“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius
Leaders amaze me. They amaze you too. In fact, they amaze all of us with their internal strength and the manner in which they withstand all surrounding pressure while still continuing to stay with their people. They have some kind of charismatic influence that inspires everyone with them to keep working. They strive to work against the tide and then to make it flow in their own direction.
Also, it is important to know that there are different types of leaders like the transformational leaders, the visionaries, the administrators, etc. and each demands a different personality traits. This makes it almost impossible to enlist all the traits of a leader. However, there are a few basic character elements demanded by all types, which are put down here:
Proactivity: It means tending to initiate change rather than reacting to events. This always has to be the first quality which makes the person a leader. Even Stephen Covey, the world-renowned trainer and writer, puts it as the first habit towards self-mastery. And when you can’t master your own self, how do you think of leading somebody else. Leaders must take full responsibility, first of their own selves and then of the group they lead. They must stop blaming their fate, or anybody else for any unwanted result.
Strong character: Leaders are men of strong character. A person’s observable behavior indicates his or her character. Though we can’t be sure when our character develops, we can definitely claim it doesn’t change easily. And leaders still don’t allow change if they know it’s right and for the betterment of their group.
Mind you, strong character could be good or bad, right or wrong. Gangs and terrorist groups too have leaders, though we find their beliefs detrimental for our society. As Woodrow Wilson says, “Absolute identity with one’s cause is the first and great condition of successful leadership.” And this stands no matter what the cause may be.
Courage: Whenever any tough situation arises, it is the battle on the inside that leaders have to fight. It is a battle with personal fears and insecurities that frightens anyone at the start. Only then do we have to face the fears of the outside world. And that takes courage. And this courage must be shown by a leader or the person can never be a leader.
Integrity: “Walk your talk” – that’s what integrity is all about. And this is what helps them display the confidence they have. All great leaders from Hitler to Mahatma Gandhi had a firm belief in their words, and they did what they believed in. Only then were they able to drive the whole country with them. They have an unbelievable ability to put words into action.
Self-motivated: A true leader can’t let himself cover his face and get bogged down when things don’t turn their way. Yes, it’s normal for things to go against plan and then to be a little bit carried away. But they can’t wait for somebody to come, hold their hands and uplift their spirits. Rather they should be so self-motivated that they can uplift someone else’s hand.
Yes, it’s a leader’s job! You are the one who must remain self-motivated all the time so that you can also put your team into high spirits.
Risk taking: Whenever we are trying a new plan, we are taking risk. We are not sure it’ll work or not. But we’ve to do it. Growth comes from that only. Most people avoid risks but not leaders. They have the ability to calculate the risk benefits and then to make decisions with confidence. Only then can the team expect to get into a better tomorrow. Something it didn’t have today!
“There is no such thing as a perfect leader, either in the past or present, in China or elsewhere. If there is one, he is only pretending, like a pig inverting spring onions into his nose in an effort to look like an elephant.” —Liu Shao-Chi —which means we must consistently strive to improve ourselves. And he is the actual leader who knows that he is not perfect. And can never be! Still, he/she ceaselessly tries to remove the imperfection
This article has been written with my own understanding of the most significant characters of a leader. It has also been pub. in my institute’s blog.