Four Traits of a Credible Leader - Maven Academy
Maven Musings

Four Traits of a Credible Leader

Published by Director, Maven Academy - 2 years ago

The world is going through an unprecedented humanitarian crisis of huge proportions. And we see varying styles of leadership on display as each nation attempts different strategies for reigning in the effects of the pandemic. Leadership in simple terms is the ability of an individual or a group to lead others to achieve worthwhile results. Most discussions on leadership are restricted to skills and styles; generally. The attributes or personality traits behooving of a leader are seldom deliberated upon. It is my strong opinion that Vision, Integrity, Courage, and Empathy are the basic and crucial personality traits, among others, for any leader. These are akin to the basic skeleton structure of a skyscraper, usually built of concrete and steel, which determines the stability of the building.

LEADERSHIP SKILLS can be acquired through life experiences, by association with other leaders, and through mentoring. As for leadership styles, flexibility is demanded because different situations and circumstances require different solutions and approaches. Where it involves people, the approach and the resultant style is attuned to suit the culture and belief systems of those involved. But the personality traits of vision, integrity, courage, and empathy are essential for all leaders, irrespective of the field of practice. Understandably, a person may possess or display varying depths of the aforementioned traits. But in the absence of this core one is deprived of the right to even consider themselves a leader because these attributes determine the type of leader a person would evolve into. They have a major influence on the equation with the community and the effectiveness of the leader. The quality of leadership and the success of an individual as a credible leader would depend on these personality traits.

VISION – In the context of an organization, vision defines the future direction. In leadership, it is the ability to inspire and bring out the best in others. It energizes people into actions that propel them towards a perceived future. Clarity of thought followed by strategic planning and focused action are needed to convert those visions into reality. President John F Kennedy during his address to the joint session of the congress on May 25, 1961, articulated the American vision to “Land a man on the moon, before this decade is out, and return him safely to Earth”. Though at the time of the speech, the USA did not have the technological wherewithal to accomplish the goal that was set forth, this vision set on fire the imagination of a whole nation that set in motion a series of concerted actions. All of it consummated in American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting foot on the moon in July of 1969. That is the power of a bold vision.

A true leader demonstrates integrity in thoughts, actions, and in every aspect of life. Persons with integrity do the right things always; even when in a position where they can do the wrong thing and get away with it.

INTEGRITY – It is a rare personality trait and defines the credibility and trustworthiness of an individual. A true leader demonstrates integrity in thoughts, actions, and in every aspect of life. Persons with integrity do the right things always; even when in a position where they can do the wrong thing and get away with it. It is the capacity to stay free from every bias, uninfluenced by all kinds of “isms”. It is the ability to remain neutral, treat everyone on par, and look at everyone as another human being and accept them as they are. We can learn from nature; take the Swan as an example. They protect themselves against getting dirty by applying oil from glands in their body with their beak and take the time to groom themselves. That is how they maintain themselves clean irrespective of whether the water they swim in is clean or dirty. Similarly, a credible leader is expected to rise above all the divisions and discriminations that may exist in the circumstances, and communities one functions. Having a high level of integrity in thoughts is one thing, but to demonstrate this in action requires a high dose of courage which is the next trait in our list of four.

COURAGE – Not the absence of fear, rather it is to take a stand and act for the right cause while being aware that it does not enjoy widespread support. Even when it is the lone voice and even if it could cost the position, status, or life of the person taking the stand. South Africa’s apartheid regime officially came to an end in 1991, beginning with the release of Mr. Nelson Mandela in 1990 after being in prison for 27 long years. The colored populace of South Africa was boiling with feelings of hatred, a thirst for revenge, a burning desire to discriminate against the minority white South Africans who had so ruthlessly discriminated against them for so long. That was the mood and the battle cry among the majority. But Madiba (the name by which he was fondly referred to by his people), who took charge as the elected President, displayed courage and statesmanship by refusing to toe the line of the majority. Despite opposition from within his ilk and the African National Congress, Mr. Mandela took a stand against popular opinion and rallied everyone to follow the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. That singular courageous action set the South African nation in pursuit of progress and success as opposed to a possibility of decades of conflict and confrontation. Today it stands out as a proud progressive country in the international community of nations with its apartheid past buried in oblivion.

EMPATHY – The ability to understand and value the other person’s experience, perspective, and feelings. Willingness to listen, understand the needs, emotions, and opinions of others is a great trait that is key to building strong teams. In all our endeavors we don’t succeed as individuals, but only as a team. Empathy is the binder that keeps a team together through every high and low. Teams that have empathy within are committed and successful because they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and cover for each other when the need arises. Like most qualities, empathy percolates down from team leadership and that is why it is one of the important personality traits that define a credible leader.

At the core, leadership is about others and credible leadership is inspiring others to rise above their capabilities, soar over the mundane, and reach for the extraordinary. And that can be achieved only through an empathetic leadership that has a clear vision of the future with uncompromising integrity and unbridled courage.

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