Have you heard people say that leadership cannot be taught, only learned? Reading books and attending training sessions are definitely good first steps in your commitment to be an effective leader, but those alone do not give you the skills to become one.

Leadership means different things to different people, and you will hear numerous definitions. It could be anything from leading a group of people to influencing others and directing the transformation of an organization.

No matter what your individual preference of what leadership means is, we can all agree on one thing: Great leaders all have specific traits that they display consistently, compared to the mediocre ones.

Like most of the important aspects in life, leadership is not a destination but is a journey, and this journey ends the moment your team stops looking up to you. Effective leaders at various levels of an organization serve the crucial role of ensuring that the employees are motivated, engaged, and appropriately equipped to perform at their best. When everyone performs at their most optimal level, the organization runs efficiently, translating to increased productivity and profitability.

If someone wants to grow into an effective leader, there are several attributes expected from them, some more important than the others. Based on my experiences, the following five “combination traits” – as I call them because 1) They go perfectly together, and 2) To reap the full benefit you need both – are the foundational characteristics of good leadership.

Honesty and integrity.

Honesty and integrity are the absolute cornerstones for any relationship, and leadership isn’t any different. In plain terms, honesty means fairness and straightforwardness of conduct, and integrity means following your moral convictions and doing the right thing.

I consider honesty to be external-facing and integrity to be internal-facing, and both together play a crucial role in determining whether you can be trusted or not. As a leader, you need to be the solid rock who exemplifies the ethical and moral standards that you expect from others.

Passion and commitment.

Passion and commitment go hand-in-hand and are displayed by driven leaders. As a leader, you should be passionate about the future and expected outcomes, though there could be some intermediate tasks that might not excite you as much.

Out of this passion comes the determination and commitment to draw out the best, not just in terms of results, but in the people that you work with.

Effective and strong communication.

Everything that a leader does or aspires to do is lost if they do not make sure that those who follow are sharing the same vision and passion.

Effective communication with strong messaging are two simple tools that a leader has at their disposal to ensure that the team they lead is not left behind, but is with them and sharing the same vision.

Positivity and confidence.

Have you ever had that friend or colleague who is very cheerful, and all of a sudden, no matter how you were feeling, you forget about everything in the moment and are caught in that cheerfulness? Of course, the same goes with the opposite.

The disposition a leader has in the room drives everybody else’s behavior to a large extent. A positive and confident leader not only stands like a rock for the team, but helps promote and dissipate the same reaction amongst the team.

Empathy and humility.

This fifth and final combination trait is what pulls everything together for an effective leader who the team not only respects, but admires.

Good and effective leaders always make an effort to understand the human aspect of their teams. They don’t look at their team as resources, but see them as human beings, each having their own strengths and trying to balance their life and work in this busy world.

Out of this acknowledgement naturally comes humility and empathy – humility that though you are the leader, you are part of the team, and empathy that everyone is working on doing their best while balancing life.

No matter what kind of a leader you currently are, taking the first step toward self-awareness is a commitment to molding yourself into an effective leader. These combination traits are a good starting point to chart your course to becoming the best leader you can be.

Originally posted on Ellevate.

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