My friend Tom Moradpour invited me to participate in a new blog community called #usblogs, an offshoot of #usguys on Twitter. The topic for this weekend is 21st century leadership.
I wanted to write a post about how I think of leadership in the 21st century, but then I got to thinking about a person who, to me, embodies the traits I would most want to see in a leader of this century.
I couldn’t really think of any one person.
So then I asked myself, “How do you define a leader?”
I came up with these 50 traits – I’m sure you could add plenty yourself.
1. A leader is willing to sacrifice themselves, not just others. Frederick Douglass once said that John Brown was a far more passionate proponent for abolition. Douglass lived for the slave. Brown died for the slave.
2. A leader is in touch with those he or she is leading and can therefore anticipate what will be needed next.
3. A leader brings positivity, like sunshine, to a room. It’s more than charisma – it’s charisma backed by a confidence that things will get better.
4. A leader does not acknowledge enemies, but rather accepts that some people are challenges.
5. A leader knows when to step back and strengthen him or herself.
6. A leader knows how to prioritize.
7. A leader is organized so that organization can be handed off to others.
8. A leader shows bravery, which means sometimes admitting to being a little scared.
9. A leader is always accessible.
10. A leader never forgets what it was to be led.
11. A leader accepts blame more than recognition.
12. A leader knows who the strongest links in the chain are, and it’s seldom the leader him or herself.
13. A leader is color-blind, blind to gender, blind to ethnicity, but respectful of all.
14. A leader knows when to laugh and when to cry.
15. A leader will sometimes follow if the way is unfamiliar.
16. A leader will create other leaders.
17. A leader sees the trees and the forest, and that little twig sticking up in the corner.
18. A leader has a well of kindness that never runs dry.
19. A leader will pull but never push.
20. A leader will balance criticism with praise.
21. A leader will not compromise those who follow by putting them in an untenable position.
22. A leader will balance when to inform and when to hold back.
23. A leader will not baby the people who follow.
24. A leader knows that no victory resides just with them.
25. A leader is not a leader if there is no one to lead.
26. A leader knows all of the rules and knows when it is necessary to break them.
27. A leader knows how to pay homage to those who went before.
28. A leader knows how to be humble without losing gratitude.
29. A leader’s hair will go grey from worry.
30. A leader’s greatest fear is to lose a comrade, not him or herself.
31. A leader knows how to create relationships within and without.
32. A leader will not stand for in-fighting and knows how to make it stop.
33. A leader knows how to make you follow before you realize you are walking.
34. A leader is a wall that will not crumble, but a wall that affords a vantage point for seeing what is coming.
35. A leader is an ambassador.
36. A leader will give more than receive.
37. A leader will never feel that the task of proving oneself is complete.
38. A leader will never stop learning.
39. A leader will admit that someone has strengths that he or she does not have.
40. A leader is not afraid to learn from the competition.
41. A leader knows when it is time to exit.
42. A leader knows when it is necessary to take charge.
43. A leader does not complain about the burden of leadership.
44. A leader is cognizant that some may be jealous and is respectful of that perception, though it does not defeat him or her.
45. A leader knows you cannot please everyone.
46. A leader does not ask anyone to do something he or she would not do.
47. A leader does not turn up the nose at anyone, regardless of the circumstances.
48. A leader knows that when you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.
49. A leader earns respect but does not ask for it.
50. A leader will probably not always recognize themselves as leaders.
So those are my 50 traits. I can think of leaders who embody several of these, but not really one person who embodies all. I’d love to hear how you define the 21st century leader, or who you think of as the ideal 21st century leader!
Image by Debbie Wogen. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/dwogen