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Do You have What it Takes to be a True Leader – pt 2

Leadership description (Editor’s note: Almost every enterprise rises and falls on the quality of the leadership guiding it forward. This four part series explores some contemporary views about the concept of leadership – where it’s been, how it has changed and how it is changing. Also look at the end of the post for some free stuff you’ll only get here at

Part 1 here.

Leadership Part 2

All leaders have one thing in common: they mobilize others to work for the achievement of a joint purpose or goal.

What they don’t have in common is how they go about the business of doing it. Whether born or made, no two leaders are exactly alike. They have different leadership styles, different leadership skills and different leadership traits. In addition, they operate in different settings, and they have different objectives and goals.

These differences partially explain why some are more accomplished than others, and why so many current and aspiring leaders often look for ways to improve their leadership capability.


According to business author and consultant Erika Andersen, one key to growing as a leader is to become truly self-aware. Not self-involved, mind you, but self-aware. Whereas the first type tends to live in a self-absorbed bubble, the second cultivates an accurate sense of how they show up in the world.

A self-aware leader routinely takes stock of him- or her-self, especially as it pertains to the traits commonly recognized as important for a leader to possess.

The purpose is to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses, pinpoint any areas that can and should be worked on, and sometimes, out of necessity, formulate a strategy to compensate for weaknesses that may otherwise be an Achilles Heel. These results are not always easy to face head on, but they are a necessary steppingstone to genuine growth.

For illustrative purposes, let’s briefly review five core traits a leader might want to evaluate as part of his or her quest for self-awareness.

confident leadership

• do you feel self-confident, with a drive to succeed, and the courage to be vulnerable (owning up to your weaknesses and asking for help, rather than let them become an Achilles Heel)?

• do others perceive you as confident – would they say you lean toward humble rather than arrogant, domineering or cocky?

• does your confidence help others to feel confident in what they’re doing, even during stressful or turbulent times?

emotional intelligence and leadership

• Do you have a balanced attitude and outlook – neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful?

• Are you mindful of your own emotions and the emotions of others – not mushy, but fair-minded in giving due consideration to others?

• Do you possess good listening skills?

• Would people say you create an atmosphere that’s conducive to having a productive environment, one that fosters collaboration, with tactful yet frank communication, and a team approach?

visionary leadership

• Have you created a compelling vision?

• Does it strive for a better future rather than merely focus on short-term gains?

• Are you able to get buy-in for it?

motivation skill

• Are you a worthy role model?

• Do people see you in that light?

• Are you skilled at working with people and keeping them engaged? Do you use a variety of methods and techniques for doing it?

• Do you champion interdependency and a team philosophy?

• Can you guide people into a fluid rhythm and flow?

performance management

• Are you able to accurately and objectively gauge performance levels?

• Are you good at assessing and managing risk versus reward?

• Are you tactful but straightforward when handling performance issues? Do you maintain open and ongoing communication about these matters?

• Do others clearly understand what’s expected of them? Do you support, recognize and reward good performance?

Though this list is far from exhaustive, it does give some idea of what self-awareness entails.

self-aware leaders

So with that said, how well do most leaders seem to do?

Well, of the executives Ms. Andersen has coached over the past two decades, she says that only about 25% of them are genuinely self-aware. The rest do not see themselves accurately — sometimes to an astonishing degree.

poor leadership

She gives this example: let’s say that I think I have great relationship-building skills, when the truth of the matter is people find me overbearing and insensitive.

If someone suggests a need to make real changes in this area in order to become a more effective leader, I may dismiss it for no other reason than because it conflicts with what I believe.

This, btw, is what we mean when we characterize someone as self-involved.


So there you go…self-awareness as it pertains to leadership capability. It’s obviously important, but not always easy to acquire. This begs the question: how do you foster it and, just as critical, how do you make sure you possess an accurate perception of how you show up?

In Part 3, we take a look at this aspect of leadership.

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