I am growing weary of the unrelenting waves of articles, infographics and books on the essential characteristics of a good leader. I am guilty of contributing to this deluge, having created a few of my own. They can be entertaining and helpful, but they can also build a false sense of security.
Busy professionals scan the litany of desirable attributes assembled by an author and step away with one of two thoughts. They either naively think, “easy-peasy” or they are discouraged and filled with doubt that they will ever be able to fulfill the requirements necessary to be considered great.
Exceptional leadership takes more than a few nouns and verbs. Yes, there are common characteristics, traits and behaviors that help one become a good leader; just as there are common characteristics, traits, and behaviors we can generally agree on that point to being a “good person”. That is the baseline, not the achievement.
There will never be a definitive guide, nor should there be because there will never be agreement on the definitive leader. Different situations require varying leadership styles and philosophies.
The fact is, which everyone knows but very few admit, there are a lot of lousy leaders currently in roles of power. Giving them aspirational words to justify their position does not help anyone. Nor does it foster the enthusiasm necessary for those who should replace them.
I have seen people develop a preoccupation with becoming a leader by using someone else’s tips, tactics, and techniques at the expense of using their common sense and implicit motivation to be a better person. At the risk of heresy, based on my profession, I would advise you to go the opposite way. Focus on being a good person, and leadership will follow you. No list required.