You know what I get a little tired of? Articles, lists and posts about leadership traits that have nothing exclusively to do with leadership at all. Here’s a quick example:

All leaders need to be emotionally intelligent.

I agree. However, wouldn’t everybody benefit from being emotionally intelligent?

Again and again the ‘leadership’ traits I read seem more like ‘good people’ traits. In other words, they don’t seem to relate exclusively, or often even specifically to leadership in any way. This leaves me with the question – what are the exclusive elements of leadership? What is it that only leaders need to say, think and do? Surely there must be something!

First question first: What is leadership?

Here’s another thing I’m a little tired of. People making up their own definitions of what leadership is. I’m more of a ‘generally accepted source’ kind of guy. As such, I still think the best definition is the first that appears in the Wikipedia page on the subject:

‘A process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task’.


For me, this definition is great because it distinguishes the leader’s role from all others. It isolates leadership as it’s own, separate entity. From here, I believe it’s possible to also isolate the distinct and exclusive traits all leaders require, that perhaps other roles don’t.

Please let me say again, I have absolutely no problem in listing all the general human and professional traits that allow anyone to be successful and making the point that leaders need them too. I just want to see the things that define and articulate what leaders and leaders alone require as well.

I discussed this with my partner, and she suggested that one way to answer this question could be to imagine an organisation without a CEO or senior management team. What would the business be specifically missing out on? Interesting, right?

What are these traits? Here’s one that comes to my mind:

Greater Good Messaging: The ability to articulate, in a non-technical, clarifying and motivating way, how work tasks performed by team members link directly to furthering the greater good.

Here’s another:

Taking a hit for the team: Accepting and absorbing accountability for team errors from a larger organisational perspective.

I’m just getting started on this, but I think it’s an area worth looking into. Hoping you do too.


Leadership – to be continued ..
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