Characteristics of Admired Leaders
I was challenged by the essence of this question in 1987 by James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book "The Leadership Challenge." When I noticed recently that the sixth edition of this book had been released in 2017, I was excited to learn how the responses to this question had changed over three decades. I read that they hadn't changed much at all. For the majority of people in the 13 countries surveyed, to follow someone willingly they want a leader who they believe is Honest, Competent, Inspiring, and Forward-Looking. I felt some comfort that with all the changes that occurred in organizational life over these 30 years, including the promises of "Corporate Re-Engineering," little had changed in how to best engage and uplift our human spirit. I found these additional insights valuable:
- Honest: This quality is selected more than any other leadership characteristic. People want evidence that a person is worthy of their trust; in other words, lives consistently by a clear set of values, ethics and standards.
- Competent: A proven track record inspires a confidence that the leader is capable to guide and therefore trusted enough to be willingly followed.
- Inspiring: People expect our leaders to be passionate, energetic, uplifters of the human spirit. Leaders encourage the heart.
- Forward-Looking: If they expect others to follow, leaders must know where they are going and can paint in broad strokes a picture of a compelling destination.