As a result of the rapidly changing business environment, there has been a new emphasis on leadership. Psychological tests have been used to determine the most common characteristics of successful leaders. Managers can use these characteristics to gain insight and develop their leadership skills.
The Leadership Potential equation was developed by Raymond Cattell, who was a pioneer in the field of personality assessment, in 1954. This equation, which Cattell based on a study of military leaders, was later used to determine the traits of an effective leader.
Among the basic traits of an effective leader is emotional stability. Good leaders need to be able to tolerate stress and frustration. They must be well-adjusted and have the psychological maturity to deal with anything they may face as part of their job.
Leaders also need to be competitive and decisive as well as to enjoy overcoming obstacles. Leaders' thinking style and attitude in dealing with others need to be assertive. Effective leaders are active, expressive, and energetic, as well as quick, alert and uninhibited. Optimism and openness to change are also traits of an effective leader.
Other basic traits of an effective leader are a sense of duty and exactitude. Effective leaders have a high standard of excellence and an inward desire to do their best. They also tend to be self-disciplined and have a need for order.
Effective leaders are spontaneous risk-takers. They are socially aggressive and thick-skinned, while also being responsive to others and high in emotional stamina. Good leaders are logical, practical and to-the-point. They are low in sentimental attachments and very poised, as well as comfortable with criticism and insensitive to hardship.
Other common traits among leaders are self-confidence and resiliency. Leaders have to be free of guilt and have little or no need for approval. They also need to be secure and unaffected by prior mistakes or failures. Effective leaders are controlled and precise in their social interactions, while also being protective of their integrity and reputation. They are also socially aware and careful, abundant in foresight and very careful when determining specific actions or making decisions.
In addition to these basic traits, effective leaders also need to posses traits that help them motivate others and lead them in new directions. Since most leaders have to work long hours and travel, they need to be able to remain alert and focused. Reasoning and logic cannot get a leader through all situations because of the rapid changes in the world and the information overload. As a result, an effective leader must learn to use his or her intuition and trust it when making decisions.
A good leader must make personal power and recognition secondary to the development of his or her employees. A mature leader recognizes that more can be accomplished by empowering others than by ruling them. Effective leaders also put a strong emphasis on team work. They do not promote an adult/child relationship with their employees, but instead create an adult/adult relationship that fosters team cohesiveness.
A key trait of effective leaders is empathy, because without it they cannot build the trust which they need to get the best effort from their employees. Charisma is also a key trait of good leaders. Leaders who have charisma can rouse strong emotions in their employees by defining a vision which unites and captivates them. Thanks to this vision, leaders can motivate employees to reach toward a goal by tying the goal to substantial personal rewards and values.
Personal traits play a key role in determining who will be a good leader, but people are forever learning and changing. Leaders are rarely born. Circumstances and persistence are key components in the development of any leader. So if a person lacks some of the characteristics of a good leader he or she must work on developing those areas of his or her personality that need improvement.
In the past, managers were expected to move ahead by maintaining the status quo. However, it has become necessary for this narrow focus to be expanded because of new forces in the marketplace. The new environment requires visionary leaders, who are both learners and teachers, with strong sense of ethics. They need to work to build integrity in their organizations, while being able to envision the future and convince others that this vision is worth following.