4 Core Characteristics All Leaders Share

What is leadership? My friend John C. Maxwell defines leadership as influence, and I like that definition. I also resonate with Warren Bennis and his assessment that managers do things right but leaders do the right thing.

I’ve gained much from both definitions.

To that, I would add that leadership could be described as a set of personal characteristics. Look at the great leaders throughout history, and you’ll see that each of them exhibited these four traits.

Leaders are—

  1. Courageous

The Stockdale Paradox, coined by Vice Admiral James Stockdale and popularized by Jim Collins in Good to Great, holds that a leader “must confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

That takes courage.

Your first task as a leader is to name the problem. While others tiptoe around it or ignore the obvious, a leader is willing to tell it like it is.

  1. Hopeful

The other half of the Stockdale Paradox says: “You must retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.”

Leaders are able to remain clam when others flee and remain hopeful when others despair. A leader sees possibilities, hope, a future.

Great leaders take the panic out of every situation.

  1. Solutions Oriented

A leader really is the person with a plan. Hope is not a wish. Leaders are able to see a better future (vision) and define the way to it (strategy). Leaders create solutions.

  1. Charismatic

If nobody is following you, you’re not a leader. Leaders have the ability to say, “This way, team!” and move others to follow.

This doesn’t mean being an over-the-top extrovert. Charisma is not a synonym for hype. It is the ability to impart enthusiasm, passion, and motivation to others.

That’s my definition of leadership. I’d love to hear yours. Share your answer on Twitter or Facebook!