Management: Leadership Defined

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The five essential qualities every leader must possess.

When I was nine years old my Cub pack leader made me a “sixer”, and I got to add a yellow stripe to the left sleeve of my Cub jersey. Essentially I was the foreman for five other boys.

I was supposed to get them to stand up, sit down or stop horsing around whenever one of the pack leaders commanded it. As a leadership job it was crude, and although I don’t remember being very good at it, the job of being a leader has interested me ever since.

There are as many ways to describe what leadership is as there are to draw a picture of the sun. Five attributes stand out for me as essential in being a leader.


An article by Kevin Kruse in Forbes describes authentic leaders as self-aware and genuine. They do not hide their mistakes or weaknesses and maintain their true personalities at work. Lack of authenticity creates employees who don’t trust their leaders, don’t like them and can’t wait to find another job.


No one wants to work for clueless leaders. A perceptive manager can think about a situation or problem in a way that includes things others don’t take into account. Perception sees through the missing information or bias to identify consequences or results that aren’t obvious.


“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” – Winston Churchill

It takes courage to confront those with traditional mindsets. A leader must face situations with no safety net, outside the comfort zone and be accountable. Courage is needed to maintain integrity, which means doing the right thing when no one else is watching. Courage is not to be confused with stubbornness.


Listening to employees gives them the opportunity to help you learn from their experience and empowers them to think positively about their own value to your team. Their ideas combined with your own helps them take ownership of decisions.


There are some rare leaders who can, for example, go from being CEO of a credit card company to CEO of an airline with no prior experience of running an airline company. Most leaders, however, don’t make that kind of leap because their lack of knowledge in the new position is too high a barrier.

Knowledge generates trust and credibility. I had one terrific boss who had little knowledge of fleet management, but had all the other attributes above in spades, which made up for it.



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