should also be mentioned that endurance in all three of these areas is interconnected and affected by each of the others. Being physically tired (perhaps simply being out of shape) reduces your emotional and mental endurance. Being mentally tired, physically you may not have the energy you need to continue since your brain is sapping it all up and emotionally you don’t have the mental power to work through your feelings and resolve them. Being emotionally tired, well this is perhaps the most difficult type of fatigue to overcome. Being depressed, sad, and overall discontent kills not only your energy but also your physical and mental ability. A depressed person has a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, dressing themselves, showering, leaving the house. A depressed person has limited mental faculties simply because their thoughts are swarming with other problems and concerns. Their attention is always being grabbed and torn away. But in the end, and as a great leader, your overall endurance should persevere through any number of hardships. Whether being physical, emotionally, or mentally tested, you should never come to exhaustion. The reason for this is that well before that state comes about, you should have taken a break, drawn away to rest and reenergize. A great leader in other words, knows when to take a knee. Taking a break is not the same as quitting, and endurance does not mean running yourself ragged in an attempt to keep up with all that is occurring. Of course endurance means having stamina, but every person has their limits. A great leader not only understand their limits, but respects them as well.
By now it should be understood that there are a wide variety of traits which make for a good leader. Hopefully it is also understood that no person will be able to perfectly achieve each of these traits, and in fact that is not the point to strive towards. Great leaders are such because they are also individually unique in their traits, just as greatness cannot also be common place, there are no two leaders that will be identically the same. Each has their own positive characteristics and virtues while also having their own vices and problems. The idea is to be aware that these traits exist and to simply do the best you can, continually everyday. If you notice an area that can be improved, take initiative and improve upon it. Don’t shy away from doing personal and individual work as first and foremost a great leader can properly lead themselves. As who is expected to be a great leader that can barely follow their own directions? Remember, make yourself an example for all others to compare themselves against. Don’t set examples or make them from something else… be them. Make yourself the standard and you’ll know, in the least, the exact standard that has been set for everyone else.