This fourth installment of the personality series is about the positive attributes that contribute to an individual but, importantly, leader effectiveness. Based on extensive research, reliable potential indicators are intelligence, personality, learning agility, and motivation. Intelligence is fixed. You have what you are born with, and that’s it, but that’s different from knowledge. Learning agility and motivation are components that the person controls. Both can be increased. But, if the person does not value those elements or demonstrate those behaviors, you can’t impact it; therefore, they should not be considered high potential if they don’t demonstrate it.
Personality is largely fixed. Most researchers over the last few centuries will agree with that statement. Personality manifests itself in behaviors. Behaviors are changeable. Brushing your hair is a behavior. You can do it faster, slower, less often, more often, etc. Being honest is manifested in behaviors. You can consistently choose to tell the truth as a way to demonstrate your personality trait of being honest. So, while personality is fixed, it is also changeable. When people have major life events, often negative ones such as a heart attack or the death of a loved one, we sometimes see a major personality shift. But it is uncommon. So, personalities can change. It’s just that people don’t. They aren’t willing to do the hard work to modify a deeply ingrained set of behaviors. As a hiring manager or leader in the organization, you certainly can’t change people’s personalities if they can’t or won’t.
Below are a robust set of positive personality traits that serve people well in organizations. This is true for both individual contributors but even more so with leaders. These dozen traits facilitate strong interactions with people that allow the individual to be his/her best self but, more importantly, allow others to be their best self.
Two that I would normally put on the list as critical components are ambition and initiative. People who have a great drive to achieve things, people who have a can-do attitude and act, are positive forces. The reason they are not on the list is that they are accounted for under motivation – one of the four vital factors by which potential is determined. The other one that should be on the list is curious. A curious mind makes for a strong contributor but is essential to being an effective leader. It’s not on the list because it is accounted for under one of the other vital factors to determine leadership potential – intelligence.
Positive Personality Components:
Kindness - Someone who is kind brings a compassionate spirit and is also often associated with being generous, another attractive attribute. However, sometimes leaders confuse kindness with effectiveness or holding people accountable. You can be and do those things, while being kind and treating people with respect.
Courageous - It is hard to be a leader based on all the difficult decisions needed to run a business. It takes bravery and courage and an appropriate level of risk-taking. Without these elements, change will not occur, and then it is a matter of time before your business dies on the vine. Additionally, employees want brave leaders to do the right thing in times of adversity.
Forthright - This encompassing attribute is straightforward, transparent, honest, has integrity, and is sincere. Means what you say and showing up in a consistent manner are critical components of everyone’s effectiveness, but role modeling is critical for leaders to do.
Open-minded - Like the rest, all of us benefit from this attribute, but leaders especially need this to create a various but diverse environment where people can contribute to their fullest.
Resilient - Leaders and individuals who are resilient are change-oriented. They are often patient and, importantly, maintain a low level of anxiety. This is a critical component because being able to NOT pass stress onto others is an essential leadership attribute. Being resilient also requires us to be flexible and adaptable, including trying on ideas that are not our own.
Helpful- Someone who is helpful commits themselves to the success of others. They are often a person FOR others, demonstrating a high degree of selflessness and compassion. Those who have a helpful inclination in the workplace are folks with who other people gravitate and enjoy strong relationships.
Personable - Leaders who are sociable and easy to work with, as well as those who create positive energy in their interactions, are personable. They draw people to them in normal times, and when there are difficult times or moments when the news is bad, people are still willing to engage with them, which is critical.
Humility - Being humble was surfaced more than a dozen times in my CEO study on Determining Leadership Potential. It is a highly attractive quality for leaders and individuals alike, often coupled with someone respectful and forgiving.
Positive - Hands down, a positive mindset is one of the biggest game-changers for a person’s life and certainly their business. It is often associated with optimism. There are endless books written on the power of positivity, and assuming positive intent is a lens changer that enables profound results.
Disciplined - To achieve great things, you need to be able to grind, have grit, and hold yourself to standards others are not willing to do. Being able to dig deep and have discipline in any area – thought, body, reaction, etc. is the hallmark of a strong leader.
While these attributes are incredibly powerful contributors to being an effective leader, there is a caution. Any strength taken too far becomes a weakness. Being too disciplined makes you rigid. Being too kind can suggest to people that you are not a strong individual. Being too helpful may enable people to take advantage of and walk over. Being too open-minded can lead to indecision. Just being mindful of an extreme in anything usually isn’t an advantage.
The one we didn’t address is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is self-awareness, self-regulation, trust, and empathy. Because it is the most significant contributor to leader success, we will dedicate the next blog fully to this critical personality attribute.