Thursday Thoughts: The 10 qualities of a true leader

People often ask me to share the secret to successful leadership - the one magical thing that propels people to positions of responsibility and respect. But there is no “secret” and there is no one thing I can impart. The truth is the recipe for true leadership is a complex blend of qualities that shift in importance with time and circumstances. This is not an easy answer, but then leadership is not easy, is it?

Here, in no particular order of importance, are the 10 qualities I believe every leader must understand, cling to and put to practice.

It’s a list I reflect on often myself. I hope you will too.

  1. A desire to be recognized, and a commitment to achieving that recognition through unfailing honesty
  2. Resilience: the capacity to overcome setbacks, adversity, rejection quickly – and with grace
  3. An awareness that the extremes of your personality will be the drivers of your success (but may also be talked about at company parties!)
  4. A boundless willingness to work hard – not only to achieve your personal goals, but to inspire tenacity in those around you
  5. An ability to alternately employ passion and common sense to solve problems.
  6. The confidence to rise above fear of strong colleagues. Famed marketer Guy Kawasaki said, “A players surround themselves with A+ players – it’s the only way to get where you want to go.”
  7. A willingness to make unrecognized sacrifices for those you lead. It is often the smallest kindness or most private act of generosity that has the biggest impact.
  8. A passion to succeed that is matched only by a desire to see those who work for you succeed
  9. An ability to recognize that you are unfinished work that can be constantly improved upon by learning
  10. An abiding sense of humility that keeps you down to earth no matter how far you rise

As you think about your career – indeed, your life – ask yourself which of these qualities you might work more diligently to cultivate. Your progress toward leadership will accelerate to the extent you answer with honesty and conviction.