Shaping a Leader

Leadership Traits


Is a leader born or made? What are the characteristics that a person who is looking to take up the leadership mantle possess? The blog answers all this and more.


Quite often, we hear people praise a person for his leadership skills – “He is a born leader!” they say. While it is true that some people are born with inherent leadership attributes, these are not skills that cannot be learnt by others. Even people who have natural leadership abilities learn along their journey as leaders and that willingness to learn, accept mistakes and improve is what can make a person a remarkable leader.

Thus, it is more about wanting to be a good leader than being born with leadership qualities. Leadership qualities can always be acquired when a person has a hunger to prove himself and wants to become a good leader for his people. Hence, organizations can always train their own employees to become future company leaders.

Nature and Nurture?

Researchers are constantly trying to find out if there is a genetic link to good leadership skills or if leadership skills can be nurtured by having mentors. While the genetic component cannot be completely ignored, most people agree that all great leaders consciously work on their skills. Thus, by focusing on a few main characteristics, everyone can aspire to become good leaders.

Developing Leadership Traits

Given below are a few main attributes which require attention.

Being Accountable

  • Leaders have to take ownership of whatever happens – even when it is bad.
  • Accountability in leadership means not only being responsible for your actions alone but also for the actions of your employees.
  • A leader is a highly influential person and when he demonstrates accountability, others around him too are inspired to take responsibility for their actions.
  • Respect builds up for the leader automatically and the organization as a whole thrives when people hold themselves responsible for their actions.

So, how can a leader demonstrate accountability?

  • By being punctual
  • By owning up to mistakes
  • By not being embarrassed to apologize
  • By not passing the blame
  • By coming up with solutions even when not asked

Having a Hunger to Learn

  • There is one characteristic that is common to all great leaders and that is their never-ending desire to learn.
  • Be it constantly updating themselves with the innovations in their field, keeping up with the news or reading to find solutions to problems, these leaders believe that learning never stops.
  • Many of them don’t stop with just staying connected to their field; they take an interest in spheres new to them as well.
  • Discussing with leaders from other fields is another factor that truly builds leadership capabilities.
  • When leaders open up and discuss their experiences and mistakes, it gives other leaders a chance to learn from them.
  • Newer and better solutions to old problems too can be arrived at when leaders are open to discussion.

How to Keep Learning?

Being Inspirational

  • Inspiring others is a core attribute of leadership.
  • After all, no leader can by himself achieve his organization’s vision.
  • He has to have his employees on board with him sharing that desire to achieve the objectives.
  • Thus, it becomes imperative that the leader spurs his employees to give their best.
  • An inspirational leader is energetic, positive and passionate.
  • His words and actions both demonstrate his desire to succeed.
  • Having a positive approach too is crucial as there are bound to be times when things are not working out. Not letting that get to the employees but helping them move beyond that to make an attempt once again is a main attribute of an inspirational leader.

How to Be an Inspirational Leader?

  • Learn from setbacks but move on after that
  • Talk to employees about the organization’s mission and make them a part of it
  • Lead by example

Adjusting to Change

  • Change is the only constant and it is imperative that leaders understand this fact.
  • Carefully laid out plans might be suddenly disrupted by an unexpected event leaving everyone baffled.
  • Employees’ morale might drop and having to adjust to a whole new environment might be tough.
  • In such a scenario, there is no doubt that the leader will feel the pressure – the change has to be understood, processed and then plans changed to suit the new environment.
  • It is a lot to handle and the situation might call for quick decisions and a completely new strategy.
  • But along with all this, the leader has to keep in mind his employees’ concerns and well-being too.
  • Talking to them about the change, reassuring them and guiding them through it is an important part of change management.

How to Adjust to Change?

  • Stay calm – this will help employees stay calm
  • Learn as much as possible about the change
  • Plan once you know the facts

Being Empathetic

  • Empathy is a quality that leaders should never lose sight of.
  • Empathetic leaders understand employees’ feelings better and utilize this to motivate them.
  • Connecting on an emotional level definitely has its advantages as it helps settle conflicts faster and boosts morale.

How to Be Empathetic?

  • Be aware of employees’ abilities and challenges and take an interest in their development
  • Listen with an open mind when employees talk about their challenges – what might seem simple to you might be difficult for them
  • Let employees know that you are there for them in times of difficulties
  • Praise on a job well-done

Can Introverts Make Good Leaders?

While it is widely believed that people who are great public speakers and are extroverted make great leaders, this does not mean that introverts do not make good leaders. In fact, introverted leaders are more discerning of their employees’ abilities and strengths and this helps them plan better to get the best out of their employees.

Take Away Message

Age, gender or seniority are no barriers to leadership and a person doesn’t become a leader just because the role is given to him. Leadership is an unceasing journey of learning, inspiring and influencing employees and helping them reach their true potential. Of course, it has to be accompanied with hard work and focus. When a person wants to make a difference to the world, these attributes fall into place seemingly on their own giving us a charismatic leader who is looked up to by one and all.

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins – A Must Read