“Someone told me I’d be a great leader one day, but no one has shown me how.”
Above are some of the statements and questions I have heard through the years related to stepping into leadership. At various times in my life, I have made similar statements. While growing in my leadership and watching others lead, I have noticed four essential characteristics that all leaders possess.
To lead…a leader has to make a move. A leader must have a certain level of decisiveness. This initiative and decisiveness shows up in several ways:
To become a leader, a person must take and show initiative by asking. I notice people who want to be leaders yet sit in the woods and voice a faint cry of, “Pick me…notice me.” They never ask to be a leader. Personally, how did I move to each of my leadership roles? I asked.
The leader must do more than want and dream. Dreams are great. They become visions, plans, and outcomes when the leader takes action.
A leader must step into his power. Step through barriers of fear and complacency. Step in, not on. Be assertive yet sensitive. Use the God-given power, not power up.
Avoid being the victim and take responsibility. Avoid blaming people or circumstances and own choices and decisions.
Both becoming a leader and leading others requires patience. Once one has asked to lead, a good balance of patience and initiative is required. Stepping into leadership requires skills to be learned, training, apprenticing, etc. before moving forward. Leading people requires trust in you…and trust takes time. Here are some other points about patience:
Some things just take time. If a leader rushes a process, he could actually create setbacks.
A leader must know how to submit to the leadership over him. Patience allows for that submission to bear fruit.
Learning methods, people, terms, protocols; takes time. Let it unfold.
Pay attention. A leader has her thumb on the pulse of the group she is leading. Patience creates room for growth and movement.
Watch for opportunities. As one aspires to be a leader, he must watch for leadership opportunities. Once in the role, a leader is attuned to new opportunities.
All leaders possess a certain amount of knowledge in their area. Most leaders have a vast amount of knowledge, that’s partially how they moved into leadership. A leader is a “sponge”. He is constantly soaking up knowledge. Here are some other important effects of knowledge on leadership:
Leaders tap into previous knowledge. What a leader carries experience-wise is quite helpful.
Leaders continue to learn about leadership. They stay in contact with other leaders and soak in all they can. It’s been said, “The day we stop learning is the day we die.”
Leaders are continually learning about themselves. They continue to learn, look at and work on their gifts, their triggers, their wants, their dark places, their stretches, their weaknesses, and their strengths.
Whether you are a Christian or not, the Bible has some very wise advice for all. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus compares the difference between the wise and the foolish builders. What is the difference? The wise man “…hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…” This is what I call the “get busy” characteristic. A leader must apply his skill and knowledge.
A leader uses what she knows. Knowledge is no good unused. Application of that knowledge is powerful.
The application must fit the leader’s personality, be authentic, and natural. A true leader’s personal touch and style becomes apparent.
A leader applies his knowledge and skill everywhere; not just where he leads. To be authentic as a leader, one must live what he believes.
By far, this is not an exhaustive list of characteristics of a leader. However, when assessing leaders, one would find all four of these characteristics at work in a leader’s everyday guidance. Not all leaders begin with these characteristics. For some, the skills have to be taught, noticed, developed, and/or awakened. For some leaders, these are natural gifts. But for all leaders, these four are both basic building blocks and essential.