What Kind of Leader Do They Want? by Jim Johnson

leadership qualities

As you may know, I’m working on a certificate in Executive Leadership from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business.  In a recent lecture, Dr. Mike Crant shared the findings of a survey conducted by Kouze & Posner (“The Leadership Challenge”).  The survey was seeking to discover what 20,000 people thought were the characteristics of leaders they admired. In other words, if they could create their own leader, what would they be like?  Here’s what the survey uncovered:

1. HONESTY

18,000 respondents said they wanted honesty in their leader.  It was really important to them that they could trust their leader and that he/she had integrity.  Crant says that this is good news for leaders.  Why?  A person can control this.  We can choose to be honesty and trustworthy.  “The extent to which you are viewed as an honest person who manages with ethics and integrity strongly influences how people perceive you.”

2.  FORWARD-THINKING

People want to follow leaders who have a vision for where they are leading the team/organization.  There is an agenda (and it is communicated!).  Forward-thinking leaders have initiative and ideas for improvement – they are out to make something greater.

3.  INSPIRATION

People want their leaders to have passion and be positive.  It’s true!  Energy and enthusiasm are contagious.  You’ve heard the saying “speed of the leader, speed of the team”.  Followers will copy the attitude and actions of their leader (like it or not).  Leaders are role models.  Just be sure, leader, that you are positively modeling positive attitudes and actions.

4.  COMPETENCE

Dr. Crant says that followers want to trust leaders’ judgment and technical skills to make good decisions.  A leader has to “know their stuff”.

5.  FAIR-MINDED

49% of those surveyed stated that they wanted their leaders to be fair.  Fair treatment increases motivation.  On the flip side, Dr. Crant states that unfair treatment leads to people to do undesirable things.

6.  SUPPORTIVE

People want their leaders to be focused on them.  Who wouldn’t want a leader who has the attitude of putting his/her followers in a position to succeed?  This type of leader worksto remove hurdles for his/her team.

Dr. Crant summarizes this lesson by stating that leaders will build credibility by keeping these desirable characteristics in mind.  But note this:  the survey used in this study did not measure the effectiveness of a leader.  It only focused on traits that were admired by followers.

So, how you do think you stand up to these characteristics?  More importantly, how would your team evaluate you in this?  

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