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Leadership Traits

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In a survey sponsored by the American Association,1,500 managers nationwide were asked what values, traits, orcharacteristics they looked for in their superiors. ,competence, and the ability to inspire and provide direction wereamong the most common responses. A follow-up survey involving 2,600senior-level managers revealed the following most-soughtcharacteristics: honesty (83 percent), competence (67 percent),progressiveness (62 percent), and the ability to inspire (58percent).

All are subjective characteristics but they fairly easy tomeasure.

Honesty--Revealed through behavior, honesty, or lack ofit, is quickly spotted by superiors and subordinates alike. Muchcan be said about integrity, but unless it's demonstratedthrough consistent behavior, it means little. Behavior will revealthe difference between word and deed and establish the sense oftrust between and follower. Although deception, cover-ups,and unfulfilled promises are among the more blatant examples ofdishonesty, lacking confidence in one's own words is equallydamaging. If the leader doesn't believe what he says, how doeshe expect others to? Consistency in what is both said and done isessential in establishing the sense of trust necessary betweenleader and follower.

Competence--Honesty has little value without competence.Competence embraces both ability and . This means havingmore than just the technical abilities, it means instilling theexpectation that a leader can get the job done. Theleader's track record influences the expectation; if the trackrecord is mixed, expectation will be shaky.

Progressiveness--The ability to lead with an eye to thefuture, progressiveness is also sought in management because aprogressive leader anticipates changes and problems, and plans forsolutions. The progressive manager is no head-in-the-cloudsvisionary, but a strategic goal-setter with realistic expectations.He or she sees the need for change, and then confronts the task ofbringing it about. Whether the change involves a new marketingsystem, personnel policy or product line, the leader will needfollowers to implement it.

Inspiration--In a sense, inspiration means infusingothers with enthusiasm and energy while communicating a vision orconcept. It's the ability to describe and recruitsimultaneously. And though it may sound difficult, it's not. Ifthe idea is logical and a potential need exists, presenting it withenthusiasm and a sincere in its success will merge conceptwith expectation in the mind of the listener.

Taken together, honesty, competence, and the ability to inspireand lead progressively comprise what is termed credibility.Providing a credible model that followers can look to, emulate, andadmire -- that's the essence of . You createcredibility by challenging a procedure or process, outliningalternatives, providing an attractive vision of the future, andsoliciting and encouraging involvement from followers.

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