To some people, the life of a leader is something of a mystery. Whether it’s a political leader, community icon, or senior executive in business, the world of leadership can remain forever unknown to those who feel that they are not (and are likely to never be) privy to it.
But the surprising reality is that leadership is not necessarily as mysterious as it might first seem. Many of the traits required for leadership are more common and accessible than might first be assumed and involve universal human qualities such as empathy and persistence. This does not, of course, mean that leadership isn’t difficult; on the contrary, it simply means that the ways into leadership, and the traits that characterize it, are not as tough and uncrackable as might first appear. This blog will look into the world of leadership and explore what the key traits involved actually are.
In the popular mindset, leaders are often perceived as strong and firm – and, perhaps, lacking in empathy. There’s certainly something to be said for this perspective: many leaders are, after all, tough cookies, and they are also often tasked with executing specific functions that can seem hard-nosed and even, on occasion, callous. For example, they may find themselves making decisions on the limiting of resources, perhaps in a country (in the form of state welfare cuts) or in a company (in the form of pay cuts).
But the reality is that many leaders are in fact driven by empathy to a degree greater than is often recognized. Good leadership involves taking into account diverse perspectives, and that requires the leader to put themselves in the shoes of those whom their decisions are likely to affect. In order to take this into account in the first place, however, leaders need to be able to listen and assess the perspectives of others, especially those they are going to impact. It’s about hearing what people are saying on a verbal level and also what they’re indicating through their body language or other ways of interacting, and by being attuned to what message they’re trying to convey: in the end, it benefits both parties to do this.
A business leader, for example, would be foolish to avoid listening to and acknowledging a trade union’s calls for better pay and working conditions. In order to open themselves to others, business leaders need to develop empathy-related skills such as reflective questioning and responsive listening. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the outcome will be preferable to everyone or that leaders have an innate capacity to solve everyone’s problems. It simply means that they have to, more often than not, address authentically and honestly what others say.
Many of the greatest leaders in history have exhibited persistence, and it’s easy to see why. The famous leaders who occupy the popular mindset, such as Nelson Mandela, are often described as being highly persistent – not least because they pushed through reforms despite seemingly insurmountable opposition, suffered high levels of personal sacrifice in order to achieve their ultimate goal, or fought for a cause.
Leaders on a smaller scale also often deliver this sort of commitment to persistence, such as those who lead hospital wards as managers. In less extreme circumstances, they may face some backlash in meetings; in more extreme circumstances, they may have to deal with the risk of being removed or publicly criticized. What all of these people have in common is a capacity to not give up when the going gets tough and instead to carry on.
This is one skill that those who undergo a leadership training course at a known institution like Baylor University are likely to find themselves picking up when enrolled in a program such as the DNP executive leadership. Executive nurses, for example, must be able to use their personal tenacity and drive to fulfill their job. However, one of the issues that stop many potential leaders from seeking leadership roles is self-doubt and the belief that they do not possess said persistence. Enrolling in a higher education program presents these individuals with the opportunity to develop these skills and test them in the process, refining their leadership qualities and their self-belief in the process.
Attention to detail
To some people, the average leader is surrounded by assistants who make all the decisions on behalf of their bosses. While this level of non-involvement may be the case for some leaders, for most leaders, attention to detail is a very significant part of the process of being in charge.
Many leaders are wholly committed to ensuring they know the ins and outs of their headline actions or policies to a deep degree, and they often need to work hard to achieve this goal. This desire for a leader to know everything in depth is often linked to a commitment to responsibility: those in leadership positions often find themselves entrusted with lots of obligations, such as ensuring that organizations or departments are running well. In order to achieve this, they need to have access to as much information as possible.
In summary, it’s clear that leadership requires a whole range of different skills. For some leaders, their key focus is ensuring attention to detail is being paid, as this allows them to take ultimate responsibility for what’s going on. For others, their key drive is to be persistent: this is especially true in circumstances where a leader is likely to face a backlash, as that can easily wear a person down.
It may take a truly exceptional leader to display all of the skills outlined above, but by working on as many of them as you can, you can ensure that you’re putting yourself in a good position to take on a leadership role.