When talking about the traits and qualities of a true leader, there’s a tendency to throw traits and attributes around as if the understanding of what they really mean is a foregone conclusion—but is it really?
I know there have been times when I’ve had to admit my understanding of an adjective or noun wasn’t as accurate as I thought it was, but we’re all guilty of nodding sagely at things we don’t fully understand from time to time… if we’re really honest with ourselves.
With that in mind, I thought I’d share a slightly different take on what makes a true leader, not just by throwing some qualities out there, but by homing in a bit more closely on what those qualities really mean.
On Integrity: Living Real Values
True leaders conduct themselves with integrity. An oft-quoted example of integrity is “doing the right thing even when nobody is looking,” but integrity really extends further than that. A leader conducts herself with integrity when she:
- Behaves consistently in all situations, regardless of company and surroundings, what’s just happened, or what she knows is about to happen.
- Acts in congruence with what she professes to be her beliefs and values.
- Recognises her fallibility, openly acknowledges and apologises for those occasions when integrity fails her.
Integrity doesn’t mean perfection. You don’t have to be angelic to act with integrity. It’s mostly about being true to yourself. When you’re able to display integrity, people around you feel confident about looking to you for leadership and guidance. They see you as a role model and mentor.
On Decisiveness: More Courageousness than Correctness
True leaders have the courage to make decisions without unnecessary hesitation. That’s not to say they are rash though. When the situation calls and allows for detailed fact-finding, the true leader will take the opportunity to make an informed decision.
When the need arises however, she will take decisions using whatever data she has, even if that requires a leap of faith and a prayer that there’s a safety net below. This is a confident approach to decision-making that keeps ambiguity and confusion to a minimum. True leaders don’t always make the correct decision—but they know that taking a wrong decision is better than taking none at all.
On Humility: It’s Hard to See Humble
It’s hard to be humble, not difficult. If you are equipped with humility as a leadership tool, you are actually tougher and more powerful than many leaders. But humility is really a misnomer. It actually means nothing more than being mindful of your knowledge gaps and development needs.
True humility is hard to recognise from the outside looking in. People will rarely see it or understand it (or care about it) if you use it correctly. Yet they will totally respond to it, because when you can demonstrate humility, it looks more like simple honesty—a quality that few can remain unmoved by.
Look for Leadership in Yourself, not in a Title
If you aspire to a role as a supply chain leader, it’s important to understand the three qualities discussed in this article—to understand them that is, for what they really are. It’s also important to put them into practice, which is perfectly doable and brings me on to one more important point about being a leader.
Leadership itself is a quality, not a role. Don’t over-think your path to a senior position. Become a leader first, by developing true leadership qualities like decisiveness, integrity, and humility. When you succeed in becoming a leader, there will be a richness of professional roles and positions open to you… So many in fact, that you’ll be spoiled for choice.