Traits of leadership – A Dead End?

Category Archives: Leadership

Traits of leadership – A Dead End?

Research shows that employees dislike their jobs, don’t trust their leaders and aren’t engaged with their work. WHY? Recently I watched a thirty minute presentation by a nice lady saying leaders need to be: empathetic, decisive, ethical and intelligent plus be really good communicators.

A LeaderI am sure she was sincere. I am also sure that she does not understand how incredibly unhelpful this is. She wasted, and continues to waste, people’s time telling managers to emulate positive traits – many of which they cannot actually change!

How do you become intelligent? Pick smart parents? Intelligence, and a lot of other traits, comes from the luck of the genetic dice toss. It is just the way you are and no one standing up front talking or writing articles is going to change you very much.

A lot of good people fall into the “traits of leadership” trap. I once worked for a major corporation that came up with a list of fifty-eight desirable traits for executive leaders. The problem is the whole “traits of leadership” are a dead end. Many of these “traits” are personality factors that are extremely difficult to change or the traits are human attributes that are impossible to change.

But the big reason why “traits” is a waste of time is because many of them do not matter!

It is not a leader’s personality traits that make the leader effective, it is the leader’s actions and behaviors that make him or her effective. It’s the social context and embedded routines the leader applies to the organization that really make the difference. If you can see past the personality of famous, or not so famous, but effective leaders you will observe behaviors that all effective leaders utilize to gather followers. For example:

  • Effective leaders define clear objectives and prioritize these objectives.
  • Effective leaders balance structuring the organization with consideration for the people within the organization.
  • Effective leaders consult people before making decisions and then move quickly once decisions are made.
  • Overall, effective leaders understand the social context – needs of the organization and apply day-to-day routines that provide the necessary leadership to continuously improve the organization. Accelerated learning is one of those keys.

The point here is not to outline all of the effective behaviors of leaders. Full disclosure: it takes me about twenty hours to explain my entire leadership strategy and management model. But that is not the point.

The point is there are specific actions and behaviors that will allow any personality type or style to be an effective leader. A shy introvert can be an effective leader. It is not about personality traits – it is about specific actions and routines.

Forget the traits of leadership, particularly the personality and human attribute traits, because they are a dead end. It is the leader’s actions and routines that matter.

 Stay Healthy, Profit and Grow!

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