5 Traits of a Successful Leader

What is a “Successful leader” and what traits do these leaders have in common?

People in leadership positions often seek out the secret sauce or common traits of a “Successful leader”. The goal is to figure out what these leaders say and do and to model those behaviors while still keeping your own style. Think about the sayings that employees repeat: “Actions speak louder than words” and ‘Talk the talk, walk the walk”. As we seek the best of the best in leadership traits, one resounding theme emerges: How we measure up as leaders are often less about what we say and more about how we BEHAVE.

The difference between being a leader and a successful leader often comes down to: “Practice makes perfect”. But as you matured you probably also realized that Vince Lombardi might have had a point when he said: “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

How do you practice being a good leader? And how do you strive for perfection?

  • Start by getting a baseline on your behavioral tendencies, the natural ways you prefer to act. Ask yourself: “Am I more people-oriented, or task-oriented? Do I tend to be more extroverted, or introverted? Am I focused on the details or am I more “big picture” focused? Do I usually take action right away and adjust as I go or do I prefer to think a project through thoroughly before I get started?
  • Adjust your natural behavioral tendencies to match your leadership goals. Successful leaders have spent a lot of time mastering the ability to use all 4 behavior quadrants (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance) to their advantage – dialing up or dialing down behavior levels depending on the task at hand.

To put these points into practice, it would be great to focus on 5 Traits of a Successful Leader:

  1. Integrity

To have long-term success as a leader, you must first and foremost hold yourself accountable to the highest standards of integrity.  Your ultimate focus as a leader has to be for the good of the team, the task at hand, and the company, not yourself.  There is a reason that the military has an “officers eat last culture” no one will follow a leader who puts themselves in front of the team when things are good and hides behind the team when things are bad.

  1. Focusing on the RESULTS (Dominance)

Great leaders are great because they get results. But they have learned to temper their dominant tendencies.

“Dial-up” your dominance factor in order to drive results and dominate the marketplace.  When analyzing metrics and productivity it is important to be direct and to the point.  If the goal is not being met, this is the time to address how the team can improve and meet the goal.  Picture a coach addressing his team while losing a game, there is normally a kick in the (butt) followed by a “we can still win this game if we do our jobs” moment.

  1. Enthusiasm for Growing People (Influence)

Great Leaders empower and influence their entire team to do great things.  You can accomplish this by “dialing up” your Influence factor.  A team is a group of individuals united together to accomplish a singular goal, and it is the leader’s job to empower each individual to be their best for the good of the team. If Phil Jackson only practiced with his star player, Michael Jordan, and focused all of his energy on him, do you think that the Chicago Bulls would have enjoyed the same success in the early 90’s? In fact, spending time with your bottom performers and helping them until they succeed is actually a lot more beneficial in the long run for the entire team. Great leaders want their team to learn and grow, whether through training, on the job experience, or modeling others.

  1. Strategize Thoughtfully (Steadiness)

Great leaders understand that they must listen and engage team members thoughtfully. “Dial-up” your steadiness factor in order to build a foundation of sincerity and trustworthiness with your team.  Listen, observe, ask questions, and be thoughtful in your actions.  Be clear with team members about responsibilities and how much authority they have to make decisions.  Think of a coach during a timeout in a crucial part of the game.  They get their team together, confer with captains and other coaches, pick a play, and then draw it out on their whiteboard to make sure everyone is on the same page. Once everyone is 100% clear on their roles and responsibilities they take the field/court and execute the play that will hopefully win them the game.

  1. Follow-through with Past Decisions (Compliance)

To be a great leader, it is important to follow-through with your plan of action. “Dial-up” your compliance factor to maintain an organized, structured and focused view of the path to success. No one likes a leader who changed directions on a whim.  Changing for the sake of change is not only a waste of time but a drain on your team’s resources.  It is critical that you be compliant with decisions that lead to the results you and your team have strategized about.  Picture that same coach with his whiteboard coming out of the timeout, the whole team is on board with the play that has been called, there are 3 seconds on the clock and right before the play starts he yells out “this isn’t going to work, try something else” and the play starts and no one knows what to do.

Call to Leadership Action

In your quest for leadership knowledge, it’s important to get to the root of who you are. In our opinion, you need to get your precise behavioral levels, and you can really only get these through assessment tools. DISC assessment can be a great way to baseline your behavior tendencies, and give you a starting point for what you need to work on. The most successful leaders have mastered the ability to use all 4 behavior quadrants (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance) to their advantage by “dialing up” or “dialing down” their natural tendencies in different situations to get the desired result.

Following these steps will not make you a great leader overnight, but with time and practice it will become easier and easier to understand when to “dial up” each behavior, as well as when to “dial down” your natural tendencies that tend to get in the way of progress.

Questions about DISC? Comment below and I will be glad to help 🙂


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