4 Personality Traits That Make You an Effective Leader
We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »
What makes a good leader? Which personality traits do the best trailblazers share? Every organization has its own benchmarks for determining who would make the best head of its teams, but are those qualities really all that different?
Research in the field suggests that, on a broad level, employees and employers are looking for similar characteristics in their leaders -- no matter what business they're in. Here are four personality traits that people want in a boss.
Results form a November 2014 Pew Research Center Survey showed that 84 percent of the 1,835 respondents considered honesty the most essential personality trait for any leader.
Honest leaders inspire not just through words but through actions. They're the kind of leaders who build their teams from the ground up. They understand that effective leadership is built on trust, and that honesty in leadership generates a stronger team dynamic. Honest interactions with employees build the kind of relationships that make success in the workplace attainable for the entire team -- not just the boss.
In the world of personality evaluation, openness is one of the Big Five dimensions of personality that psychologists use to evaluate individuals. It refers to how open an individual is to new experiences and how imaginative and insightful an individual can be.
In 2014, strength-based leadership development experts Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman performed an analysis of the 33 top leaders at a major telecommunications organization and established 10 personality traits that made those leaders effective. Some of their findings included creating a culture that magnifies upward communication (being open to ideas from all sources); setting stretch goals (keeping an open mind to find dynamic ways to achieve organizational goals); and emphasizing speed (defined as encouraging ideas to be tested first and discussed -- and picked apart -- later). While the study only focused on 33 leaders from one organization, Zenger and Folkman noted their results were consistent with their analysis of leaders from hundreds of organizations across a wide range of industries.
Good leaders encourage a culture where every team member’s ideas are heard and valued. They're open and imaginative -- and they encourage those traits in their employees.
Related: The 8 Signs of a Bad Leader
Leaders make decisions.
Without fail, leaders are regularly called on to make choices that impact both the organization and the people they lead. People want to follow a person who weighs all the options and, as Zenger and Folkman discovered in their research, “Display fearless loyalty to doing what’s right for the organization.” In other words, good leaders make important decisions based on what’s best for the organization -- and they make them confidently.
Pew respondents say organization (67 percent) and compassion (57 percent) are important, and Zenger and Folkman believe in strategic vision. And each of these are components of conscientiousness.
Conscientiousness is a measure of how organized, thoughtful and forward-thinking an individual is. Good leaders are highly organized, both individually and when it pertains to their teams; they sympathize with their employees and provide thoughtful feedback and support; and they have both short-term and long-term goals for the team that drive the team’s everyday projects.
Bill Gates, commenting on leadership in the 21st century, once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others." Good leaders do more than just inspire others through action, they empower the people they work with by building trust, encouraging and being open to creative solutions, making confident decisions that reflect the best interests of their employees and organization, and being thoughtful, organized strategic planners who think about the bigger picture and how all their employees contribute to that success.
What personality traits do you think a good leader has to have? What makes the leaders in your organization stand out?
Related: 5 Key Traits of Great Leaders