What makes a great leader? Is it something inherited? Is it learned behavior? Can anyone acquire leadership abilities with sufficient determination?  These questions have been asked time and time again for years, yet the answers are clear.

Character is the foundation of great leaders. The leaders whom people respect and will follow have the characteristics of being themselves, of being passionate about what they are doing. They are what they believe in and show consistency through their actions.

I have recently been reading John C. Maxwell’s book “Developing the Leader within You 2.0” and one chapter in particular really resonated with me (chapter 3). The chapter I am referring to is about the foundation of leadership and that a person’s character is at the heart of that foundation.

Maxwell identifies 4 dimensions of character building that every leader needs to embrace in order to be a successful leader. Those are identified as:

  • Authenticity
  • Self-Management
  • Humility
  • Courage

Authenticity: Authentic leaders know themselves, their personal strengths and weaknesses and lead with consciousness of their shortcomings and how to compensate for them. This self-awareness allows them to build relationships and improves the quality of their interpersonal skills.

Self-Management: Self-management is the ability to demonstrate self-control, prioritize goals, manage your emotions and be accountable for your own actions. This is so important to master because leaders that can manage their own emotions and are self-aware are able to influence others and make better decisions.

Humility: Having humility is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength. We are all human therefore we are all flawed. Humble leaders are more effective and trusted. Admitting you don’t have all the answers creates opportunities for learning, builds trust, establishes credibility and provides an example of how to deal with uncertainty.

Courage: Courage is a necessary trait of effective leadership. Actions speak louder than words and all leaders must step off of the ledge even if they can’t see the bottom. Courage is having the strength to hold true to your beliefs even in the face of opposition. It takes courage to disagree with your boss’ ideas or make unpopular decisions. Most of all, it takes courage to be a leader.

What characteristics do you think are important for a good leader to have? Do you agree with the 4 dimensions of character building discussed throughout this blog?  I believe that we all have leadership potential. In order to be a great leader you just have to “walk the talk and live the talk.”

Lastly, I believe what truly makes a great leader is defined by what you do and say when people are NOT looking at you or listening to you. Some of the greatest leaders I have ever met embodied all of the characteristics described in this blog. Invista Performance Solutions is filled with many great leaders. I am surrounded by 8 other extraordinary leaders, and my hope is that everyone else’s organization is as lucky as mine.