Top 10 Essential Qualities of Leadership
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." Warren Bennis
By George L. Rosario, CEO & Founder at GC Rosario Group
Needless to say, there are plenty of people who have adopted the title of "leader" who do not deserve that title. Many have abused the title because they have no idea what that actually means. Others simply took on roles in leadership to feed their own egos, wants and needs.
A leader is not necessarily a boss. As a matter of fact, all the greatest leaders I've met in my life detested being called a leader. They understood that a true leader serves the people he leads. He is not focused on his own self-interests but rather on the needs of the people he leads.
Leaders are responsible for shaping our nation, our policies, our communities, our families, our organizations and our marketplace. They are not called to shape these by force or with tyrannical practices, but rather with empathy, care, respect, and a serving heart. Leaders do not boss people around. Leaders lead through example.
I think it goes beyond saying that we need good leaders in our world today. We need good guides who can make large-scale macro and small scale micro decisions that will keep us moving forward in a positive, productive way.
Given the current temperature of society, you may have an easier time identifying a bad leader (because there are so many of them), than identifying a good leader (because there are so few).
What are the characteristics & qualities of a "good leader"?
After years of interviews and research, we've come up with these Top 10 Essential Leadership Qualities:
- Learning Agility
There are two definitions for integrity we would like to discuss. The first is, "the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness." A good leader must be known as an honest person have well defined moral principles. Our leaders at GC Rosario Group for example, will never omit the fact that they operate from a platform that is based on Biblical moral principles.
The second definition is, "the state of being whole and undivided." An integrity-driven leader does not behave wishy washy. A strong leader who operates from integrity is undivided and not easily swayed by divisive people, divisive policies or divisive rhetoric.
The importance of integrity in leadership should be obvious in the marketplace, in politics, in social groups and in our homes. Integrity is an essential leadership trait for the individual and the organization. Top-level executives, those who are charting the organization’s operational course should understand the importance of integrity. Make sure your organization reinforces the importance of honesty and integrity in its leadership if you expect it to have longevity in its field.
While one of the core responsibilities of a leader, delegating responsibilities effectively can prove to be difficult for some. Many imposters in leadership positions think that they can delegate away all responsibility and therefore get away with doing nothing while holding the title of leader. Remember that the best leaders are those who are servant leaders, who serve the organizations, the teams and the individuals they lead. So the goal is not to free yourself up of all responsibility, but rather to free up time so you can find other ways to serve your congregation in order to help it grow.
Delegation is a great way to enable your people to grow. Great leaders know how to facilitate teamwork by delegating responsibilities to team members. It gives every member ownership of the team by making them owners of important tasks. A great delegate provide autonomy for the people, which increases person's ability to act, make decisions and self-legislate or self-govern through his own values and interests, for the greater good. In other words, team members will do the right thing because they know it is the right thing to do, and because they know they have the authority to do so.
The best leaders build trust with their employees and team members in order to delegate more effectively, which brings us back to integrity. No intelligent individual will allow a leader who lacks integrity to delegate responsibilities. They will delegate them for the wrong reasons.
There are two directions to great communication:
1. Speaking Effectively:
All effective leaders are effective communicators. Effective leadership and effective communication go hand in hand. The greatest leaders are skilled in communication. They are able to communicate in a variety of ways. They are great at sharing information with the people who need to know. Great leaders inspire others others to take decisive actions by communicating the importance to do so. The greatest leaders are great coaches who effectively communicate strategies, knowledge, wisdom and information to the people they lead.
2. Listening Effectively:
I don't know where I heard it first, but I've used it numerous times. I know my grandmother used to say it so perhaps this is where I heard it first. God is so perfect that he designed us with one mouth, two eyes and two ears. This is because we are supposed to watch and listen more than we speak.
Great leaders are great listeners. They take the time to listen to their people. Great communicators have mastered the art of watching and listening before they speak. It's called reading the room. We don't walk into the room and start spewing information without first assessing what the room looks and sounds like. For example, a great communicator can see when a team is struggling to stay positive, and can then go into a monologue that motivates and inspires the audience to have a change of attitude and find something to be positive about. A great communicator will see a room where the crowd is motivated, happy and positive, and he will not lower the room's energy by speaking negativity into it.
Great communicators must be able to listen to, and communicate with a wide range of people. They must learn to use what they hear to drive what they say. They must understand how to listen to and speak to people in different roles, locations and departments who possess different skills and talents.
Your leaders' listening skills will directly affect the success and productivity of your organization. Pick leaders that are great listeners and you will have a great organization.
Not all leadership traits are focused on others. Self awareness in an inwardly focused leadership trait that is just as important to the organization's success as all the outwardly focused leadership traits are. Great leaders can look deep inside themselves. Self-awareness and humility are crucial to effective leadership.
