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17 Leadership Characteristics the Boss Expects You to Know

leadership characteristics


“a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” ~ wikipedia

Most people do not naturally possess the leadership characteristics vital to career and/or business growth.

Here’s the deal. We all have a boss, and regardless if our boss is the CEO, our spouse or the client, there are certain leadership expectations we must meet in order to gain stature in our boss’ eyes.

What’s important to understand is that leadership characteristics don’t have to come naturally. For most, leadership characteristics seen as “natural,” were actually learned over time through determination and perseverance.

We can get ahead by NOT having to learn through trial and error over many years of work, but rather focusing on the leadership characteristics our boss will expect us to know.

Here are 17 leadership characteristics the boss expects you to know:

1) Be Confident

Confidence is a necessity to lead. This doesn’t mean you have all the answers or that you’re the best at a certain task. Nor does it mean walking around the office with an arrogant, chip on your shoulder. It simply means that you trust your own abilities, qualities and judgement.

[Tweet “People can smell confidence… and it smells good. #leadership”]

2) Be Logical

As leaders, we’re forced to make tough decisions. Sometimes these decisions will go against the grain of common belief or culture. People don’t need to agree with us, but great leaders have logical reasons for their decisions.

3) Be Consistent

People put their faith and trust in the leaders they follow. There is nothing that disrupts a trusting relationship more than inconsistency. This doesn’t mean that we must make the same decisions every time or that we’re expected to agree with those who follow us.

What people want to know is that win, lose or draw, you’ll be back again tomorrow.

4) Admit Mistakes

I make mistakes. You make mistakes. We all make mistakes. We all most likely make more mistakes than awesome decisions, which is fine.

No one expects the leaders they follow to be perfect. What they do expect is that we admit our mistakes when we make them. This shows humility and a willingness to learn from those actions that don’t yield positive results.

5) No Me First Decisions

This is one of the main reasons so many people have no real intention or desire to be a leader… As a leader, your wants and needs never come first.

Great leaders always put the wants and needs of those who follow them ahead of their own. That’s why you’ve become a leader in the first place.  You will help others achieve where they otherwise would have not.

Leaders who put themselves first are considered dictators. Don’t be a dictator.

6) Keep Promises

This is more of a life characteristic than a leadership characteristic, but keeping promises is a non-negotiable MUST. As has been mentioned before, your followers must trust you. The first time you go back on a promise made to your followers they will no longer trust the things you say,  and your ability to lead will diminish.

keep promises

7) Lead by example

It cannot be one way for you and another way for the people who follow you. There are always going to be certain perks to leadership. But flaunting those perks, such as a flexible schedule and increased access to certain resources only creates bitterness within.

True leaders get down in the mud alongside their team and get their hands dirty. It builds trust.

See Related: 7 Simple Ways to Lead by Example |

8) Take Chances

If you’re a leader who’s willing to admit mistakes, as stated in #4, than you’re free to take chances. Your boss wants you to take chances and show creativity in business. Leaders push the boundaries and ask the people who follow them to do the same.

Taking chances on calculated risks is part of growing a successful business. Don’t believe me, listen to my favorite business quote:

Screw it, let’s do it!” ~ Sir Richard Branson

9) Ask Questions

One of the most important leadership characteristics a person can possess is an inquisitive nature.

Not only does asking questions help you make better decisions as a leader but it also shows interest in other people. Just make sure your questions sound more like curiosity than inquisition.

See Related: How to Ask Better Questions | Harvard Business Review

10) Only Lead When Necessary

This one may seem counterintuitive, but leadership is a state of being. It’s not an activity in your job description. We don’t need to be in leadership mode all the time.

Those who forget this are often seen as, “bossy,” and can quickly lose the trust and respect of those who follow them. Pick your moments to be a great leader and determine when leadership is necessary.

11) Think Bigger Than Your Job Description

It is very, “scarcity mindset,” to believe that your job is only what’s included in your job description. If you want to someday become a leader, than your boss expects you to go above and beyond the baseline expectations.

Job descriptions can lead to complacency, as we believe that we’re only responsible for the activities bulleted on the document. To a certain extent, this may be true if we never hope to ascend to a leadership position.

Find ways to do more. Your “boss” will appreciate the effort.

12) Identify Problems AND Solutions

It’s easy to see what isn’t working. Everyone in your company knows what isn’t working. Leaders identify problems and present solutions to those problems.

leaders provide solutions

Your most powerful leadership characteristic could be your willingness to find solutions to problems no one else has time for.

13) Don’t Wait to Be Picked

No one is going to pick you to be a leader. Everyone WANTS to be picked, making it extremely difficult to be the one that is chosen.

Leaders lead because they embody the 17 leadership characteristics contained in this article. Leaders lead because it’s what they do, because they work at it, because they have to.

They do not wait for someone to tell them it’s time to be a leader. That day will never come and everyone will be worse for it not.

14) Share Accolades

Success does not happen in a vacuum. So you lead a successful project. Now give credit to every single person who helped make it successful. Give credit where it’s due and even where it isn’t.

[Tweet “Everyone knows you were the project leader. Give others credit first! #leadership”]

By making others look good first, you’re building an army of followers who will be even more excited to help you achieve success again the next time.

15) Help Others Without Expectation of Reciprocation

Leaders will often be asked to set aside their own work obligations to help someone else who’s struggling. True leaders view this as an opportunity, not a burden.

By helping others without expectation of reciprocation, you’re building an army of followers who like, know, and trust you. Your selfless giving of time and attention never goes unnoticed and always pays dividends in the long-game.

16) Take the Long View

Speaking of the long-game, successful leaders look at their work and the results they achieve at a macro level. Gains are always needed in the short term, but shortsighted decision making often leads to failure in the long-term.

This is why so many people fail as leaders. They possess neither the willingness to take the long-view or the patience to wait for greater long-term results.

Look past tomorrow to the goals with legitimate impact.

17) Lead With Your Heart

According to a study done by the Institute of HeartMath, the heart plays an enormous role in job satisfaction of employees. There is both scientific and psychological study results to back up this claim.

First, our brain is sent emotional signals based on the rhythm of our heart. If our heart is beating faster from stress or anxiety, than our brain translates this into dissatisfaction.

Second, in a Towers Watson study, the greatest driver of employee engagement at work is belief that leadership is genuinely concerned about their well-being.

Lead from the heart and your employees will follow.

The Rub on Leadership

Leadership is NOT easy. If it were we’d all be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

That doesn’t mean that leadership is unattainable for anyone. We all have leadership characteristics inside us. The trick is figuring out which characteristics we lack or could improve on and getting better everyday.

These 17 leadership characteristics are a great place to start.

Which characteristics do you think are most important in a leader? Share below in the comments!

Thank you and good luck,

Ryan Hanley

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