Developing Leaders- Few Leadership Traits  

Leadership Development

There are two challenges with leadership. One is to define the end-goal in achieving leadership competencies aligned to the business goals. The other is how to achieve that end-goal. The chapter on leadership development endeavors to cover the methods, principles and thumb rules on how to build the 'leadership capital'.


Developing Leaders- Few Leadership Traits


Leadership traits and competencies can be defined and specified. However, the words and adjectives can vary. Everything which can be positive about a person in terms of character, conduct, approach and attitude, perhaps can be labeled as leadership trait. This page provides few glimpses of those leadership behaviors.

smritu ahujaThis page is authored by Smriti Ahuja, an exprienced Human Resources Leader. Smriti is currently consulting as an independent professional. Till recently, she has been heading global leadership development portfolio in Genpact

Knowing clearly that leadership is a competitive advantage, ‘what is the sort of leader we need to develop’ becomes the next thing to excogitate on. There is no positive human behavioral adjective that exists in a dictionary that cannot be applied to defining a good leader, in one context or the other.

To check this exaggerated statement out, I flip through the dictionary and at random pull out 10 adjectives alphabetically and see if they could actually be applied to defining a leader or leadership.

Here are the results:

1. Adaptable - Capable of adaptation or to make oneself suitable to a particular situation

Center of creative leadership tells us “In today's environment of complex challenges and rapid change, the ability to adapt and remain flexible has become a leadership imperative, not a choice. For leaders, the consequences of not adapting can be severe. By developing your ability to adapt, you can be more effective at leading yourself, your people and your organization.”  They even have a book out to support that idea:

Adaptability: Responding Effectively to Change, CCL Press,  2006 By Allan Calarco and Joan Gurvis.

One down, nine to go

2. Bold - Fearless, daring courageous brave

“Boldness Builds Leadership… Rashness destroys it” [Ref. 1]

An example of boldness that traverses the passage of time is the architectural masterpieces that we see; buildings that define the landscape by their presence. Scale and size that was difficult to imagine, for it had never been seen before, and existed only in the imagination of a dreamer who not only summoned the boldness to dream it but the courage to make it happen.

Empire state building the tallest building today in New York was opened on May 1st 1931. This magnificent structure of 102 floors was built in less then 1 year 2 months, 1 year 45 days to be precise.

If you look at the 10 tallest buildings in the world (Empire state is the 8th), the construction of all of them dates to1989 onward, barring Sears Tower, which was built in 1974. What can be a better representation of the boldness then the year of construction of this iconic structure? That boldness even today,   represents the twentieth century man’s attempts to conceive and give shape to the impossible.

3. Calm – Not nervous, angry, or excited. Peaceful and undisturbed

CALMNESS of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control. Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought…The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn of him and rely upon him. The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Even the ordinary trader will find his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal with a man whose demeanor is strongly equable. [ref. 2]

There is now a Quiet Leader hall of fame, the aim of which is   Building a community of leaders who lead quietly with focus on community and collaboration, learning, vision, and balance.

4. Determined – Persistent in doing something even when it is difficult; Resolute

Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi: One of the most determined leaders of oppressed India, who left no stone unturned in ensuring freedom of India from British. He was as determined in his goal as he was in using the means of non violence to achieve that goal. To think a country the size of India could move to independence from the colonial might of the British with non violence as the plank, is simply mind boggling.

When egged to use the opportunity of World War II to strike at the British for gaining independence, Gandhi refused to countenance such an attitude. "We do not seek our independence out of Britain's ruin. That is not the way of non-violence."

That is a unique determination and resoluteness that has been now recognized a million times over and in his being voted amongst the 100 men of the millennium by Life Magazine

5. Energetic - The capacity for work or vigorous activity; vigor; power

The Leadership Pulse Study tracks organizational change, leadership energy and confidence from a sample of 4,500 worldwide, senior executives in various industries every two months.

There are established studies that monitor the leaders' energy level for they know that leaders' energy levels can influence the energy levels of the rest of an organization's employee population, thereby affecting productivity and the bottom line.

Jack Welch had a seminal 4E leadership model that took an uncompromising look at how to recognize leaders and one of the E of the 4 E’s is Energy.

Moving on to the next five-

Not only do the 5 that I randomly picked appeal to us as something of value for a good leader, but clearly are a part of the popular lore on leadership as well, which is why, it was simple enough to pick examples of people, situations or things that typified them. Without getting into descriptions of the other five, let me list the other random five picks that could as easily be seen as acceptable, possibly even required and mandated  characteristics of good leaders

6. Firm – Resistant to externally applied pressure; not subject to change; fixed and definite; strong and sure

7. Global - Relating to the whole world; comprehensive; Relating to all the parts of something

8. Honorable – Having high moral standards; principle uprightness of character; personal integrity

9. Inspiring – To stimulate to action; to motivate; to breathe life into; to affect or touch; to stimulate energies and ideals

10. Judicious – Having or exhibiting sound judgment or being prudent

We could just as easily have 10 more of these listed and see in them a significance too. You can also refer to the chapter on Leadership Competencies for some more references. With such a vast turf to cover, where leadership development begins and what does it focus on, becomes of searing importance to ensure that the development resources are focused in the right direction and not radiated away from what is critical for the organization.

1.The leadership lessons of Jesus- Bob Briner and Ray Pritchard
2. As a Man Thinketh- James Allen

Note- The copyright to this page belongs to Ms. Smriti Ahuja