The better a leader understands himself, and the better he is in touch with his strengths and weaknesses, the more effective leader he will be. Being self aware will help you connect with how others see you. It will help you work from your strengths and work on your weaknesses so that others will be able to connect with you. Do you know how other people view you or how you show up at work?
Little is much if God is in it. Faithfulness is the badge of heaven. Gratitude ties it all together. Giving thanks is something that is necessary in leadership. Being thankful will help your team increase in self-esteem, reduce depression, address anxiety, and will help everyone, from the newest member of the team to the organization's leader.
Gratitude will make you a better leader. In our consulting sessions without clients, and in our research for this blog post, we've heard something interesting from those we've spoken to; most people said they would work harder for and be more loyal to a leader who is appreciative. The best leaders express sincere gratitude in the workplace, in their organizations and in the marketplace.
So why is it that saying "thank you" has become such a rarity in the marketplace? Perhaps it is because we've lost the ability to communicate effectively with others. Perhaps it is because somehow, people think that a BOSS leader is better than a SERVANT leader, and that the BOSS leader doesn't have to say thank you when people do what they are supposed to do. Let's change that mentality. The greatest "bosses" I've ever worked for were people who knew how and when to say thank you. It was their genuine gratitude towards a younger, impressionable version of me that made me want to do more for them and be loyal to them.
Leaders are readers. Leaders are listeners. Leaders are studiers. Leaders are learners. Leaders crave knowledge and wisdom. You cannot be a leader if you are not a follower first. It is in your season as a follower that you learn how to lead effectively.
What is learning agility? It is the ability to know what to do in different situations. It is a set of skills that enable great leaders to learn something new in one situation (knowledge), and then apply it to another situation (wisdom). Leaders possess knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is the possession and understanding of information and data. Wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge correctly.
A great leader has the ability to learn, adapt, unlearn, and relearn to keep up with constantly changing conditions. In the marketplace, it is the guy that knew to shift his company's distribution format from 8-track cartridges to cassettes, then to cds and eventually to digital form. It is the programming company's IT professional who leads the shift from floppy disks, to flash drives, to external drives and so on. A great leader is not stuck in the past, but draws from past experiences to learn what to do in current situations. A leader who is a “quick study” and able to excel in unfamiliar circumstances, this leader is learning agile.
Whether good or bad, leaders are influential. We have learned about very influential, seemingly powerful leaders who were often great communicators, but who lacked integrity. Look at leaders like Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), Vlad the Impaler (1431-1477), Idi Amin (1952-2003), Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), Nero (37-68), Genghis Khan (1162-1227), Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989), Mao Zedong (1893-1976), Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), Pol Pot (1925-1998), and the Kims (not Kim Kardashian), Kim Il Sung (1912-1994), Kim Jong-il (1941-2011) and Kim Jong-un (born 1983). All of these leaders were influential, yet they lacked integrity.
We don't have to look at politics and world leaders to find bad leaders. Think about a job you've had where the boss was not a good leader. They had some type of influence, even if it was unethical, dishonest and lacked integrity. They might have been one person with you and not the same with the people who were in a position to promote them. These people had influence and misused their leadership positions.
Bad leaders make the word "influence” feel like a bad word. There is no need for it to be so. There are plenty of great leaders who have the anointing of influence over their lives who are worth following. There are plenty of leaders who embody all the characteristics of great leadership and who deserve to be in a position of influence.
Influence is not a bad thing. You have influence. Are you a parent? Are you a big brother or sister? Are you a spouse? Are you a teacher? Are you a student? Are you a mentor? Are you a mentee? Are you a driver? Are you a pastor/leader at your church? Are you a volunteer at your church? Are you a friend? Are you a living, breathing human being who will come into contact with another person? You have influence. What you do with that influence will either make you a good leader or a bad leader.
Please keep in mind that influence is not the same as manipulation. Influencing people through logical, emotional, or cooperative appeals is an important trait of effective leaders. If you want to be a good leader. you have exercise your influence authentically and transparently. You must be emotionally and spiritually wise and trustworthy. Influence is power. Wield it responsibly.
Put yourself in other people's shoes. Look at the situation through their eyes. Meet people where they are. Enter the situation at their level. Feel your people's pain. All of these are simply advising you to exercise empathy. Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Empathy is crucial in leadership. It will dictate your job performance, and the job performance of those you lead. Expecting someone to work the day after their spouse or child dies, or on the anniversary of the day they lost that loved one is not going to be at peak performance. A great leader is aware of these possible issues and prepares for them.
