Leadership Characteristics

I call them effective leadership characteristics because they are the foundation.

This entire web site (this “Skills2Lead” complete web site) focuses on the leadership skills with the most impact on organizational success. This specific page however, focuses on the leadership characteristics that are essential – it focuses on the personal leadership attributes that have a direct impact on organizational performance.

In this sense, these characteristics are:
- Key
- Decisive
- Strategic

Photo courtesy of Mike Baird


Within your organizational context in general (the organization you lead at large), and within your team in particular (the team you lead, made up of your direct reports and yourself), authenticity means exposing yourself as you really are – including not only your strengths, accomplishments, personal qualities, etc., but also (and this is vital) your weaknesses, mistakes, personal flaws, etc.

Why is authenticity among the effective leadership characteristics? Why is it important to show yourself “naked” with the people you work with in order to build a high performance organization?

Because if you are authentic, you are more likely to inspire trust – especially to the people that work closest to you: Your direct reports.

But if you are not authentic, you are less likely to inspire trust.

And without trust, it is very difficult if not impossible for people to be frank – without trust it is impossible to build a culture of candor.

And without frankness – without candor … it is impossible for people to voice out loud what is really going on in their heads.

If people don’t truly expose their different perspectives, if people don’t put on the table what they really think, if people don’t say why they don’t agree, your team won’t have a rich dialogue that takes into consideration all the possible disagreements, perspectives, and possibilities, and as a consequence of this, your team won’t be able to take the best possible decision – mediocre decisions don’t lead to organizational high performance.

In order to take the best possible decision you need an open communication environment, so that all possible disagreements, perspectives, and possibilities get on the table for all to see and debate; and to have access to all this you need candor – as simple as that.

Also, the essence of leadership is change – if people don’t trust you as their leader, it will be very difficult for them to follow you; hence, you won’t be a very effective leader. When employees don’t trust their leaders, they don’t commit to change – and now days it is impossible to think organizational life without change.

Whether you like it or not, if you are the leader or if you want to grow as a leader, you need to inspire trust in the people that are all around you – especially in your direct reports. And trust feeds itself from your authenticity.

However, why so many leaders don’t even think about authenticity? Besides the fact that this is something they don’t teach you at business school, it is because when you are authentic you feel vulnerable – and frankly, nobody likes to feel vulnerable.

But think about it: What’s more important, reaching organizational peak performance and a truly sustainable competitive advantage, or your aversion to vulnerability? If you prefer to feel comfortable not feeling vulnerable, for the good of the organization you lead, you must not be a leader. Period.

Effective leadership characteristics – read authenticity: The good, the bad, and the ugly about yourself. Do you truly want the organization you lead to reach peak performance? Be real, be bare, be authentic with your direct reports – they will admire you for that, they will trust you, they will feel compelled to tell you the truth. As their leader, you are their role model.


Integrity is also one of the effective leadership characteristics – and the reasons are pretty much the same:

If you are honest, upright, and unabridged – if you have integrity, you are more likely to build trust. If you are not, people won’t trust you.

Simple, isn’t it?

Authenticity and integrity nourish trust.

Besides: For the good of any organization, anyone who does not have integrity shouldn’t ever be a leader.

Or put in a different way: anybody who aspires to be a leader should go through a screening process to determine if such candidate has integrity or not.

Integrity is not an optional leadership characteristic – integrity is a must.

It is amazing that now days – in the twenty first century – there are so many leaders without integrity. Why do we allow this, if we – human beings – are supposed to be so smart?


A healthy ego means having the self-confidence to show you as you really are – authentic.

But it also means your voice is not the only voice in the room. A healthy ego means you have the ability to listen – you take into consideration others’ points of view, you learn from them, and as appropriate, you act based on your entire team’s most strategic output.

Organizations benefit from leaders who recognize their own mistakes, who take responsibility for them, and who learn from those mistakes.

On the contrary, if your ego is too big and you think your voice is the most important one, you represent a latent danger for the organization you work for.

Leaders who pretend to know it all mold the culture of their corresponding organizations in such a way that the behavior of their employees hides – consciously or unconsciously – their own limitations, mistakes, weaknesses, etc. The result? There is no organizational learning, there are no open communication environments, the decision-making quality is poor, etc.

Effective leadership characteristics? Think:
- Authenticity
- Integrity
- A healthy ego

Do you really want your organization to reach peak performance?
- Be nude
- Be unabridged
- Be humble

To learn more about how these core and effective leadership characteristics play a vital role in strategic decision making, in building employee commitment, and in achieving organizational results, see my ethical decision making model page.

Now, what does a leader do?
What are the three most important things a leader does?
To gain clarity in your leadership role, take a look at my Leadership versus Management discussion.

To keep on learning about leadership skills, go back to the previous page (or click here ), and continue reading in a sequential order.

If you would like your organization to learn about effective leadership characteristics through my speaking or consulting services, please click on this link.

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