The real traits of a great leader - Business Works
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The real traits of a great leader

Adi Gaskell, management writer This article by CNN is typical of many in the leadership press and I'm sure it's one that many of you are familiar with. It outlines what it regards as key traits that every great leader should have. Things like honesty, integrity and respect are traits we'd all like to believe we have, and are surely admirable traits for any leader.

The thing is, such lists are a complete waste of time. The problem with them is that they regard leadership as an absolute activity, as something that works regardless of the context. Drop an individual with all of these traits into any situation and a leader they shall become.

That kind of thinking is sadly very, very wrong. Leadership is a very contextual activity, not least because great leadership requires great followers and not all followers are the same. Studies have shown that the best leaders, far from having a set of generic traits, instead need to have traits that identify them as being of a similar mould to those they hope to lead. You have to be seen as being part of the group.

Only once you share this identity can you lead the group, because you need to be spoken of as a 'we' rather than a 'you'. If you are part of the group and are then seen as someone that has the groups interests at heart, then you become a leader.

So, rather than reading lists like the one at CNN, instead look at the group you're hoping to lead and ask yourself what traits identify them. Ask yourself what values they find important, because it is those values and traits you will need if you are ever to lead them.

Adi Gaskell is a management writer and social business expert.

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