What are the most important qualities of a good leader?

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Answered by: TJ, An Expert in the Being a Leader Category
Some people are born to lead, others have it thrust upon them.

No matter what the circumstances may be, assuming a leadership role can be a rewarding, or stressful situation. Understanding the qualities that make a good leader, can determine which of these two the situation becomes.

If one were to analyze the act of leadership, many key concepts would become evident. For most, the word "leader" conjures images of Generals, Commanders, or high ranking officials. Perhaps these images would include brave looking people, stern and confident in their countenance, a cigar or pipe clenched in their teeth as they overlook the situation. Perhaps the image might include an expensive suited person, calmly sipping coffee while those around them scurry to and fro in a seeming mad rush of activity.

For most of us, our mind's eye conjures these types of images and stereotypes. We hold to them as if they are reality. Then one day, we find ourselves in a position of leadership and we discover to our dismay, that we lack the cigar, the suit, and the coffee. In fact, when we look in the mirror, we see very little of the confidence we felt was so critical for success as a leader.

We, as new leaders, discover very rapidly that the qualities of a good leader are quite different than we thought.

Webster's dictionary defines leadership as " The action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this." Synonyms for this type of behavior include guidance, direction, authority, and control. All of these are great examples of what a leader is, but tell us little about what it takes to manifest the right qualities.

Sun Tzu, the author of "The Art of War", possibly one of the finest writings on leadership ever, tells us that qualities such as consistency, empathy, and honor are among the highest traits of a good leader. Consistency in direction, in response, and in attitude provide the foundation for trust among those who follow the leader. As trust in a group is most certainly a key element for success, this becomes a very critical trait. Empathy, or the ability to understand and react to the feelings of another person, is another critical element for a leader. When we understand what drives a person's actions, we are far better equipped to make sound decisions and reactions to those actions.

The term "honor", can encompass a vast amount of ideals. In short, honor refers to the moral compass which guides the actions and reactions of the leader. A strong code of honor can guide decisions regarding honesty, loyalty, and mutual respect. All of which are qualities a strong leader must possess.

There are many different styles of leadership, all of which are developed due to the personality of the leader. While styles may differ, the qualities of a good leader remain unchanged. By developing the qualities of consistency, empathy, and honor, the new leader becomes capable of providing guidance and direction. Their authority is derived from trust and mutual respect, and their ability to control becomes natural. The new leader now has the ability to lead, and thereby fulfills Webster's definition.

The suit, coffee, and cigars simply become props.

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