There is no magic formula to becoming a leader.
Many people believe that great leaders are born and gifted with leadership abilities. I, however, would suggest that great leaders can be developed, and must learn that leading takes time, focused effort, and commitment.
Many times, people confuse charisma with leadership and think the more charismatic a person acts, the better the leader. False enthusiasm and fake charisma are a trap and are the wrong way to lead genuinely.
So, what do people want in a leader? There have been countless surveys and studies done to find the key characteristics people look for in one. Consistently, this research has shown that there are four major traits people expect in a leader:
- Honesty. We want to follow people who are worthy of our trust. Why would anyone follow someone else who is willing to lie, cheat, or take shortcuts? At our most basic level, we want our leaders to be authentic and have solid integrity. We follow people because of what they represent and we want to be seen as having the same characteristics as them. When a leader acts dishonestly or unethically, it tarnishes our self-image and what we think of ourselves.
- Core Competency. We follow people who we believe are capable and effective. We want leaders who know what they are doing. It is hard to believe the message if you don’t believe the messenger. People want leaders to have necessary levels of understanding in their industry, markets, and trends. People also want leaders to have a depth of knowledge that can lead a business or group through the hard and challenging times.
- Inspirational. I don’t know too many people who are “Debbie Downers” and who are also thought of as leaders. People follow leaders who are excited, energetic, and confident about the future. When bad things are happening to a business or in a marketplace, people can become worried, frightened, or uncertain, and they’ll want a person who instills in them the confidence that the obstacles and short-term problems can be overcome. We spend so much time at work that we want leaders who will help us see the importance of our work and how what we are doing is making a difference.
- Future Oriented. People want leaders who are looking ahead and who are thinking about what is coming next. People want to have confidence that the people they are following see and understand what is going to happen next in the market space. Steve Covey wrote about having the “destination in mind.” Some people call it vision or goals, and successful leaders can effectively convey and communicate where they want to go.
One final thought – people want leaders to do what they say they are going to do. They don’t want to hear nebulous, mumble jumbo talk about doing “stuff.” It is always better to “under promise and over deliver.” Words matter and have an impact, and once a commitment or intended action is put into play, it needs to happen.
Genuine leadership is a challenge, and good leaders know how to bring people along with honesty, while being competent, and having a purpose and direction. Good leaders are not born, they are made.