Three Traits of True Leaders

Don't worry. These aren't the only three traits of good leaders, but they are what I would consider the most important.

Because leaders can make or break a culture, community or company. Or an experience. 

Why does my opinion matter? Well, I've spent the past 20 years working under some of the best and worst leadership and/or observing it from a distance (sometimes not far enough).  I've read about it and written about it for my advanced degree specializing in leadership, wellness and cultural change. 

In my previous career, I organized national conferences and often supervised 100+ volunteer leaders to host 10-day events. I've taught under several different middle school principals. I've worked for many managers in small companies and large corporations and basically, no matter where you go, people are. And where there are people, there are egos. And dysfunction. 

So what does it take to be a good leader? Is sincere interest enough?

According to "the research", the answer is no. Wanting to be in charge isn't a good indication. In fact, it's better to not possess the right traits of leadership than to have the wrong ones. It's harder to teach an old dog new tricks than it is to infuse a humble person with impeccability.

Some people are natural-born leaders in that they seek out opportunity, they are exceedingly well-organized and they want to be seen in some way. They have good ideas and they want to make a difference. 

But the flip-side of that can show up micromanaging, fixed-viewpoint and overworking. Burnout, confusion, complaining and triangulating. Inconsistency, reactivity and problem-saturated narratives.

Raise your hand if you've had a boss like this or have been this boss. 

So what's an alternative?


remember when we used real chalk?

remember when we used real chalk?

Here are three traits of true leaders, people who not only want to create a better "thing" but do it starting from the inside-out:

1) they have impeccable integrity. People confuse integrity with "doing everything". Integrity means intentionality with commitments and goals. Integrity means following through and being responsible for what fell short. Integrity means balancing a full but not overflowing plate. It means being forthright, honest and clear with communication. Personal integrity requires a keen level of self-awareness; acting from mindful and not conditioned or fearful behavior. Leaders with integrity are powerful works in progress, holding themselves accountable to their own flaws and limitations as well as their strengths.

2) they are fearless. Most people fear change. Leaders embrace it. They seek it out. You don't hear true leaders say, "that's how I've/we've always done it" or "that's how it's always been done". They understand their way is ONE way and not THE way. They welcome critique and criticism. They try things out anticipating failure instead of perfection. They make messes. They throw paint, or spaghetti, at the wall and watch what sticks. Fearless leaders feel the fear and do it, anyway. And they inspire others to do it, too.

3) they lead from love. It might feel weird to read the word love and leadership in the same sentence. Sit with the weirdness because, increasingly, more evidence shows that leaders who lead from their hearts--wanting themselves and everyone around them to thrive--excel both personally and professionally. People are smart, they see through ego-based facades and tricks to get them to fall in line. People rarely resist love over the long-term, because love doesn't bring expectation or ultimatum. People lean toward love, especially in the workplace where they spend 30-60 hours of their lives each week. Leaders who lead from love share openly, set clear boundaries, model open-minded thinking and perspective-taking. They create the beloved community because they know if they make it, people will come.

Leaders are often born but they can also be made, with the right tools and support. Contact me to see how I can help your leaders thrive to boost performance and wellness in your company culture. 

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