Personal Traits and Skills

The final set area for a leader to learn is personal traits and skills. The traits portion may sound odd. After all, how can you learn something that is considered inborn? Actually, many traits are learned. Consider some of the classic traits associated with leadership:

  • Vision

  • Courage

  • Loyalty

  • Self-discipline

  • Strong work ethic

  • Creativity

  • Ability to learn from mistakes

  • Willingness to stand for something

Other than possibly vision, none of these is inherent in a person's character. Some of these characteristics will come more easily than others, but through diligent effort, you can check off literally all of them. You don't need them all to lead, but the more you have, the more effective you can be.

Top Characteristics

Some leadership traits are more important than others. Self-discipline, for example, is key to leadership — and everything else in the world. Without it, you can't accomplish anything. After all, how can you manage others if you haven't figured out how to manage yourself?

A work ethic goes hand in glove with self-discipline. A willingness to learn from mistakes is worth more than its weight in Warren Buffett because leadership must constantly adapt to the changing nature of reality. Add loyalty to goals, principles, and other team members, and you have a good start on a supportive set of traits.

How can I develop leadership traits?

This is a topic not generally taught even in the finest business schools. But there are clues that can lead you down the right path. One of the best ways to approach developing these characteristics is to use an old actors' trick. Behave as though you are, and you will become what you seek.

A leader must also have the flexibility to handle change. Learning to accept and work with change helps you ultimately to learn from it. It teaches you to keep aiming for your goals, even when facing delays and detours. It also helps you change your own behavior when you are the one that is slowing progress — and that will happen.

Looking to Others

You'll need to learn how to identify talent and willingness. Because a leader must work with others, it helps to find team members that can significantly contribute to the group effort, and you are the designated talent scout. You'll also have to learn to handle the problems that always come when people work together. Then you'll need to learn how to keep learning — always expanding on your skills and capabilities.

It may sound like a lot, but it's not. Step by step, you'll move toward leadership and keep improving on what you can do. There's no degree at the end of this book, no graduation ceremony. But your leadership abilities and skills will keep increasing as you practice more, until one day people will ask you how they can learn to lead.

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