If you were to list the qualities of a leader, how many could you think of? How many do you think you have?
Renowned leadership author, John C. Maxwell has compiled a comprehensive summary in his book: The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow. Maxwell begins his book with a quote from British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery:
Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.
This is a telling quote, giving a clear pointer to Maxwell’s view of leadership, succinctly summed up in Amazon’s review of the book:
“Why do some people consistently inspire others to follow their lead? According to John C. Maxwell, author of 24 books and a regular speaker on the topic, it’s the “character qualities” they possess. In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Maxwell identifies these top traits….” and then defines them in ways that readers can absorb and utilize. Each is covered in a separate chapter opening with a high-concept definition and continuing with relevant anecdotes, details on its meaning, suggestions for further reflection, and exercises for improvement.”
Maxwell has written a short but authoritative book, one which combines a readable style with commendable rigour. Each quality is introduced with a relevant quote, then followed by real examples which are used to underpin the sharp theoretical discussion. This is an excellent book and essential reading for any leader, current or aspiring.
The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader
Character – Be a Piece of the Rock
Charisma – The First Impression Can Seal the Deal
Commitment – It Seperates Doers from Dreamers
Communication – Without It You Travel Alone
Competence – If You Build It, They Will Come
Courage – One Person with Courage is a Majority
Discernment – Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries
Focus – The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are
Generosity – Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another
Initiative – You Won’t Leave Home Without It
Listening – To Connect with Their Hearts, Using Your Ears
Passion – Take This Life and Love It
Positive attitude – If You Believe You Can, You Can
Problem-solving – You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem
Relationships – If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along
Responsibility – If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team
Security – Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity
Self-discipline – The Person You Lead Is You
Servanthood – To Get Ahead, Put Others First
Teachability – To Keep Leading, Keep Learning
Vision – You Can Seize Only What You Can See
Discussing the Qualities of a Leader
What leadership qualities have we highlighted on this site? Here are some or our leadership stories, which we think complement Maxwell’s list.
Seeing things differently. Perhaps an unusual characteristic of leadership but take for example the story of Tom Watson Jr, and a young executive who had just lost IBM several million dollars.
Leading in small actions. In our article motivation in the workplace we discussed how people can re-define what they do at work. For example, the simple things that a nurse did in encouraging the best for her patients. The hospital orderly that Martin Seligman speaks about, brightening up patients’ rooms so that after an operation they wake up to inspirational and thoughtful pictures on their walls.
Seeing the bigger picture. The famous stone cutters story illustrates the leadership qualityof seeing the bigger picture and helping others to do so the same.
Valuing ideas. Our article leadership concept suggests that one of the qualities of a leader should be ensuring you place a high value on the ideas of others, and allow time to foster creativity. This story illustrates how one famous leader did just that.
Leading with vision. Leading with vision requires foresight, but do leaders also need to look elsewhere? Looking ahead is important but thinking about those who will follow and bringing them with you is one of the essential qualities of a leader.
Three things leaders have in common. In our article Quotes About Leadership Success : 3 Things Successful Leaders Have in “Common”, we looked at three thought leaders. We suggest these share common qualities, such as: relying on common sense; doing the common things uncommonly well; finding the sense before it becomes common.
Learn from the best. Good leaders learn from the best. Why? Because you can see further on the shoulders of giants.
Taking a road less travelled. Leaders need to develop skills to set out in new directions. In this article we ask: is your destination success? Perhaps, if you try taking a road less travelled. This classic poem might inspire you to reach that destination, and maybe to move from good to great.
If you’re interested in developing your leadership qualities, take a look at one of our leadership e-guides. Leading Insights is packed with more leadership stories, and some leading insights into how they can be used! Insights such as:
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