Leadership traits to hold on to

I am passionate about leadership.  About being a leader and helping others be the best leader they can be.  The Harvard Business Review recently posted an article entitled Three Leadership Traits that Never Go Out of Style.  What most intrigued me about this article is that the author reflected on leadership traits he learned as a child.

I connect with this in so many ways—my family helped shape who I am today.  My wife sees the good in everyone around her and genuinely wants to help people become better. She always has the energy to offer her support and empathy. My mom is a rare blend of being compassionate and strong-willed while maintaining a great sense of humor. My step dad focused his entire professional life on helping and mentoring young people who were in trouble; his commitment to service is quietly heroic.  My sister has taught me to enjoy the moment, to avoid dreaming to such an extent that I miss out on what’s happening in front of me.  My two adult children have shown me how to love and sacrifice and put others first while my infant son has shown me how big love can truly be.  And my dad is a visionary; he teaches me to dream and to look at things from a different angle, always imagining possibilities and ways to innovate and having the courage to follow these unconventional paths no matter where they lead and no matter how silly they may seem to others.

I say this because the best leaders learn from the people they are surrounded by, whether it’s their family, coworkers, friends or mentors.  Leadership is something that is always evolving and we can never stop learning how to be a better leader.

The HBR article pinpointed three leadership traits: trust, empathy and mentorship.

  1. Does your team trust you? Trust makes people feel empowered.
  2. Are you emotionally intelligent—did you notice the look of anxiety in your teammate’s eyes this morning?
  3. Would you be where you are today if you weren’t mentored? “There was no great player who didn’t want to be coached.” – Pat Riley, NBA Coach

These are all traits I see in my family and every leader should grasp onto them. Be trustworthy, know how your team is feeling and mentor others.

There is one item I learned from my family and mentors that is not on the list – responsibility. Great leaders should take responsibility for their actions and take ownership of their mistakes.  A leader isn’t supposed to know it all, we’re human and we need to be vulnerable.

No matter what situation you’re in, whether you’re the CEO of a fortune 500 company or the intern at a small non-profit, keep these traits in mind and always remember to be real.

Posted by Aaron Fulkerson, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer