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11 Inherent Traits Of Real Leaders

11 Inherent Traits Of Real Leaders

The success of our companies and countries ultimately depends on our leaders. In addition to skills, real leaders bring a set of important traits to their work. These traits are often developed and refinded through experience. These insights have come from a variety of leaders and leadership experts working in many different fields.

Let’s dive in and find out if you are a real leader by examining these inherent traits.

1. They are honest

In their classic leadership book, “The Truth About Leadership”, James M. Kouzes and Barry S. Posner surveyed people across the world regarding leadership. The far-ranging study found that honesty is the number one trait people want in their leaders. Without this strong moral foundation, a leader has no credibility.

TIP: Honesty matters to your work even if you are not in a leadership role – 4 Reasons Why You Should Always Be Honest.

2. They want the best for their people

Real leaders deeply value the people that work under their leadership. For example, entrepreneur Jon Taffer (known for his TV show Bar Rescue), demonstrates his belief in people by training them and giving them feedback to improve. As a result of his leadership, his company sees a turnover rate far lower than the industry average.

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To apply this principle to your leadership role, take the time to understand what your people want. Some staff may want schedule flexibility, while others will be focused on career advancement.

Resource: Four Leadership Tips to Bring Out the Best in Your Team.

3. They know their strengths

A key principle in management research tells us that top performance comes from working on our strengths. In their study of 2 million people, Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton found that working in your strengths is vital. Their insights are explained in greater detail in the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths.”

TIP: Read Why Knowing Yourself Is Essential To Leadership.

4. They know leadership is influence

Leadership author and expert John C Maxwell has taught the principle that leadership is influence for decades in his speeches and books. Real leaders understand that they cannot simply rely on their title or formal authority to get results. Instead, they have to build up influence through relationships, setting a good example, and other means. A focus on influence means that you can begin to lead people, no matter your job title.

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TIP: Read 10 Ways to Positively Influence Others In The Workplace to discover how to use your influence skills for the common good.

5. They know motivation, inside out

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan, NBA Basketball champion

Motivating yourself to work and achieving results is the foundation for an effective leader. A good leader knows the importance of mastering their own motivation, even to keep working through dull activities. Armed with that understanding, real leaders motivate their people to keep working.

TIP: A few words, at the right time, make all the difference to motivation – 50 Motivational Quotes That Will Put Your Motivation on Overdrive.

6. They keep growing

Without a growing leader, an organization will struggle to grow. Dedicated leaders keep learning by reading books, working through conferences, and meeting with top performers. This principle holds true even if you fail to observe it. For example, Sarah Palin was unable to name any magazines or periodicals she reads to stay informed about current affairs during a 2008 interview with Katie Couric.

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TIP: Keep growing yourself through personal development – 22 Killer Personal Development Resources You’re Missing Out On.

7. They are ambitious for their organization

Real leaders know the importance of focusing on their organization, rather than their personal glory. Management researcher Jim Collins found that the best CEOs seek growth for their organization. While some “celebrity CEOs” achieve their results during their tenure, those results fade once they leave the C-suite.

To apply this principle, use it to make decisions. Ask the question, “Is this decision best for the organization or is it good for me?”

8. They keep working through challenges

Every leader faces major challenges and disappointments. What sets real leaders apart from the rest is their ability to work through setbacks. For example, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was declined admission to military school on his first application. He kept studying and applying until he was granted admission. Churchill’s determination to keep working at a challenging goal is a key trait that led him to success later in life.

TIP: Different challenges require different responses – 10 Challenges Leaders Always Face And How To Deal With Them.

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9. They value effective communication

Communication is a key skill that real leaders take the time to master. For example, Demosthenes became a highly successful public speaker and leader in ancient Greece through years of effort. For years, he struggled to speak effectively. How did he improve? He used a variety of methods, including speaking with pebbles in his mouth. Working through discomfort to grow your communication skills is an important trait among real leaders.

10. They are willing to admit when they are wrong

Leaders are constantly making decisions. From time to time, they will make mistakes. When those mistakes occur, real leaders know the importance of admitting the mistake and moving on. For example, President Obama admitted to making a mistake regarding a decision regarding Tom Daschle shortly after taking office. It is rare for a U.S. President to admit mistakes in office, yet Obama and other Presidents have done it on occasion.

TIP: To inspire you to own your mistakes, read How to Admit Your Mistakes.

11. They focus on the future

A future focus is a key trait for leaders. In “The Truth About Leadership,” the second most admired trait in leaders (after honesty) is to be forward-looking. While there is value in understanding the past, real leaders realize that they cannot change history. Even better, leaders know that their people are inspired by future potential, rather than revisiting past mistakes.

Resource: For a broader perspective, read The Seven Qualities of Visionary Leaders

Featured photo credit: Steve Jobs/Bob Stanfield via flickr.com

More by this author

Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2019

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

How do we manage that?

I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

    One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

    At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

    After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

    • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
    • She could publish all her articles on time
    • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

    Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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    1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

    When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

    My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

    Use this time to:

    • Look at the big picture.
    • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
    • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

    2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

    This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

    It works like this:

    Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

    By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

      To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

      Low Cost + High Benefit

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      Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

      Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

      High Cost + High Benefit

      Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

      Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

      Low Cost + Low Benefit

      This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

      These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

      High Cost + Low Benefit

      Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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      For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

      Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

        After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

          And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

          Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

          Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

          What to do in these cases?

          Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

          For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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          Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

            Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

            The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

            By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

            And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

            Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

            Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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            Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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