One of the most important factors in creating effective leadership is that of a leader’s personal attributes. This is a blend of knowledge, expertise, and competencies encapsulated in the approach and behavior of the leader. In organizations of all sizes and in all sectors, public and private, these characteristics are key to effective leadership. The essential personal attributes are as follows:
1. Behaving Ethically by learning about the ethical issues and concerns that impact on your business sector; adopting a balanced, open-minded approach to the ethical concerns of others; considering the ethical issues and implications of all personal actions and organizational activity; raising and discussing ethical issues before proposing or agreeing to decisions; resisting pressures from the organization or its partners to achieve objectives by unethical means.
2. Thinking Strategically by learning and understanding how the different functions, physical divisions, and layers of the organization should work together; understanding the complexities of, and the changes happening in the external environment, and considering how the organization can best respond; understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and the opportunities and threats facing it; understanding how the strategic objectives are influenced by current and forecast influences that will impact on the organization; understanding that the operational objectives and targets must be in line with and support the strategic objectives of the organization; being aware of and responding to the behavior of current and potential competitors.
3. Supporting Corporate Goals by helping to create and communicate a vision, which can be understood and supported by people at all levels; helping others to understand and contribute to the strategic goals; giving visible personal support to the strategic direction and specific goals set by the organization.
4. Communicating Effectively by being responsive to messages and signals from the internal and external environments; making effective use of communication channels from and to all levels within the organization; pro-actively encourage the exchange of information within the organization and amongst suppliers, customers and partners; listening to others including those with opposing views carefully and thoughtfully; selecting personal communication styles that are appropriate to the different situations and audiences.
5. Gathering Information by establishing multiple channels and networks which generate a constant flow of information from within and outside the organization; regularly and consistently gathering, analyzing, challenging, and using the information gathered.
6. Making Decisions by establishing a consistent approach to the analysis of information; drawing on personal experience and knowledge to identify current and potential problems; considering a range of solutions before selecting the final one; ensuring that the selected decision is feasible, achievable, and affordable; considering the impact of the decision on all stakeholders, at all levels, before approving implementation.
7. Developing Effective Teams by appreciating the contribution of others, at all levels in the organization; ensuring that individuals and teams are kept informed of plans, developments, and issues that will affect them; ensuring that individual and team development schemes are given appropriate priority; providing personal support for the implementation and maintenance of development activities for individuals and teams at all levels.
8. Behaving Assertively by understanding and responding to personal roles and responsibilities; adopting a leading role in initiating action and decision making; taking personal responsibility for decisions and actions; being properly prepared for involvement in activities and events; being confident and professional in dealing with change and challenges; refusing unreasonable demands; defending and protecting individuals and teams from unfair or discriminatory actions; remaining professional in manner at all times.
9. Concentrating On Results by contributing to the establishment of an organizational culture that demands high standards and high levels of performance; focusing on objectives and planned outcomes at all times; dealing with issues and problems when they arise; planning and scheduling personal work and the work of others in ways which make best use of available resources; delegating appropriately; giving personal attention to the critical issues and events.
10. Managing Yourself by reflecting regularly on personal performance and progress; pro-actively asking for feedback on personal performance; changing personal behavior in the light of feedback received; being responsible for your own personal development needs.
11. Presenting a Positive Image by adopting a leading role in initiating action and decision making; behaving in a professional manner at all times; being open-minded and responsive to the needs of others; visibly working towards personal and career development goals; adopting an ethical approach to all personal and organizational activity; being supportive to colleagues; demonstrating fairness and integrity at all times.
In Summary, these essential attributes are many and difficult to maintain consistently, but they are the attributes needed by, and expected of, our business leaders. The size of the organization, the business sector, whether public or private, is of no consequence. The leaders of all organizations should be role models for others, be visible champions of high standards of professional and ethical behavior, be leaders who others in their organizations can be proud of, and be leaders that competitors are envious of. Not many of these characteristics are imbued in our leaders by default. They have to be learned, can be learned, and should then be continuously developed and enhanced. With these personal attributes in place, and being demonstrated in behavior and actions, business leaders will be more effective and more successful.