Very few people are born to lead. Leadership is a skill that is earned through perseverance and practice. Every one of us have the potential to be a leader and part of that life-time journey to leadership includes practicing and refining the characteristics and traits the embody a leader. While there are many characteristics that make each of us up, below are five basic traits you can start practicing today.

Good Leaders are responsible. In our June 16th and June 23rd blog posts, we talked about Stepping up to the Plate taking Ownership.  These are two examples of being a responsible leader. As leaders, we have to continually demonstrate responsibility by caring for those around us, caring for our business or organization, and caring for our community. This means taking the appropriate steps and actions to ensure continued success.

We are often faced with challenges that require us to step back and take a breath. An exceptional leader demonstrates patience every day. Whenever we interact with other people, we are bound to get into situations that are stressful or have conflict. A leader steps up and is patient when working with problems and with those around them.

Along with patience, a good leader needs to be flexible and creative when handling all situations. It is not uncommon to be faced with a project that didn’t go as planned. We have to avoid being rigid with the original plan and be prepared to think creatively and maintain flexibility when approaching problems or hurdles. I often look at my hurdles and my clients as if it is legal and ethical (see our blog post on ethics) and if we can find a way to make it work.

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Communication is a skill that I can’t over emphasize. A good leader knows how, when, and what to communicate. Often we have information to share or need information to complete tasks or goals, but we still drop the ball. Almost all conflicts stem from misunderstandings or different perceptions. A good leader can communicate using necessary channels (e.g. verbal, written, etc.) in a way that not only gathers or disseminates the right information, but also builds up those around them.

Finally, a good leader carries not only a presence but also humility around them. A good leader doesn’t act standoffish but rather makes everyone around them feel accepted and desired. A great approach is to look at everyone you come into contact with as someone who knows more about something than you do.

Practice these traits on a regular basis and when you drop the ball (and you will) take it as a learning opportunity and forgive yourself and those around you.

You can be a leader, but beware this is a life learning skill that is rarely truly mastered and will nearly always take continued practice.