Of all the important Leadership Traits, there is one that trumps them all

Leadership TraitsThere is one characteristic that you will find in every truly successful organization and that is effective leadership. Whether it’s in the field of sports, government or business, every team, every government body and every business organization must have great leadership if it’s to achieve its goals and aspirations. So, it shouldn’t surprise you that there are countless articles, papers and even books extolling effective leadership traits.

  • Here’s one person’s cut on the most important leadership traits

Deep Patel, a contributor to Forbes.com, suggests 11 powerful traits of successful leaders in his article at https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/03/22/11-powerful-traits-of-successful-leaders/#382bb715469f His 11 traits are:

  1. Self-managing
  2. Acting strategically
  3. Being an effective communicator
  4. Being accountable and responsible
  5. Setting clear goals and persisting in achieving them
  6. Having a vision for the future
  7. Managing complexity
  8. Fostering creativity and innovation
  9. Team building and promoting teamwork
  10. Creating lasting relationships
  11. Learning agility


  • Does this article accurately handle the issue?

Here’s what I find interesting. If you search other, similar articles on leadership traits, you will likely find different lists. If you’re wanting to learn from these articles how to acquire the traits of successful leaders, you’ll likely end up with a list with a couple of dozen items. Are they all really that important? Do you have to master every trait if you’re going to excel in the arena of leadership? We don’t think so. In fact, our work with the hundreds of effective leaders over the last 30+ years that we have been coaching organizations has proven to us that mastering one trait gets you almost all the way to your goal of effectiveness.

  • Here’s how we look at the issue of leadership traits

What is the basis for my assertion: In our capacity as business coaches, I and my associates have flown hundreds of thousands of miles each year. We often take the opportunity to have conversations with our seat mates. Occasionally, while discussing the issue of leadership traits, we encounter someone who absolutely raves about a leader they once had that everyone in the organization loved and would do anything for. Would you believe that when asked, every single one of these people pointed to the same trait that leader possessed? That’s indeed what happened and that leadership trait was that he or she was a great listener.

  • For us, being a great listener is the key leadership trait

So how do you become a “great listener?” Well, first you must understand the phenomenon of listening. To do that, we start with the realization that throughout the day, from the moment we wake up to the time we fall asleep, there is a conversation going on. Some call it thinking, others call it the voice in their heads, others call it self-talk. Regardless of what you call it, we will simply refer to it as a “conversation.”

Understanding that everyone lives inside of a conversation, we must then understand that while we typically approach a conversation with another person as if they were a blank canvas upon which we can write works they will receive and understand exactly as we intend, this is clearly not the case. The other person is living in his or her conversation. Before you even open your mouth, he is already listening, to himself. Why? Because people are always engaged in their own internal conversation which is why, when all said and done, being an effective listener is the key leadership trait.

  • What are the main ways people listen?

So, the question is not whether we are listening when someone speaks to us, the question is how we are listening. Virtually everyone has one or more of the following internal conversations when they are being spoken to:

  • Get to the point
  • Name that tune
  • What am I going to say next?
  • Agree/disagree
  • Win/lose
  • Right/wrong
  • Find the flaw
  • I know
  • Attack
  • Either/or

You can find a detailed explanation of all these leadership traits in Chapter 4 of Unshackled Leadership. Get your copy here: https://enlightenedbusinessgrowth.com/products/unshackled-leadership-by-scott-hunter/

  • There is a hidden problem in all of these listening “styles”

What’s missing in all cases is that the person has their attention on themselves and each of these styles is designed for them to protect themselves; you could say they are primarily concerned with their own survival. In any event, when you encounter someone who listens in any of these ways, you never experience really being heard. Can you see why this is the key leadership trait? Remember the last time you had a conversation with someone and you had no experience of being heard? Pretty awful, right?

  • Here’s why listening is the superior leadership trait

Here’s what’s important to know. The phenomenon of listening only consists of two components: who do you have your attention on and what’s your internal conversation. That’s it. All that “stuff” about body language, facial expression, eye contact, and the like flows directly from those two components. Understand that and you will be well on your way to having the most important leadership trait.

Once you become aware of how you listen, which means becoming conscious of where you have your attention and what is your internal dialog, you can choose not to listen in any of the above listed ways. Instead of having your attention on yourself, simply put 100% of your attention on the speaker.

The only remaining question is: what do you listen for? Here are a few possibilities to get the conversation started. Again, you will find a detailed discussion in Chapter 5 of Unshackled Leadership

  • For possibility
  • For people’s commitment
  • With compassion
  • Win/win
  • And/both

Try this and adopt the leadership trait of all truly great leaders.