A-Z: Leadership Traits and Attributes

“Titles don’t make you a leader, impact does.” Unknown

Effective leadership is essential in moving schools forward to evolve and grow. Being a good leader isn’t something everyone can do because leadership is a journey and takes time, reflection and intentional goals. Many effective leaders share several traits and attitudes; below I offer 26 ways leaders can be effective.

A strategy I suggest is choosing one trait or attribute a week and self reflecting where you are in your leadership journey with the attribute or trait. Using this strategy will help you start to make small changes in your practice to becoming an even more effective leader. 

Authentic: Being your true authentic self at work will allow you to enjoy what you’re doing every day because it will will align with your skills, values and passions. It won’t be a job you have to go to but a job you want to do.

Balanced: Being a good leader means making sure you are modeling positive behaviors such as work/life balance. It also helps you be the best leader you can be when you are also taking care of yourself.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is an integral part of being an effective leader. You need to be able to synthesize information along with being able to frame problems as opportunities in order for staff not to feel confused or overwhelmed.

Decision Making: Effective leaders need to feel comfortable making decisions in response to rapidly-changing information. As a leader, your decisions need to be responsive and guided by your priorities, purpose, and data.

Empower: It is important you understand that great work can not be done alone and that you need a team to be able to be successful. You can empower staff by acknowledging others strengths and potential contributions.

Focused: It is key to stay focused and not lose sight of your goals. There will always be lots of distractions; you need to be able to filter and focus on moving forward, keeping in mind the goals you set.

Gratitude: Expressing gratitude not only shows you care and recognize people but it also builds trust and creates positive, feel good interactions. Check out this article to learn more, Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective.

Humble: Being humble makes great leaders open-minded and willing to listen to others. It shows you trust your team/staff and respect them. Humble leaders don’t let pride get in the way; they take constructive criticism to improve their craft.

Inspirational: As a leader people are looking up to you. You need to have the ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others to help inspire them as it will define your culture.

Joy: Bring joy to work is an essential attribute for leaders for many reasons. When leaders lead with joy it is infectious and spreads like wild fire to create a culture of joy. Having a culture of joy makes staff happier which means more productivity and engagement. Do you want to learn how to bring more joy into the workplace; check out theses 12 ways.

Know Your Self: Effective leadership involves leading by example which means you need to know yourself as a leader. Your personal experiences, values and strengths make up your leadership philosophy. Here is a great exercise that takes 10 mins to allow you to create more self-awareness.

Learning: As a leader you should be constantly learning and growing your practice. No one is saying you have to know everything but be willing to learn and grow by saying things such as “I don’t know the answer but I will find out.
This also models for your staff that learning never stops.

Mindful: It is important to pay attention to the present moment as much as it is important to look forward. You need to keep in mind not everyone is in the same place as you and to have empathy for others.

Nimble: Nimble and agile leaders are those who can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain world. As a leader you need to be able to see how your school, department etc can continue to grow and develop while making pivots.

Openly Listen: Effective leaders need to listen to others around them. Openly listening to not only their ideas but also the barriers they see. You also need to listen to them when they are having struggles in and out of the workplace in order to be supportive.

Proactive: As a leader you need to be proactive to take time to strategically think and plan. Too often as leaders we get caught up in the tactical and day to day we don’t leave enough time to strategically think. One way to making sure you have time to strategically think during your week is to block it off on your calendar like it is a meeting.

Questioning: Asking questions helps leaders understand concepts, ideas and others. When you don’t ask questions you make assumptions and that doesn’t help anyone. Asking questions to clarify, identify gaps in understanding and to learn helps leaders facilitate discussions. Questions are also a great way of challenging people to think differently or to think about the outcomes they want.

Relationships: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” by Maya Angelou. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do as a leader and you must remember to continue to foster and nurture them.

Servant leader: Being a good leader means you need to put people first. To do this you must help others with their goals and grow their skills. Check out this article to gain ideas on how to put people first: The Power of Putting People First

Transparency: When you are transparent with your staff they don’t have to tell themselves stories of what is happening because they know what is happening. The more openness and honesty you promote, the quicker you and your team will be able to work together.

Understanding: As a leader, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You must tailor your coaching and supporting style to match their working style.

Visionary: Having a vision and using it as a foundation helps to move the work forward. The vision needs to speak to the staffs purpose and why it’s important for the school/department/organization to exist. You need to be able to create not only the mental but also the verbal pictures of desirable future state.

Wondering: When you wonder, it sparks curiosity and innovation. Never letting the status quo exist helps you keep you on the cutting edge.

X-Factor: Each leader have different X-Factors that make them unique. Figuring out your x-factor will help you know yourself as a leader and understand your strengths.

You Elevate Talent: The greatest leaders distribute leadership and elevate others talents by knowing their strengths. As a leader, take the time to list the strengths of your staff and then meet with them one on one to listen to their goals and ambitions. Use this information to determine ways you can elevate their talents.

Zest: To have zest as a leader means having positive energy. Positive energy motivates and inspires people and helps you network as no one wants to be around someone that is miserable or complaining, except those that are miserable.

Leadership can be hard to define but I like how John C Maxwell defines it, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Want to read more of my lists A-Z? Check out my previous blog post – Personalized Learning from A-Z

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