Character traits for good leadership

Good character makes a good leader. But, delving into character traits for good leadership throws up diverse features like positive attitude, determination, discipline, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, fairness, humility, courage, creativity, vision, conviction, future-mindedness, emotional intelligence and so on. All of them are important depending on the situation and circumstances.

Let us take a look at some of the crucial character attributes, beginning with vision. Leaders should have a compelling and realistic vision that they stay invested in. This will enable them to set goals, establish a sense of direction, and create a roadmap for the future in a way that inspires employees to go after it. Mr. Rakesh Singh, VP and GM of Citrix India elaborates, “Vision is absolutely crucial because it sets the bar for what the organisation must strive to achieve. Objectives may keep changing along the way, but if you don’t have that big dream, then you don’t know which direction you need to take.”

A forward-looking and future-minded approach is what helps leaders perceive how their actions will affect the future and filter decisions accordingly.

They can envision what will happen, connect it to employees’ hopes and aspirations and communicate the possibilities in the most stimulating manner.

Honesty, integrity, fairness and humility go hand in hand. Abiding to a set of ethics and principles while being honest, transparent, fair and empathetic inspires trust and respect in the workforce. As ApnaCircle.com, Founder and CEO, Mr. Yogesh Bansal points out, “With power comes responsibility and one has to be ethical to be entrusted with that responsibility, so having good work ethics is important. An ethical individual not only builds reliability but also encourages others to work principally.”

A meta-analysis study by Kurt Dirks and Donald Ferrin focuses on the role of trust in leadership. According to their study, trust in leadership is positively correlated with job satisfaction, commitment to the organisation, and negatively related with employees’ intent to quit the organisation.

Mr. Amit Nandkeolyar, Assistant Professor, Organisational Behaviour at Indian School of Business (ISB) adds, “Unless subordinates have trust in the leadership, it is impossible for a leader to be effective. He cannot get anything done by his followers if he does not command trust or is not seen as trustworthy.” A recent survey by Korn-Ferry International, Asia’s leading talent management and leadership development company, on what organisations want from their leaders further reveals that the emphasis is on those who are both ethical and can convey a strong vision of the future.

Humility empowers leaders to admit mistakes, accept dissent and concede to a better viewpoint. This in turn promotes the open-mindedness to learn new things as well. As Mr. Singh adds, “Honesty builds trust and promotes an apolitical environment, both of which are essential for the smooth running of an organisation. Humility helps you stay on a learning curve forever. It also allows a leader to have an open-mind, which is essential to study the competitive environment more objectively.

Also, since the leader often sets the tone of the organisation, humility will have a trickle down effect, which is always good for the organisation.” Mr. Debasis Chatterji, CEO, Netxcell Limited further adds, “Honesty, integrity and humility are the fulcrum of a leadership podium. If a leader does not have these three attributes, it very difficult to perform as expected and he/she will falter under difficult circumstances. The person will then most likely resort to adjustments and compromise and the organisation will suffer.” He further surmises that these three attributes are the building blocks for all other attributes!

Ms. Juhi Mishra, Vice President Human Resources, InterGlobe Technology Quotient too opines on the same note, “A leader is someone who, with his integrity, empowers and motivates his team members to work towards a common objective – growth and stability. An honest and trustworthy leader is likely to have a team that rely on him and stand by him in a crisis situation.”

Emotional intelligence is especially crucial for leaders to be able to make rational, mature and informed decisions without rushing or reacting emotionally. It brings the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others. Emotionally intelligent leaders can exercise self-discipline on their thoughts and actions and express their emotions in constructive ways. Mr. Bansal also suggests, “Emotional intelligence is required when dealing with a team of individuals. An emotionally intelligent leader would not only be able to deal with his emotional swings but also empathise with and control the team’s emotions and motivate them towards a positive goal.”

Finally, Mr. Nandkeolyar sums up the rising importance of good character in leadership, “A great leader develops shared vision, creates an enabling climate in his team/company, and provides appreciation for the employees.

This is especially important during uncertain times when employees are looking for someone to provide a direction. During such times, leaders serve as beacon for their followers!”

To sum up, what a leader is makes a huge difference in his leadership performance. It makes him capable, dynamic and places him at the forefront for building excellence in the organisation. Not only will he set a good example but also attract followers who will want to emulate him. Therefore, character does count!

Payal Chanania


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