"Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you?" The characteristics of leadership

To have and have not!

It is interesting isn’t it that a lot of advice on leadership comes from people who have never had a chance to lead themselves.

This is true of advice on leadership in general and, I would say, it is true particularly of advice on change leadership.  Much of the advice comes from academics and, recently, it seems much has come from HR professionals and coaches.

Of course most of those writing have had many opportunities to observe leaders in action and with an educated eye.

So, I’ve been looking recently at what they say are the characteristics of an effective leader and views differ.

One gives the top three characteristics required as; humility, non-judgmental observation and a willingness to face problems.

Another quotes honesty, competence and being forward looking.

A third quotes interpersonal skills, communication skills and values

But I’m left wondering.

You see I would like to see every manager in the organization have all nine of those qualities!

I was surprised that giving clear direction figured on only in one of the lists and intelligence and vision weren’t near the top of any. In my view these are critical.

I want my leaders to be bright, as well as competent.

Yes, I do want them to be able to look ahead and see the ground clearly.  But then I want them to be able to form a vision; a vision that is communicated in a way that helps me to believe in it.

Yes, I do want a dialogue conducted by my leader using their well practised and convincing interpersonal and communication skills.  But then I want them to decide the way ahead in the light of their vision and give the organization a clear sense of direction.

I found the emphasis on honesty very interesting in the present climate – interesting and sad that we can no longer take honesty for granted in our leaders.

I looked up the meaning of humility just to be sure I understood it properly.  It means someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. Well, yes, then I agree but I’m not sure that I would put it top of my list.  What about you?

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. She has managed or advised on many different kinds of transition and she has worked with all kinds of people going through personal change. If you would like her help, email her at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com or ring ++44(0)2084610114 or ++44(0)7867681439 .

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3 thoughts on “"Just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you?" The characteristics of leadership”

  1. This makes me think back to my time as an employee and about the people I worked for – who did I consider a great leader and why? My first thought is that they had a certain charisma – they didn’t appear to be “working at” leading people, there was a naturalness, an authenticity to it. They were genuine and transparent, with a real enthusiasm for their work and the challenges at hand. And the strongest thought that remains is connected with even more closely with honesty. Yes, they had the vision and had the courage to take us there – but by being open and fair. Ultimately we “follow” because we trust someone – trust them to do the right thing by us … even when they may be under pressure or be being treated unfairly themselves.

    1. Thanks Jane – yes I suspect authenticity is important. One problem is though that society is so complex now, that we need lots of good leaders and growing them is problematic. We need to develop a culture in which the right characteristics are encouraged!

  2. Pingback: Becoming a Leader Today – What is Leadership? | Wisewolf Talking – Leadership and Change

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