Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile. Vince Lombardi
In the military, in business, school, one’s faith, family, and pursuits, leadership is a challenge that not everyone aspires. However, it is a rewarding opportunity for some who embrace it . While people may naturally recognize a person with the qualities that make a good leader, fewer know that leadership can be developed. Some confuse position with leadership, and other confuse management with leadership. Sometimes opportunity is looking for someone to lead, but fear, doubt, or improper motives get in the way of leading. What are the characteristics that identify individuals as strong leaders?
8 Characteristics of good leadership
Forbes magazine published research that examined what makes a good leader:
- Sincere enthusiasm. Belief in a company, it’s mission, its employees and its products cannot be faked and have that person succeed.
- Integrity. Giving credit where it is due, acknowledging mistakes, and putting quality ahead of the bottom line, is another.
- Excel in communication. Great leaders are effective communicators. They instruct, listen, discipline and motivate those they lead. Weakness in these areas can demotivate and generate sloppiness.
- Loyalty. Leaders are loyal to their people. It is tangible and benefits are seen in the employees having the tools and support to do their work. Leaders protect them in times of conflict or crises. And in turn, that loyalty is given back to the leader.
- Decisiveness. Leaders make decisions, take action, and calculated risks. They know that consensus -building takes much effort, creates indecisiveness and perceived weakness, and results in applying band-aids instead of solutions.
- Competent as managers. Good technicians, business people, or a skilled athlete do not translate into managing people to excel. Competence means people can inspire, mentor and direct others.
- Empowering others. Leaders can recognize and foster in others to perform, possibly make mistakes, take some risks and be creative in achieving the objective.
- Charisma. Good leaders are approachable, friendly, and sincerely care for those they lead. People follow those they respect and like.
The motivational coach who for more than twenty years has helped many succeed in business and life, Tony Robbins , adds confidence and positivity to these principles. A leader generates confidence in non-verbal ways as well, in manner of dress, maintaining eye contact when speaking to another, and practicing self-control (not fidgeting). A leader radiates positivity, focusing on that, and not negative “what ifs”.
The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. Ray Kroc
“Deckplate Leadership” and the Navy Chief
The mentorship I learned as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy underscores these principles. For more than a century, the Navy has relied on the most senior and experienced enlisted Sailors in their particular specialty, the Chief, and the wisdom and expertise of the Chiefs’ Mess, to execute the mission of the officers appointed over them. They were not only mentoring junior enlisted sailors, but also the green junior officers that were appointed in the command or unit. The training I received encompassed these mentioned characteristics. But it adds some important fundamentals:
- When a Sailor was asked “when” he became a Chief Petty Officer (leader) and was confused by the question, the seasoned Chief responded that he, himself, became a “chief” when he decided to act and think as one. He just waited for the uniform (rank) to catch up.
- A leader is not about his or her achievement, but fostering development and leadership skills in others. When a Chief empowers others, so that they succeed, this benefits that individual, the mission, and the community of leaders.
- A leader still requires the mentoring and support from other more-seasoned and successful leaders, whether through study, personal relationship (mentoring) or community of peers. The Navy Chief’s Mess, including former (retired) and current Chief Petty Officers is a community that serves this function in perpetuity.
United States Navy Chief Petty Officer Creed
During the course of this day, you have been caused to humbly accept challenge and face adversity. This you have accomplished with rare good grace. Pointless as some of these challenges may have seemed, there were valid, time-honored reasons behind each pointed barb. It was necessary to meet these hurdles with blind faith in the fellowship of Chief Petty Officers. The goal was to instill in you that trust is inherent with the donning of the uniform of a Chief. It was our intent to impress upon you that challenge is good; a great and necessary reality which cannot mar you ─ which, in fact, strengthens you.
In your future as a Chief Petty Officer, you will be forced to endure adversity far beyond that imposed upon you today. You must face each challenge and adversity with the same dignity and good grace you demonstrated today.
By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been this day advanced to Chief Petty Officer. In the United States Navy ─ and only in the United States Navy ─ the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are now bound to observe and expected to fulfill.
Your entire way of life is now changed. More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you. Not because you are an E7 but because you are now a Chief Petty Officer. You have not merely been promoted one paygrade, you have joined an exclusive fellowship and, as in all fellowships, you have a special responsibility to your comrades, even as they have a special responsibility to you. This is why we in the United States Navy may maintain with pride our feelings of accomplishment once we have attained the position of Chief Petty Officer.
Your new responsibilities and privileges do not appear in print. They have no official standing; they cannot be referred to by name, number, nor file. They have existed for over 100 years, Chiefs before you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of printed assignment. Their actions and their performance demanded the respect of their seniors as well as their juniors.
It is now required that you be the fountain of wisdom, the ambassador of good will, the authority in personal relations as well as in technical applications. “Ask the Chief” is a household phrase in and out of the Navy. You are now the Chief.
The exalted position you have now achieved ─ and the word exalted is used advisedly ─ exists because of the attitude and performance of the Chiefs before you. It shall exist only as long as you and your fellow Chiefs maintain these standards.
It was our intention that you never forget this day. It was our intention to test you, to try you, and to accept you. Your performance has assured us that you will wear “the hat” with the same pride as your comrades in arms before you.
We take a deep and sincere pleasure in clasping your hand, and accepting you as a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy.
Quotes obtained from http://www.brainyquote.com
Image: (top row, l. to r.): Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi, John D. Rockefeller; (bottom row, l. to r. ): Steve Jobs, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein.