The Three Essential Traits of an Effective Leader

One of the most rewarding and challenging things about being a leader is the diverse set of skills it requires. You need technical skills and expertise in your field, management skills, planning skills, communication skills and the list goes on. However, in our time working with many companies we’ve found that effective leadership can most often be distilled down to three traits: Integrity, Accessibility & Openness.

Here are what we consider to be the three essential traits of an effective leader:

Integrity 

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

 -Carl Jung

We’ve all heard the word integrity thrown around in leadership trainings, but what does it really mean? Our favorite definition of it is simply “doing what you say you’re going to do.” To lead with integrity, consistency is king, and consistency is a conscious choice that we can make as leaders, even when the conditions might not be ideal. How honest and consistent are your behaviors, actions, and words with the people you lead? Do you always do what you say you’re going to do? Do you practice what you preach? 

Like a lot of the concepts we discuss, always leading with integrity can sometimes be a difficult task. As humans, sometimes we mess up and don’t keep our commitments, or let our emotions take over. However, by cultivating self awareness, intention and practice, you can become a leader who tries to lead with integrity 100% of the time. No one will ever be perfect, but you can always strive for excellence and reflect on the things that may be holding you back in order to become the best, most effective you, and to positively influence those around you.

Accessibility

“Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to another human being.”

-Marshall B. Rosenberg

There are many facets to being an accessible leader. On one hand, being accessible means being physically available. Available leaders:

  • Prioritize making time for their team and colleagues
  • Leave time in their calendar for unscheduled conversations
  • Communicate to others how and when they can be reached
  • Keep their commitments except in case of emergencies and make use of virtual conferencing when they can’t be there physically

On a deeper level, accessibility is also about being present mentally and emotionally. In other words, “Wherever you are at, be there.” This is our favorite, simple mantra that goes a long way for establishing engagement from employees. Present leaders:

  • Establish a positive and supportive environment
  • Encourage open and honest discussions
  • Care about their employee’s development, feelings, behaviors and hardships
  • Build trust

At the end of the day, simply opening yourself up to be a more accessible leader makes people feel valued and cared for, and isn’t that what we want?

Openness

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

– George Bernard Shaw

Historically, we have often gravitated toward leaders who are stoic, seemingly foolproof and headstrong. However, research shows that we actually need leaders that possess the opposite characteristics- flexibility and creativity. We need leaders who are passionate and persuasive enough to lead but who are also open to new ideas, have the humility to admit when they’re wrong and the ability to adapt to constant change. Recently, psychologists began defining this type of open-mindedness as “intellectual humility,” a term originally used by religious philosophers to describe “the willingness to change, plus the wisdom to know when you shouldn’t.” In 2016, professors from Pepperdine University broke this concept down into four measurable components:

  1. Having respect for other viewpoints
  2. Not being intellectually overconfident
  3. Separating one’s ego from one’s intellect
  4. Willingness to revise one’s own viewpoint

Leaders who are open-minded in this way tend to be more self-aware, trusted by their employees, and interested in developing their skills.

How would you rate yourself on these three essential traits?

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