The Four Most Desired Characteristics in a Leader

What the Research Reveals

If you surveyed all of your friends, co-workers, and neighbors and asked them which characteristics they most looked for in someone they were willing to follow, what do you think they would say? James Kouzes and Barry Posner have asked this question for years, surveying tens of thousands of people from different organizations and in different parts of the world. The results are consistent. When provided a list of 20 qualities, only four averaged over 60% of the votes.

As noted in their book, The Truth About Leadership, Kouzes and Posner pinpoint the four most admired characteristics in a leader’s life. More than anything, followers want to know that their leader is:

1.  Honest

2.  Forward-Looking

3.  Inspiring

4.  Competent

Do you exhibit these four traits? Are you HONEST? Do you have clear, unwavering ethical standards that guide your behavior? Are You FORWARD-LOOKING? This is a concern for your organization’s future and the ability to articulate clear direction.

Are you INSPIRING? Kouzes and Posner say, “Being inspiring means sharing the genuine enthusiasm, excitement, and energy you have about the exciting possibilities ahead.” And are you COMPETENT? Your track record, more than anything else, reveals your ability to get things done.

If you want to grow your leadership, expand your influence, and do a favor to your followers, grow these four traits in your life. The people who follow you will thank you, and the people who don’t follow you just might start.

Question: How have you seen the four characteristics improve leader-follower relationships?