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We are all leaders. As parents, friends, co-workers, bosses, someone is watching how we behave. We set an example every moment we are awake. Even if it’s only our opinion of ourselves. It’s important to know what drives us to be better.

Some of us step up and accept this responsibility and others don’t see it this way at all. Leaders are not born, it is a learned set of values and skills. Which is why we’re likely to encounter many different kinds of leaders over the course of our life, and not all of them would be considered good, effective leaders. Being a good leader tends to come with a few key characteristics that are simple to recognize. Here are some common characteristics that make a good leader.


Being able to check your agenda at the door so you can hold yourself to a standard is the difference between telling the truth but not giving someone all of the information they need to work with and taking the chance that your forthright honesty may or may not get you what you want. Check your intent at the door.  Are you willing to be transparent? You earn trust over time when you do what you say and have all parties best interest in mind. It takes a long time to come back from a lie. It may feel hard, to be honest on occasion, but honesty remains the best policy.


Communication and good listening go together. Remember that everyone has their own unique perspective and experience. Take the time to ask questions in order to avoid an incorrect assumption.  Learn how to be precise and specific with your directions. Get due dates, details, outcomes desired. Have the other person agree with you so you are both on the same page. Confirm things in writing especially around job responsibilities. One of the biggest complaints an employee often has is that they don’t know how or what their performance is being evaluated on.


Creativity, innovation, resourcefulness, problem-solving, and critical thinking can at times seem like magic out of a hat. This kind of perspective engages both sides of the brain for maximum horsepower when things don’t go as planned. Being able to brainstorm and think outside the box has led to successful damage control and brilliant new ideas. Creativity is a state of mind and a state of being. If we can consider another person’s creativity we gain the opportunity to expand everyone’s thinking. 


It takes time and effort to uncover what is important to each of your team members. Some are inspired by money, others by making a difference, yet others want the flexibility or security that can come with a job. When people know you care and their career path is clear the meaningfulness factor rises. Success is in the caliber and satisfaction of your people. Do right by them and they will inspire themselves to do their best work.


Pride can ruin many a person, team and/or it’s leaders. Being able to “take it on the chin” and fess up to your mistakes is the sign of a truly mature and responsible person. Especially when it comes with a plan for correcting the error. 

Any of these may leave you feeling a little vulnerable, but this is where our true strength grows. Aligning our values with our actions is what molds us into better leaders.