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Leadership Is…20 Characteristics of Leadership

Leadership Is…20 Characteristics of Leadership

In the 1970 film Love Story, music student Jennifer Cavilleri, played by Ali MacGraw, said, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry (IMDb, 1990-2012).” According to Infoplease (2005), that is one of the top 100 movie quotes of all time. I never really accepted this definition of love, but I, and many others, have spent a lot of time trying to define the word and the emotion.

At about the same time, Kim Casali from New Zealand began publishing a cartoon strip called Love is…, which explores many characteristics of love (Wikipedia, 2012). Possibly not coincidentally, one of the most popular of her childlike drawings was a cartoon that said, “Love is…being able to say you are sorry.” Readers from around the world enjoyed this charming comic because of its simplicity and innocence.  “Love is…what brings out the poet in you,” “Love is…when he flies across a continent to be with you,” and “Love is…how his voice brightens up your journey to work” are a few of the many sentiments expressed in the series (Tribune Media Services, 2012).

After thinking of these romantic and possibly simplistic views of love, I began to think about less romantic and desirably less simplistic views of leadership. As a leadership coach and avid student of the topic, I began to think of how one would define leadership in a similar short yet meaningful way.

To that end, I have listed below 20 characteristics of leadership.

  1. Leadership is…accepting responsibility to bring about change.
  2. Leadership is…building a community of committed and like-minded people.
  3. Leadership is…communicating the good and the bad.
  4. Leadership is…sharing a vision of better things to come.
  5. Leadership is…motivating without manipulating.
  6. Leadership is…continuing to learn and grow.
  7. Leadership is…encouraging learning and development in others.
  8. Leadership is…being authentic in the midst of competing thoughts and emotions.
  9. Leadership is…being present and fully aware of other people.
  10. Leadership is…sharing the benefits of the position and holding the liabilities for oneself.
  11. Leadership is…managing resources to benefit everyone.
  12. Leadership is…fostering a can-do attitude-providing realistic optimism.
  13. Leadership is…laughing at oneself and not at others.
  14. Leadership is…building trust while promoting accountability.
  15. Leadership is…recognizing and validating emotions without being emotionally hijacked.
  16. Leadership is…honoring the contributions of others.
  17. Leadership is…encouraging creativity and divergent opinions.
  18. Leadership is…asking powerful questions.
  19. Leadership is…listening with curiosity and genuine interest.
  20. Leadership is…saying you’re sorry. Unlike the statement in Love Story, a leader admits when he is wrong, makes amends and moves on.

This list is certainly not definitive, and each of the characteristics can benefit from extensive discussion. However, I think it is a useful beginning. What characteristics would you add? As I did with the Love Story quote above, with which of the characteristics would you disagree?

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References:

IMDb. (1990-2012). Love Story. Retrieved from IMDb.com: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066011/

Infoplease. (2005). Top 100 Movie Quotes. Retrieved from Infoplease: http://www.infoplease.com/ipea/A0931686.html

Tribune Media Services. (2012). Love Is... Retrieved from Tribune Media Services: http://www.tmsfeatures.com/comics/comic-panels/love-is/Love-Is.html

Wikipedia. (2012, July 2). Love Is... Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Is....

Portion of copyrighted image used as Fair Use in Commentary. Kim Casali's work is still available for purchase. 

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