In my many years of school and independent reading, I’ve run across a lot of theories about Leadership. Each theory seems to have its own idea of what it means to be a leader and what the term “leadership” really means.

I’ve read most of the major ‘leadership’ authors like John Maxwell, Robert Greenleaf, Kouzes & Posner and many many others and I am amazed at the amount of material that these authors have put together. Most of these books and theories on leadership are great pieces of work, but they tend to make leadership into something much more complex than it really is.

Leadership can be described using five traits: Integrity, Empathy, Openness, Foresight and Self-Awareness. These traits, which I’ve called Five Traits of Simple Leadership, make up those strengths that I feel really describe Leadership in a succinct and straightforward manner.

  • Integrity is the first and probably most important Leadership trait. Without integrity, there are no other truths nor is there a base to lead from. When most people think of integrity, they think of honesty or ethics, however, integrity means so much more than just being honest. Integrity also means having the character that allows you to live your life according to your values, ethics and standards. Integrity breeds honesty, which breeds trust. If you, your partner, manager, or CEO don’t have an understanding of what integrity is, then they really don’t understand leadership.
  • Empathy allows a person to understand and experience things from a similar frame of reference as others. This skill is vital to a leader because it allows a person to truly understand how your actions as a leader will affect others. Empathy not only allows you to be a better leader, but also a better human being.
  • Openness allows a person to accept all views and positions on a subject, evaluate those views/positions and choose the best way forward for all parties involved. A close-minded leader will not accept inputs from others and will usually surround themselves with sycophants and agreeable people.
  • Foresight is vital to a leader because it allows a person to combine the past, present and future into their thinking. This trait gives a leader a basis for making better decisions, which will normally lead to better strategic planning and operational excellence.
  • Last but not least is Self-Awareness. Without self-awareness, the other traits are worthless. Unless you understand yourself and your own motives, you cannot understand or lead others.

Of course, none of the above information is ground-breaking. Most of these traits are found in other leadership models and they borrow heavily from the Servant Leadership mentality. That being said, I think most people would be hard-pressed to think about someone that they think is a great leader and not find these five traits.

[tags] Leadership, Simple Leadership [/tags]