Do you have what it takes to be a great leader?

Last week we looked at what–superficially–people look for in a leader: healthiness. But lest you think that appearance is all that matters, think again. US President Obama may be one of the youngest and healthiest presidents in US history, but he’s also rated by voters as the worst since World War II. It takes more than a healthy image to be a good leader, or at least to be seen to be a good leader (which may be different) in business and in politics.

A recent review of the literature on leadership found that:

  1. Leadership is important. (Ya think?)
  2. Leadership is about the performance of teams, groups and organisations.
  3. Good leadership promotes well-being and bad leadership degrades the quality of life for everyone associated with it.
  4. Personality predicts leadership in that who we are is how we lead.

Four factors that consistently correlate with good leadership are:

  • Competence: defined as the ability to influence others–not as easy as it sounds; in surveys of what people think of their immediate leader-manager, on average about half are seen as incompetent.
  • Decisiveness: making a decision and sticking with it. (But at what point does that become counterproductive stubbornness?)
  • Integrity: or trustworthiness, which earns respect and increases followers’ commitment, performance and satisfaction.
  • Vision: showing the way, motivating people and giving them a common purpose.

The ability to lead well isn’t just about how you look; more than that, it’s about what you know and who you are. That’s a relief.