Introduction | Leadership and Vision | Leadership Traits | Annotated Bibliography | Survey Responses | Self-Assessment
The following is an outline of traits that are characteristic of good leaders, divided into seven categories: physical, emotional, social, intellectual/intelligence, communication, experience, and trustworthy. A list of the sources used to compile these traits is also included.
- High energy level
- Physical stamina
- Tolerance for stress
- Not concerned about being overworked
- Self-Confidence: may be more likely to attempt to influence, to attempt more challenging tasks
- Desire to improve, understand own strengths and weaknesses, self-objectivity
- Emotional intelligence: the extent to which a person is attuned to his or her own feelings and the feelings of others
- Self-awareness, empathy, self-regulation
- Not dwell on mistakes, view as opportunities to learn and move on
- Courage, not paralyzed by fear of failure
- Knows self: deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives
- Loves what he/she does; loves doing it
- Risk takers, confident to take risks, handle negative reactions to outcome
- Not intimidated by superiors
- Personal competence
- Believe they have control over own destinies
- Accept responsibility
- Persistent: does not let potential objections or criticisms stop him or her; despite resistance or setbacks, keeps going and stays the course.
- Exhibits concern for others, shows genuine interest, gives “personal touch”, gives others recognition for success
- Encourages and engages opposing viewpoints and ideas, not threatened by them
- Perceived by others as constant and reliable: picks position or idea and sticks to it
- Self-disciplined in developing important skills
- Good at managing one’s emotions
- Need to achieve
- Oriented toward improving self, not denying weaknesses
- Behavior is consistent with values espoused
- Detached: can treat followers in a fair, objective fashion
- Honest, ethical, trustworthy: promises kept, fulfills responsibility
- Able to convert purpose and vision to action, and produce results
- Behavioral flexibility: adjust behavior to fit the situation
- “Make people feel that they are at the very heart of things and that, when they are, they are making contributions to the success of the organization.” 1
- Understands others, knows how to influence them
- Empathy, social insight, charm, tact, diplomacy, persuasiveness
- Bases decisions on reality and needs of others, not self-interest
- Listens, empowers others, generates trust, negotiates collaboratively, resolves conflicts
- Strong motivator
- Superior listener
- Understands small group dynamics
- Emphasizes partnership
- Monitors and helps followers get work done well
- Persuades others to follow, not rely on authority to get things done.
- Cooperates and collaborates with others
- Ability to influence others
- Finds common ground with all types of people and builds rapport with them
- Takes initiative in social situations
- Appraises readiness/resistance of followers to move in a particular direction, senses when there is dissent or confusion
- Learns from experience and adapts to change
- Possess extensive knowledge used by subordinates to perform the work
- Develops inspirational image of new product or service
- Good judgment, foresight, intuition, creativity
- Ability to find meaning and order in ambiguous, uncertain events
- Effectively plans, organizes and solves problems
- Coordinates separate specialized parts of organization
- Understands how external events will affect organization
- Honest attitude towards facts, objective truth
- Decisive: get the facts, assess information, and act, even if all information is not available, or others are not happy with decision
- Asks for more responsibility
- Knows how to delegate
- “Willingness to ask questions and to search openly and without bias for practical answers to the most vexing problems.” 2
- “Learned to experiment and withhold judgment until they have objectively assessed a situation and identified a well-reasoned course of action.” 3
- Plans how to deal with criticism by listing benefits of project in advance and prepares to articulate them to others
- Willing to ignore conventional wisdom in terms of looking at a problem and trying to strike out in a different direction.
- Knowledge of organization and how it operates
- Anticipates how others will react to situations and prepares to minimize the impact
- Doesn’t react right away, stands back and considers the situation, suspends judgment until facts are in
- Eager to explore new approaches to work
- Able to combine both hard and questionable data and intuitive guesses to arrive at a conclusion
- Bases decisions and strategies on sound intuitive and rational judgments and accurate appraisal of the potentialities of coworkers and opponents
- Ability to communicate
- Ability to articulate a vision and persuade others
- Have and communicate purpose, direction, and meaning
- Have clear goals and are determined to achieve them
- Communicates passion to others
- Good communication skills are essential for a leader to get followers aligned behind the overarching goals of the organization.
- Use metaphors that others can relate to in order to symbolize their vision and inspire others
- Experts at one-to-one communication
- Superior speakers – major advantage, not true of all leaders
- Excellent writing skills
- Creates and maintains a communications network
- Has people keep them informed on problem situations
- Networks with people inside the organization (including those at the bottom of the hierarchy)
- Maintains contacts outside the organization and profession that may have certain knowledge and different viewpoints from those within
- Doesn’t depend on only one source for information
- Able to communicate with key individuals in “areas of specialization that may each have a different dialect” 4
- Eager to explore new approaches to their work
- Are not fuzzy about results, interested in ways to track their progress
- Communicates persuasively
- “All leaders take advantage of opportunities to speak to large groups.” 5
- Successful managers “usually had experience in a variety of different types of situations where they acquired broader perspective and expertise in dealing with different types of problems.” 6
- May give followers freedom to take responsibility for own ideas, decisions and actions
- Committed to collaboration and require everyone to participate in leadership
- Has competency – is skilled in performing required tasks and has ability to mentor those that follow
- Caring – genuinely concerned with followers’ lives and well-being
- Empathize and care about implications of actions
- Constancy – staff believe leader will support them, defend them and come through for them
Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith,
Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader, 3d ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books Group, 2003), 5.
. Emmett C. Murphy, Leadership IQ: A Personal Development Process Based on a Scientific Study of a New Generation of Leaders (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996), 16.
. Ibid., 17.
. Marlene Caroselli, Leadership Skills for Managers (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000), 11.
. Elwood N. Chapman, Leadership: What Every Manager Needs to Know (Chicago: SRA Pergamon, 1989), 43.
. Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organizations, 5 th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002), 184.
Sources for Leadership Traits
Bennis, Warren, and Joan Goldsmith. Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader. 3d ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus Books Group, 2003.
Bennis, Warren, and Burt Nanis. Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985.
Caroselli, Marlene. Leadership Skills for Managers. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Chapman, Elwood N. Leadership: What Every Manager Needs to Know. Chicago: SRA Pergamon, 1989.
Gardner, John W. On Leadership. New York: The Free Press, 1990.
Goleman, Daniel. “What Makes a Leader?” Chapter 1 in Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 2001.
Murphy, Emmett C. Leadership IQ: A Personal Development Process Based on a Scientific Study of a New Generation of Leaders. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
Riggs, Donald E., and Gordon A. Sabine. “Leadership.” Chapter 10 in Libraries in the ‘90s: What the Leaders Expect. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1988.
Winston, Mark D., ed. Leadership in the Library and Information Science Professions: Theory and Practice. New York: Haworth Press, 2001.
Yukl, Gary. Leadership in Organizations. 5 th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002.