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7 Traits of Successful Leaders

7 Traits of Successful Leaders

Have you ever wondered why some people are so successful while others are not? What is the secret ingredient to their success? Well, here’s the truth…there really is no secret. Success is like baking a cake, everyone has their own favourite recipe, but the basic ingredients are the same. All successful people, regardless of their age, gender, education, upbringing, type of business, etc., hold similar qualities or traits.


The 7 key traits that every successful leader has

1. Self-Awareness 

“To be self-aware is to, in a sense, have a different level of control over your actions and choices—and to operate from a perspective that is not fueled by short-sighted and often ego-driven desires”. Look at your life as a neutral observer and not as a participant; almost like you were watching a movie of your life from up above. This will help you gain a different perspective, and you can clearly see yourself with a new lens.

Effective leaders are always looking inward and self-reflecting. They understand what they value and what motivates them. They focus and play to their strengths, while always looking for blind spots, and discovering areas to improve.

Knowing is the first step. Once you know better, you do better. Self-awareness is essential and successful people are always perfecting their talents, and learning from their failures.

2. Courage

Courage is believing in yourself and knowing that you are bigger and stronger than your greatest fears. When you believe you can handle anything regardless of how frightening it may be, you will have the courage to do it. In her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers shares that all of our fears stem from a lack of trust in ourselves. “Every time you encounter something that forces you to ‘handle it’ your self-esteem is raised considerably. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way, your fears are diminished immeasurably.”

How often do you get out of your comfort zone? Why don’t you push and challenge yourself more? Think about it, how many times have you stepped out of your comfort zone and then said to yourself, “I don’t know why I didn’t do that earlier?” Having courage allows you to make the commitment to begin something new without any guarantee of success.

It is only in the moments when we step out of our protective barriers and into the unknown, that we truly grow. Sometimes the first steps out of our comfort zone are awkward or painful, but they are always learning moments. Anyone can do it. We all have the courage to be fearless, brave, and continue to push ourselves and maximize our potential to achieve more.

3. Passion

What does passion look like? When someone has a passion they typically exude confidence and are fully engaged. This enthusiasm becomes contagious to those around them and generally drives ideas and people further.

It is amazing how far passion can take you. When others may be willing to quit, passion is the fuel that will push you on. It will keep you going when the job is unpleasant, or the results aren’t what you want them to be. Passion will give you limitless energy and motivation to push through the many difficult challenges that come across your desk.

Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, turned his passions into a successful, booming empire. “Passion is one of the most effective motivators when it comes to launching a business – and often one of the strongest predictors of whether an idea will lead to success” (Richard Branson)

4. Perseverance and Determination

It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to walk away. However, you do not achieve success by wishing for it. Perseverance is about the strength of mind and body, collectively.

People who are determined and willing to persevere are more motivated to accomplish more goals, or rise to the top. Determination, resilience, and perseverance leads to success. We all know that overcoming setbacks rather than giving in to them is difficult. But all things are difficult before they are easy.

Determination is not something that can only show up in the workplace. It manifests itself in many aspects of life, including personal hobbies and sports. Recently, we have been witness to great accomplishments in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. These amazing athletes remind us that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they are willing to go to any lengths to achieve success and reach their goals. Natural talent certainly plays a contributing role; but sometimes, people who lack extraordinary talent, can accomplish great feats through sheer willpower and determination.

5. Empathy

Empathy is putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes; seeing things through their eyes and feeling their emotions. It’s about relating to others. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Theodore Roosevelt).

When you lead with empathy, you take into consideration the trials and tribulations that your employees face on a daily basis, and then you can start to comprehend their world. Once you have some context, you then need to find ways to communicate with them so they will hear you. The best leaders lift people up. When employees feel heard, cared for, and respected, they are motivated to achieve more.

The success of a team depends on its leader. Employees may come and go, but if they are merely going through the motions to get to their weekend, then you aren’t getting the best out of them. Ask yourself – are you in tune with your team, or are you singing a completely different song? If you are truly connected with your team, you will get their extra effort without having to ask.

In the book Contented Cows Give Better Milk, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden make the case that treating people right is one of the best things any business can do for its bottom line. People who feel cared for are more committed, motivated, and engaged; they will typically give the extra effort to soar to higher heights without ever being asked. Therefore, building strong relationships with the people who you work with and truly understanding and getting to know them is what leads to success in business.

6. Flexibility and Adaptability

As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to be passionate or perhaps even dogged about what you do; however, being inflexible about current market trends, client needs, and adopting new approaches, will lead to failure.

What makes a business leader successful is their tendency to listen and follow their heart and passions, while also making a business out of their ideas. Ignoring customer needs, and advances in the global business world will not bode well on their journey to success. Truly successful people are open to all suggestions to optimize and customize their ideas. This will help with enhancing their viewpoints and offerings as well as satisfying market conditions and client needs. Successful people are willing to change course to overcome challenges and adopt new ideas, rather than clinging to opinions and actions that may, or may not, be working. As a leader, flexibility is essential and will allow you to perform well when conditions are characterized by rapid change.

Flexibility allows us to move to a place of openness and possibility instead of being stuck in limiting thought patterns. Flexible people accommodate different interests, as they have an easier time shifting their approaches to meet the needs of the many people involved. This makes it easier to acquire allies and develop influence in an organization. In addition, truly successful people are willing to get their hands dirty and try on different roles and wear many hats in an organization. Therefore, it is important to be willing to learn on the go.   Rarely are successful people ever given the luxury and time of truly being ‘ready’ – to have every single duck in a row before they have to make some big decisions. They sometimes need to just go with the flow.

7. Focus

Focus is key to happiness and success in life but it can be difficult to steer away from distractions and keep on track. Successful people are able to pay close attention to what is happening in the present moment and stay on task. This habit ensures that they are fully engaged in their work, and are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time.

One common misconception is that multitasking means you can get more done, but this has proven to be false. One realization study shows that multitasking can result in up to a 40% loss of productivity. In the absence of multitasking, there was a 59.8% in the average number of projects being completed and a 35.5% reduction in the time spent to complete a project. In order to increase productivity, successful people must learn to break their bad multitasking habits and concentrate solely on what is most important.

Successful people are able to avoid and eliminate distractions and concentrate on the task at hand. It is easy to get distracted by a new email in your inbox or a call asking you to take on another last-minute task, but these types of communications tend to divert attention and energy and lure people away from their main focus.

Successful people discipline themselves to stay on track. They relentlessly pursue what really matters to them. They have prioritized what’s truly important against what seems to be urgent, and they don’t get sidetracked. The greatest leaders are those who say ‘no’ to most things…why? The answer is simple, successful people focus on only the items that are absolutely necessary, and ignore the rest. They are laser-focused on what’s really going to help their business grow.

Ask yourself – how strong are you in the traits that I listed above? Like every professional – in the office, in the boardroom, or as we see on the sports field, we have strengths, and we have areas to improve on. It’s acceptable to admit that we need to work on certain characteristics, and it’s equally important to ask for help or coaching from others.

EI Experience and Carolyn Stern work with businesses to help make them better. Why not find out more about our services?

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