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Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader

How to be a Leader

What is leadership? The term gets thrown around a lot, but what is it really? What do leaders do which makes them leaders? Can leadership be learned?
I hope to answer these questions in the following paragraphs and offer some ideas on how you can develop leadership abilities.
Fortunately, leadership can be learned. This is good, because true leaders are in high demand and short supply in every field.
To be an effective leader, though, you must first understand what leadership is and what traits a leader exhibits. Contrary to some current political rhetoric, leadership is indelibly linked to character; without character, no leader can be truly successful.

Leadership is more than leading
Webster's Dictionary defines leadership as the "ability to lead." The Marine Corps defines leadership as "the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully."
Former President Ronald Reagan put it in a very practical way:
A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets rough.

Purpose & goal are vital to successful leadership
Regardless of the definition used, leadership must have a worthwhile purpose. Without a specific goal, leadership can degrade into an exercise in self-aggrandizement rather than mission accomplishment.
For example, you shouldn't aspire to be a congressman for the sake of being a prominent politician. Rather, you should aspire for high office in order to accomplish specific goals like reducing the size of government or ending government policies which harm the family.

Leadership traits provide foundation
All good leaders possess certain timeless traits.
The following list of traits provide character guidelines by which to evaluate yourself; by measuring yourself against these ideals, you can improve your weaknesses and make the best use of your strengths.

The 14 leadership traits are as follows:

1. Integrity. The qualities of absolute honesty, trustworthiness, uprightness of character and high moral principles. Integrity can be practiced by doing the following:
  • Tell the truth to both superiors and subordinates.
  • Stand for what you believe in, even if the belief is unpopular.
  • Use your power to work toward your organization's goals or for the welfare of your co-workers and not for your own personal gain.

2. Knowledge. You will quickly gain the respect and confidence of your co-workers by showing them you are knowledgeable about your area of responsibility and theirs. Keep in mind, though, that learning is a continual process. To develop and demonstrate knowledge you should:
  • Learn from experienced people by listening and studying.
  • Ask questions when unsure.
  • Notice and correct substandard performance in others, particularly those subordinate to you.
  • Show your subordinates by your actions how they should perform their jobs.

3. Courage. Courage is the quality that acknowledges fear but allows you to meet danger or opposition calmly and with firmness. You show moral courage by standing up for what is right even though it may not be popular or immediately advantageous to do so. Courage is developed when you:
  • Place duty and commitment to your organization's mission over personal feelings and desires.
  • Look for and willingly accept responsibilities.
  • Stand for what is right, even if it is unpopular.
  • Never blame others for your mistakes.

4. Decisiveness. This is the ability to weigh all the facts and make a timely decision. To develop decisiveness, you should:
  • Get into the habit of considering several points of view for each problem; then make your best choice.
  • Know when not to make a decision.
  • Remember that a good decision now is usually better than a perfect decision later.

5. Dependability. Leaders are dependable when they fulfill their commitments. As Institute President Morton Blackwell says, "In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you're dead." Dependability is developed by:
  • Being places on time.
  • Accomplishing your assigned tasks, even if you face obstacles.
  • Building a reputation for keeping your word when you've made a promise.
  • Demonstrating loyalty to your friends and supporters.

6. Initiative. Initiative is recognizing what must be done and then doing it without having to be told to do so. This is a trait to be developed not only in ourselves, but in our subordinates. Practice the following to develop initiative:
  • Find tasks that need to be done and do them without being told.
  • Look for better ways to do things.

7. Tact. Tact is the ability to deal with others without causing ill feelings or offense. It is doing and saying the right thing at the right time. In order to develop tact, do the following:
  • Apply the Golden Rule.
  • Check yourself for tolerance and patience. If you lack these qualities, make efforts to change.

8. Justice. To be just is to be fair. Personal feelings, emotions and prejudices should not be allowed to influence your decisions. To improve the trait of justice, make sure you practice the following:
  • Apply rewards and reprimands to all consistently.
  • Listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision.
  • Be aware of your counter-productive prejudices and seek to rid yourself of them.

9. Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is showing sincere interest and eagerness in performing your job. To develop enthusiasm in others, you should.
  • Consistently exhibit a positive attitude to others.
  • Emphasize your subordinates' successes.
  • Encourage others to overcome any obstacles which they encounter.

10. Bearing. Your bearing is your general appearance, carriage and conduct. Nothing calms a tense and nervous group more than a leader who does not look or act worried. Bearing is demonstrated by:
  • Avoiding profanity or vulgarity.
  • Controlling your voice and gestures so that emotional extremes don't show in your actions. Sometimes it's appropriate to show some anger, but you should never appear to lose your temper.
  • Not reprimanding co-workers in the presence of others.

11. Endurance. Maintaining the physical and mental stamina to perform your job under difficult conditions and for long periods of time is endurance. Maintain endurance by doing the following:
  • Avoid excesses that lower your physical and mental stamina. Don't "party" or keep late hours.
  • Maintain a proper diet and exercise.
  • Finish every job, regardless of the obstacles.

12. Unselfishness. You should always give credit where credit is due. Unselfishness also means not taking advantage of a situation at the expense of others. To unselfishness you should:
  • Give credit to your co-workers for jobs well done and ensure that any recognition or praise from higher levels is passed on to the deserving individuals.
  • Help your subordinates with the mundane tasks. You'd be surprised at how respected you'll be when you help them with some of their tasks.
  • Make a sincere, honest attempt to look at situations from the other person's perspective.

13. Loyalty. Loyalty is the quality of faithfulness to your principles, your country, your organization, your superiors and your subordinates. This does not, however, mean that you are a "yes" man." As Morton's 21st Law of the Public-Policy Process says, "An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness." To practice loyalty you should:
  • Remember loyalty is a two-way street. Be loyal to those above and below you.
  • Stand up for your organization and its members when they are unjustly attacked.
  • Discuss your organizational problems and the problems of your co-workers only with those who can help solve the problems. Don't gossip.

14. Judgment. Judgment is the ability to weigh facts logically, to consider possible solutions and to reach sound decisions. Judgment includes common sense. To develop the trait of judgment you can:
  • Do not yield to impulse. Think about the possible effects of what you're about to do.
  • Try to visualize the situation from another person's perspective.
  • When in doubt, seek good counsel.
Does all this sound like a lot to live up to? It should, because it is. Good leaders live up to the standards exemplified by these traits.
If we think about political leaders who have failed or disappointed the public, most of their faults will point to deficiencies in leadership traits.
As conservatives, we know that our ideas are right. But not only liberals fall short on leadership traits. As conservatives, we must support our ideas by cultivating the traits just discussed. If we fail to do so, we run the risk of becoming just politicians (in the worst sense), rather than leaders.
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