The first area we look at is that of personal attributes. These are a mix of knowledge, expertise and competencies that are reflected in the approach and behaviour of the leader. In organizations of all sizes and in all sectors, both public and private, these characteristics are key to effective leadership. The essential personal qualities are as follows.
1. Ethical behaviour
becoming informed about the ethical issues and concerns that impact your business area; taking a balanced, open-minded attitude toward the ethical concerns of others; considering the ethical issues and implications of all personal actions and organizational activities; addressing and discussing ethical issues before proposing or agreeing to decisions; resisting pressure from the organization or its partners to achieve goals through unethical means.
2. Think strategically
learning and understanding how the various functions, physical departments, and levels of the organization should work together. Understanding the complexity and changes in the external environment and considering how the organization can best respond; Understanding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats it faces; Understanding how strategic objectives are affected by all current and projected influences impacting the organization; Understanding that operational goals and objectives must align with and support the organization’s strategic objectives; Knowing and responding to the behaviour of current and potential competitors.
3. Supporting organizational goals
Participating in the development and communication of a vision that can be understood and supported by employees at all levels; helping others understand and contribute to strategic goals; providing visible personal support for the strategic direction and specific goals of the organization.
4. Communicate effectively
Responding to messages and signals from internal and external environments; effectively using communication channels to and from all levels within the organization; proactively promoting information sharing within the organization and among suppliers, customers and partners; listening carefully and attentively to others, including those with opposing views; choosing a personal communication style appropriate to different situations and audiences.
5. Gathering information
Establishing multiple channels and networks that generate a constant flow of information inside and outside the organization; regularly and consistently collecting, analyzing, questioning and using the information gathered.
6. Make decisions
Developing a coherent approach to analyzing 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 chosen decision is feasible, achievable and financially viable; considering the impact of the decision on all stakeholders at all levels before approving implementation.
7. Develop effective teams
Valuing the contribution of others at all levels of the organization; ensuring that individuals and teams are kept informed of plans, developments and issues affecting them; ensuring that development programs for individuals and teams are given appropriate priority; providing personal support for the implementation and maintenance of development activities for individuals and teams at all levels.
8. Assertive behaviour
Understanding and carrying out personal roles and responsibilities; taking a leadership role in initiating action and decision making; taking personal responsibility for decisions and actions; preparing appropriately to participate in activities and events; dealing confidently and professionally with change and challenges; refusing unreasonable demands; defending and protecting individuals and teams from unfair or discriminatory actions; behaving professionally at all times.
9. Focus on results
Helping to create an organizational culture that demands high standards and levels of performance; focusing on goals and planned outcomes at all times; addressing issues and problems as they arise; planning and scheduling own work and the work of others to make the best use of available resources; delegating appropriately; giving personal attention to critical issues and events.
10. Manage oneself
Regularly reflecting on one’s own performance and progress; proactively asking for feedback on one’s performance; changing one’s behaviour in light of feedback received; being accountable for one’s own personal development needs.
11. Project a positive image
Taking a leadership role in initiating action and making decisions; behaving professionally at all times; being open-minded and responsive to the needs of others; visibly working toward personal and professional development goals; taking an ethical approach in all personal and organizational activities; being supportive of colleagues; exhibiting fairness and integrity at all times.
There are many of these essential qualities that are difficult to consistently maintain but are required and expected of our leaders. The size of the organization, the sector of the economy, whether public or private, does not matter. Leaders in all organizations should be role models for others, they should be visibly committed to high standards of professional and ethical conduct, they should be leaders that others in their organizations can be proud of, and they should be leaders that are the envy of their peers. Not many of these traits come innately to our leaders. They must be learned, can be learned, and then should be continually developed and improved. When these personal qualities are present and evident in their behaviour and actions, leaders will be more effective and successful.