posted April 15, 2015

Identifying Leadership Traits

by Corey Arvizu, CPA, Managing Partner

What do the following numbers have in common? 23, 10, 14, 7, 9, 22. According the highest ranked articles from a Google search of the phrase “leadership traits,” these are the number of traits or qualities a leader should possess. One article actually had seven categories with over 100 total individual leadership traits identified. Some of the traits such as honesty, communication and integrity were common amongst the various lists. Other traits such as celebration, humor, and endurance were unique to specific lists. The guidance and recommendations for what makes a good leader can certainly be difficult to sort through for those of us looking to develop our own leadership skills.

One of my first attempts at discussing leadership with those I supervised was a presentation called “It’s Not Business, It’s Personal.” Obviously this was an attempt to turn the tables on the common phrase known in the business world with some relationship-based concepts. The goal was to convey my thoughts to those I managed about how to approach their career at Heinfeld, Meech & Co. The message included a concept called “success fuel” consisting of common leadership terms such risk, empowerment, vision and strategy. The presentation also had a number of what I believed to be very insightful and motivational quotes, including one from Oprah Winfrey. I even had a reference to the 1980s movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” the message of which I’m sure was entirely lost on the younger individuals who were born about the time that the movie was released.

Was the message received by the staff? Sure. They seemed to appreciate the effort I put into preparing the presentation as well as the time we spent together discussing the leadership and career development topics outlined in the presentation. I still use some of the content and inspirational quotes in staff development presentations. (However, I no longer use the material referencing “An Officer and a Gentleman.”) Looking back, the leadership traits I discussed were likely a reflection of where I was at that point in my own leadership development. If I were asked today to list some leadership traits I believe to be important some that would make the list include sincerity, fairness, respectful, confidence, and perspective. All of which are surely identified in one form or another on a leadership qualities list. If asked five years from now, the list will likely change once again.

When there are so many qualities that a leader is expected to possess, how does one looking to enhance leadership qualities sort through all of the recommendations? My initial response is experience. If I have learned one thing it is that we typically get better at things we do often and regularly, whether that be personal interests such as sports, cooking, and painting, or professional interests such as training, public speaking and leadership. Most of us have inherent instincts to continually learn from both our failures and successes – exposure to both helps us grow and evolve as a leader.

Look for opportunities to be a leader with a professional membership association, the board of another local nonprofit, or even an internal committee of your own organization. By gaining leadership experience with organizations and projects for which you are passionate, you will likely develop your own list of leadership traits that are very much unique to your own leadership style.


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