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Is it possible for Leaders become successful AND authentic?

Over the last 15 years we have been working in the field of leadership development we have become fascinated by the questions people ask us about leadership: What makes a good leader? What makes a bad one? Does the world need leaders who are strong, single minded and driven to get things done quickly or leaders that are flexible, able to listen to everyone’s opinions and who take time to reflect and consider before doing anything?

The reason there is much argument about good leaders is that what makes a good leader is that, like most things, it is based on our opinion. Think about someone you think is a good leader. Why do you think they are a good leader? We focus on different aspects on a person’s behaviours based on our own beliefs and values, our own aspirations and our own blind spots.

The view on what makes a good leader is changing; no longer the vocation of the mysterious few, we are beginning to realise that good leadership is required in more areas of life that at the top of big corporations and that there are many equally good ways to lead. We need good leadership in our communities, running our small businesses, in our entrepreneurs and in our families.

In writing our book Real Leaders for the Real World, Karen and I completed a study of over 60 leaders from all walks of life and business. We wanted to find out whether there were any themes in the traits leaders have developed or are looking to develop and whether there were any issues common to most leaders. The results were incredible.

We found a clear pattern of both traits and qualities good leaders had acquired or were developing and a common set of problems and issues present in most leaders’ day to day life. It was also clear that everyone can develop these traits and remain true to themselves. There is no need to turn yourself into a corporate robot to be a good leader, you can develop your own successful style. This is a liberating fact for anyone who either thinks they do not have what it takes to be a good leader or is struggling to fit the stereotype traditional leadership theories may have you believe.

From our research, we discovered 5 essential traits of good leaders, these are:

  • They use feedback to succeed
  • They take considered risks
  • They are forward thinking and flexible
  • They do what they say and say what they do
  • They develop real relationships with people

Simples!! Well yes and no, it is absolutely possible to achieve and some traits will be in the pile of easier said than done. People may be able to intellectually know them but actually doing them requires focus and the development of emotional regulation – more on that later. 

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