While writing this, I am still getting over the attack on my son's life. He was attacked after coming out of the movies with his girlfriend. The attack was a brutal one and warranted a trip to the trauma emergency room at Woodhull Hospital in Brooklyn New York. I was working closely with a client when the call came from my other sons that their brother was at the hospital being "worked on." At no moment did my client request that I put my compromised mental and emotional state to finish the task I had started to work on. On the contrary; he told me to go take care of the family and that he would hold my place until I got back. That is empathetic leadership. Thank you Patrick Powell at AXE Trailers & AXE Equipment Finance.
Empathy is a critical part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. When a leader shows his followers that he understands them and respects their needs and wants, if he lets them know he is an empathetic leader, he will create loyalty, dedication and a real desire for team members to remain members of the team as long as this person is the team's leader.
Great leaders are courageous. They don't let tough situations make them fold. They keep their eye fixed on the goal, and will work to overcome any obstacle with all the skills listed in this blog. They will not allow their own fears, worries or anxieties stop them from serving the members of their team.
A great leader will also transfer courage to the people he leads. He creates an environment and a company culture that welcomes team members to speak up, voice their opinions and be decision makers. They encourage new ideas, welcome feedback and give feedback to the organization's members without attacking them.
Great leaders do not avoid problems or allow conflicts to get out of control. Their courage enables them to step up, speak up, face the moment and move things in the right direction. They are not afraid of conflict, nor do they avoid it. They face it head on, with courage before them, and prove the importance of being a strong leader in the face of adversity.
Finally, great leaders have the courage to step up and fight for their team. They don't run when their team is being challenged or attack. They don't coward when a team member is in need of a protector. They use their voice, their knowledge, their wisdom, their strength, their experience, their position of power and their influence to step up to the plate and bat for the team.
I finish this blog with the 10th essential quality of great leadership. I believe that treating others with respect is one of the most important actions a leader can take. Respect for your fellow leaders and for the people you lead will ease tension, address conflict, welcome civil discourse, add accountability, create trust, and improve the effectiveness of the leader, and the team. Respect does not simply mean that disrespect does not exist. Respect has to do with the intentional practice of incorporating all of the previously mentioned qualities into the treatment towards others.
Respect is NOT a two way street. It is more like the New York City MTA Subway System. It's an intricate system of well traveled conversations and interactions between all the people involved. No leader should disrespect any team member, and no team member should disrespect the leader. Team members should respect each other at all times. Everyone should respect clients and outsiders. Leaders must not allow clients or outsiders to disrespect any team member. Leaders must respect other leaders. Your team must respect other teams. Veterans must respect newcomers. Newcomers must respect veterans. The CEO must respect the intern and everyone in between. The intern must respect the CEO and everyone in between.
CONCLUSION: How it all comes together.
Any successful leader will possess these essential qualities and have the ability to apply them at the right moment. The talent of great leadership is knowing how to leverage these 10 leadership characteristics to benefit the organization and the people who are being led. When a great leader comes along, they exercise a level of authority that is less bossy, and more approachable. These characteristics are the building blocks for successful leadership in organizations, industries, teams, governments and yes, even your home and personal life. Remove any one of these characteristics, and authentic leadership becomes unattainable.
If you or anyone you know struggles with any of these essential qualities of great leaders, you are not alone. Many people have reached leadership positions without earning their stripes along the way. Others simply have not been trained properly. Still others find that their struggle has a lot more to do with their own internal fears. At GC Rosario Group, we have proven trainings we can provide to make your organization's leadership more effective.
Leadership is not a natural talent for most, but rather a skill that can be taught and developed by other great leaders. We believe in the mentorship of leaders by other leaders. We believe in the passing down of knowledge and wisdom, and of the sharing of experience between great leaders. Great leaders never stop learning, growing and adapting their skills. In other words, if you are a leader, or you thrive to be a leader, you can strengthen any of these 10 qualities of a great leader by opening up to mentorship, training and the pursuit of self-improvement.
By the way, leadership does not require physical strength or big stature. It doesn't even require good looks, sex appeal or great charisma. To be a great leader, you need to simply know how to apply these 10 qualities to accomplish teamwork and cooperation so that together, everyone achieves more.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” President Abraham Lincoln
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
George L. Rosario, #GeorgeTheSpeaker
George L. Rosario is a Brooklyn NY born & raised businessman & entrepreneur turned consultant. He started GC Rosario Group with his lovely wife Claudia. With over 30 years of service to the marketplace in NYC, George has relocated and been graciously adopted by the business community of South Florida. He now travels the country helping businesses and organizations thrive in today’s noisy environment. The post-Covid era forced many to close their doors, but also opened new doors of opportunity, growth and prosperity for innovative thinkers. George & Claudia Rosario help companies, businesses, organizations and teams develop the necessary skillset and plan of action to not just survive, but thrive in this new world. GC Rosario Group helps both secular and Christian based institutions meet their goals. #GeorgeTheSpeaker #MayorOfNewYork #GCRosarioGroup #glrosario #NYCsHometownRealtor