The 21 Indispenable Qualities of A Leader Pt. I

A while back I received a book from my wife, written by John C. Maxwell, titled, "The 21 Indispensable Qualities of A Leader."  The book focuses exclusively on attribute at a time.  The goal of the entire book is for the reader to learn all of the attributes one at a time.  I have reread the book several times. I find myself always going back to this book whenever I am tackled by a leadership issue.  In the next two posts on this subject I will list the attributes with very brief descriptions.

The first 11 attributes are:

  1. Character
  2. Charisma
  3. Commitment
  4. Communication
  5. Competence
  6. Courage
  7. Discernment
  8. Focus
  9. Generosity
  10. Initiative
  11. Listening.
1) Character. The key to character is for a person to know themselves.  I remember that the late Steven Covey used to say that,"private victories are preceded by public ones."  How well do you know yourself? Your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots, talents, etc. Character is the bedrock to leadership.

2) Charisma. Charisma is the ability of making people like you.  Maxwell writes that in order for a leader to be charismatic they must generally like and care about people.  Benjamin Disraeli once said, "The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."  In your conversations with others are you showing a genuine concern?  Before you can be liked by others you must care for them first.

3) Commitment. How committed are you in your life?  I don't mean just goals, I mean in your overall life.  Are you a person of your word? Do you give your best day in day out?  If not it is time to work on being more committed because true commitment comes from saying yes to the annoying, mundane details first, then saying yes to the great challenges of tomorrow.

4) Communication. Communication is the ability to take difficult concepts and to make them understandable to others.  How do you speak?  Are you sensitive to your audience's needs, do you place the needs of others ahead of your own?  A great communicator possesses the ability to connect with others through empathy and genuine concern. Think of some of the best communicators such as Franklin D Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

5) Competence. Are you good at what you do?  Are you the best in your field? Do you show up everyday? Do you inspire the best in others? Competence is not simply being the best at what you do; it is the ability to inspire others to become the best that they can be.

6) Courage.  Do you live a fearless life?  I don't mean a life free of fear.  I mean a life of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone,  making a steady commitment to growth,  adapting to changing times, possessing the ability to stick to principles even when they are unpopular?  Do you act in spite of fear? Do you regularly work on developing mental toughness?  Courage is the mother of all virtues.  Without it you can never lead others.

7) Discernment. "Smart leaders believe only half of what they hear. Discerning leaders know which half to believe."-John Maxwell. Do you think before you act?  Do you look at the entire picture before making a decision? A great leader possesses the ability to possess a 360 view when making a decision.  A great leader won't act before they are comfortable.  But once a leader makes a decision they will stick to it no matter what.

8) Focus. How good are you at prioritizing?  Steven A. Covey in his master work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People developed a 4 quadrant system of organization.  To get a sample of his 4 quadrant system click here.  A great leader has the ability to stay focused on the appropriate task despite distractions.  Focus is the enemy of distraction.

9) Generosity. Are you a generous person? Do you regularly tithe? If you are not a church goer do you regularly donate your time or your resources to charities? Generosity isn't limited just to money.  Do you give of your self to others? your co workers, family? A great leader must possess a larger than life magnanimity.  A true leader is always selfless. 

10) Initiative.  Are you the first to do that difficult thing?  Do you go out of your way to be excellent even when no one is watching.  Are you the first one in, last one out? Do you inspire others to do the same?  Do you do the right thing before being asked? A true leader is usually the first to do the right thing. A leader leads, its that simple.

11) Listening. Do you truly listen to others? I don't mean simply through nodding your head.  I mean are you secure enough to listen to honest feedback even if it hurts your pride?  Do you readily admit when you are wrong?  A true leader is able to listen to others in a genuine way.  A true leader realizes that they don't possess all the answers.

In my next post on leadership I will list the last 10 indispensable qualities of a leader.


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