I’ve met many leaders in my life, and they all share similar traits. Sure, we do things a bit differently here and there, but for the most part, we’re alike. Are leaders born with these traits? I think partly, yes. I have known many young men who grew up similarly to me — the same backgrounds, the same country — who weren’t able to translate what they wanted into what they became.
Perhaps half nature and half sheer force of will make leaders a bit different than those who just follow. Regardless, all of them I have met possess at least 9 traits.
1. Optimism —
All it takes is one negative person to infiltrate ten positive people. Sometimes positivity is harder to spread than negativity. Instead of getting bogged down by what isn’t working, leaders rise up to the occasion and inspire positivity. When it’s hard to know what is coming, it’s easy to want to give up. Those who lead persevere, partially because they don’t know how not to. It’s not their natural response.
Not only does positivity lead people, it motivates them to mirror who is leading.
2. Intuition —
When an employee or a project is leading towards a lost cause, I know it before it happens. But I’m not psychic; I’m intuitive, and there is a difference. How I have become intuitive is something that I learned from an early age–to always prepare for what’s to come. In business, I keep my hands and eyes on everything that happens in my company. Since ARETI is a large company and I cannot be everywhere at once, I make sure to hire people I can trust to report back to me.
3. Generosity —
As a businessman and leader, I try to be generous with people and my community, which is why I push my employees to give to charity and take part in philanthropic initiatives. By being philanthropic, I think I make my employees want to be as well. Research shows that a socially conscientious employer makes for happier employees overall.
Aside from fostering a sense of generosity from my company and those around me, leaders can be generous by listening those who have great ideas or present solutions when others are presenting problems. Having an open-door policy at work is a great way to let people know that you are listening and present day-to-day.
4. Decisiveness —
An indecisive person will fail as a leader. It’s as simple as that. They may move up the ranks in their company because they are competent but they will not have the ability to lead anyone anywhere. Everyone needs to know that the final decision comes from the top (meaning you), or someone else will take the helm. Or worse, the venture, project, or company will fail from being in constant flux. A leader in constant conversation with his or herself is set to be stuck in a back and forth where it is impossible to lead anything anywhere positive.
5. Charisma —
An important thing that thought leaders have is being able to speak in public. Many cite public speaking as their number one worst fear — about 40% of them. But if that 40% want to become leaders, they’ll have to overcome that. When I think about those who have been the most memorable leaders, I recall the likes of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill. What makes them powerful public speakers (and leaders) is their ability to evoke passions from those they are speaking to, and they do it with charisma. Some people are born with it, but like public speaking, even charisma can be learned. I suggest you do so.
If you want to be persuasive — something I’ve often had to be with investors, business partners, and employees — remember that charisma is #1.
6. Restlessness —
The feeling of restlessness causes a leader to become kinetic, which is a time of great possibilities. When leaders feel restless, it is a time when they aim to do more and become more innovative. Instead of complacency, they are always on the precipice of something better than what’s come before. Leaders never stop thinking or doing.
Though a previously mentioned leader like Apple’s Steve Jobs was known to be unrelenting to his staff, he was always striving, always learning, and extracted excellence from both his staff and his products. With his constant frenetic, restless mind, he created not just a business, but also an iconic empire.
7. Integrity —
People mimic the leaders, so it’s vital that you display honesty. As much as possible, leaders use transparency to garner trust. Without trust, it’s nearly impossible to lead a company towards a successful venture. Those who trust their bosses tend to be more productive, making them better, more dependable employees. Honest leaders create a solutions-oriented staff and company.
8. Emotional Stability —
When you’re starting or managing a business, unexpected things will happen, but it is how you react to challenges that make you either a leader, or an emotionally immature dreamer. All the traits of a leader I’ve mentioned so far are ones of action, but there is also the strength that comes from inaction. If a leader reacts to every crisis that arises, the company is consistently in chaos.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Journal of Applied Psychology, “[…] out of the Big Five personality traits, only emotional stability and extraversion significantly predicted people’s ability to cope with change.”
By not acting and not reacting immediately upon every dissatisfying situation, he or she conveys a sense of inner wisdom — something many employees I eventually let go didn’t have.
9. Daring —
Breaking the rules and setting new trends is something I and so many people in my position exhibit. From Richard Branson to the first-time startup founder pitching to Silicon Valley VC firms, fearlessness is essential if not the most important thing a leader must possess. Without risk, there is complacency, and with complacency comes decline. Great leaders are always moving which is what creates the distance from them to the rest of the pack.
I believe great leaders are often born with these 9 leadership traits, but with hard work, these traits can be learned if applied and practiced in your everyday life. Once this practice becomes a regular habit, you’re well on your way to leading instead of falling behind.