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The Nature Of Leadership Growth – Key Traits – Part Two

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LThe previous article outlined why growth is so central to effective and responsible leadership. Developing the key traits of leadership forms the foundation of that growth.

We began by looking at awareness, decisiveness, and empathy. This article continues to explore key leadership traits, starting off with one that is all too rare. This is accountability.

Wood and Winston note that accountability is central to both establishing and restoring trust and credibility. And yet so many leaders are not accountable. They would much rather handball their problems to the CEO. We’ve seen a lot of that in the banking sector, and that’s what’s brought on the Royal Commission [1].

One key trait that impacts everyone at some point is confidence. In terms of leadership, if you lack confidence then you need to go and source help. It’s not a weakness. It happens. Leaders are people, and pretty much everyone goes through periods where their confidence takes a hit. However, when you are not confident, it is much harder to exhibit all the other traits that are required to lead effectively.

One of the first things to take a dive when confidence is low is optimism – I used to be a crazy-ass optimist. Which is not to say that I have lost confidence or become a pessimist. It’s simply that when you take a lot of punches and become resilient, you realise that optimism is not what people believe it to be.

In my view, optimism means having the foresight to know that things can change positively. It isn’t a false optimism where you’re constantly high-fiving and talking about how the law of the universe is rockin in your favour. Those are just words. Genuine optimism is working out how to help the universe help you, with the knowledge that things can change.

Honesty – I’ve met so many people who are full of shit. Your people need to know that you will follow through on promises and commitments. The greatest challenge as leaders, though, is not always in relation to being honest with others. It can often be a question of being honest with ourselves. Which means looking in the mirror and taking ownership of your failings. This comes back to accountability.

Focus – It’s funny. I mentioned the importance of focus in a lecture I was giving recently, and they all looked at me sideways, as if to say, ‘that’s a bit rich coming from a guy with fifteen different interests.’

My response was that just because one person can only focus on one thing, that doesn’t mean it is true for everyone. Self-discipline is key to focus. It means that I now can do more than one thing at a time. How? Training.

If you want to become a fantastic athlete, although the natural talent does have to be there, without training you are unlikely to have the focus that takes you to the highest level of success. Essentially, focus is about growth.

Finally, in terms of key leadership traits, comes inspiration. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be an inspiring leader.  Introverts make some of the most inspirational leaders of all time. As Collins puts it, ‘They are timid and ferocious, shy and fearless. They are rare and unstoppable.’

Look at Richard Branson. When he gets up and talks, he’s brilliant. But he’s had to practice that. It works because he’s speaking his truth, and so he can even though he’d rather be sitting on his island, he can speak in a way that resonates with people.

There are lots of introvert leaders who are phenomenal at inspiring people, but it takes practice. People say that leadership comes naturally, and for some people that is true, but even for these people great leadership requires practice. Which takes us onto perhaps the most important quality that any leader can possess, which will be covered in the next article.

Kristian Livolsi


  1. Wood, J.A., Jr., and Bruce E. Winston. “Toward a new understanding of leader accountability: defining a critical construct.” Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol. 11, no. 3, 2005, p. 84+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.
  1. Collins, J. (2001). Good to great. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.
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