How To Incorporate Leadership Traits Into Your Own Life
John Quincy Adams once famously said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Whether they’re easy to recognize or not, all of us have opportunities to be a leader as we go through life. Business executives lead their employees, parents lead their children, teachers lead their students, and friends can even gently lead each other through their love and example. We’re convinced that everyone has hope that they can leave a mark on the world for good. And we can!
Here are some traits that good leaders share that help inspire those around them. By working to cultivate these qualities in yourself, you can become a more natural and effective leader.
Leading By Example
At some point, we’ve probably all been led by a person who has a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude. And, let’s be honest, that leader probably wasn’t your favorite – not by a long shot. Good leaders virtually always live by their own rules and join the people that they lead in their everyday experiences. For example, Mahatma Gandhi left a successful law career to lead the people of India in their nonviolent resistance against British rule. Ultimately, this led to India gaining its freedom. Without Gandhi’s leadership – and especially his willingness to get in the proverbial trenches with the everyday people he was leading – the resistance probably wouldn’t have succeeded.
Living With Integrity
Integrity is a word we hear a lot in the context of both ethics and leadership. But what exactly is it? The short answer is moral uprightness. People who live with integrity have strong moral principles and they stick with them, even when no one else is watching. They are honest with themselves and others and try to have good motivations for the decisions they make, especially when those decisions will affect other people.
During the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine, president Volodymyr Zelenskyy was urged by several high-ranking officials to flee the country and go into hiding. Though the situation looked dire, Zelenskyy demonstrated both courage and integrity when he chose to stay with his people and continue to lead them. Integrity can be hard to develop and even harder to follow through on. But if you want to be an effective, inspiring leader, this is one trait that you won’t want to skip out on developing!
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
We can’t overstate it – this is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. Often, people in charge have good skills and good intentions, but simply forget to inform those they lead of new developments, new instructions, and more importantly, the why behind what you’re asking them to do. When leading, always be willing to sit down and communicate with your people. Perhaps one of the best examples of effective communication in modern times comes from Martin Luther King Jr. A gifted orator, his ability to communicate was one of the things that made him able to lead with such grace and persuasion. People knew what his goals were, they shared them, and most importantly, they believed him enough to follow his vision.
The first step to effective communication is to develop a clear vision of where you want to end up. If you want your three-year-old to learn how to handle big feelings without throwing tantrums, first decide what specific behaviors you want them to do instead (e.g. taking deep breaths, using their words instead of screaming, etc.). Then explain those behaviors to them, model them yourself, and help show them where to apply those new behaviors. In short, take the time to develop a vision and then make them your partner in carrying it out.
Practice Emotional Empathy
Perhaps the most important trait a leader can cultivate is emotional empathy. When a leader is emotionally empathetic, they take the time to understand the people that they lead. They care about them as individuals and are willing to listen and respond to the issues that they face as whole people (including the workplace, the home front, and their future plans and aspirations).
Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of emotional empathy was Jesus. While there are many different beliefs and opinions on his life and ministry, he is an excellent example to emulate if you’re trying to cultivate emotional empathy in your own life. He was able to reach out to the common people because he listened and cared for them, even if they were social pariahs in society at the time. At one point, a woman who had committed adultery was brought before him to be judged. After dismissing her accusers, Jesus talked with her person-to-person, taught her his doctrine, and let her go free. Where most other judges would have condemned her to death by stoning, Jesus took the time and effort to connect with her, and she likely became a devoted follower of him afterward.
If you have someone in your life that exemplifies a great leadership characteristic – be they a teacher, boss, parent, friend, etc. – we would love to hear about them! Please share your experiences in the comments below.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us at (307) 631-5574.