August 6, 2021
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Leadership, in its complete and holistic definition, is a skillset every person needs. This can take different forms: There is the visionary leadership which we are most accustomed to. Then there is the interpersonal leadership that is associated with groups and one-on-one relationships. There is self-leadership, the leadership required to lead oneself through times of uncertainty, conflict and heightened emotions, to name a few.
If leadership is essential everywhere, but it looks different depending on the circumstance, how does anyone measure a person’s leadership capacity? How do we know who to promote, who to hire and, sometimes, who to let go?
How do you know if someone is fit for leadership? You look for these three qualities:
What do you think of when you hear the word “faithful?” Do you think of a loyal and loving spouse? Maybe a devoutly religious person?
By faithfulness, I am not thinking of faith or marriage but rather commitment and trust. Commitment and trust in any organization are crucial to a healthy and high-performing team. Business textbooks have chapters dedicated to the intersection of leadership and trust.
When I was in college and working various jobs on the side, I remember hearing that I should be careful with switching jobs too often. If it looked like I job-hopped constantly, and my resume reflected that, prospective employers would not be so keen on training and trusting me in their organization if they knew I wouldn’t be there for long. If retailers and restaurants are looking for faithfulness in college students, how much more should we look for it in our organizations for adults?
When seeking to promote, hire or even let someone go, pay attention to a person’s faithfulness. How has that person proven themselves to be loyal and trustworthy in their previous responsibilities? As the proverb goes,”If you can’t trust someone with little, you can’t trust them with a lot.” Are they sold on and committed to the mission of your organization? Or is their job just a job?
Great leaders are faithful, dependable and trustworthy.
Related: 4 Relationship Tips to Increase Employee Commitment and Loyalty
It is not enough for a leader to simply be faithful, dependable and trustworthy. They also need to be intentional — to be thoughtful, strategic and resourceful in their work.
Intentionality is a key attribute to any leader in any domain. Wilkinson and Leary, faculty members of Harvard Kennedy School, argue that leadership is rarely linear or straightforward and primarily requires “paying attention, and being able to learn quickly and in real-time.”
One of the primary tasks of leaders is problem-solving. Inevitably, in every leader’s journey, problems with unclear solutions arise. These problems cannot be solved by robots, nor by harder work or more work. The only way through them is by thoughtfulness, strategy, and resourcefulness.
A leader isn’t someone who simply gets the job done; they are someone who leads. Someone who does whatever they can to lead people and themselves towards a more healthy, cohesive, and productive team. They do not let perceived barriers get in the way of their goals and targets. They believe that if there is a will, then there must be a way, and they will do whatever they are able to do in order to find it.
Great leaders, therefore, are intentional, strategic and resourceful.
Related: 6 Characteristics of Resourceful People That Bring Them Success
No matter how dependable or strategic they are, no matter how gifted or experienced a person is, they will never be as effective and productive as the one who can learn. Jim Collins and subsequent research have argued and shown that humility is a key character trait in what Collins calls “Level 5 Leaders.”
Nothing stays the same forever — the government, the market, the company or even the people. Having a teachable, open and humble attitude allows a leader to adapt and work in any and every context.
Charles Darwin might say that if you can’t learn and adapt, you will inevitably become unproductive and eventually go extinct. Without a teachable attitude throughout your entire team and especially among your leaders, staying relevant and effective will be a challenging uphill battle.
Netflix started as a video rental system by mail but as we all know, it survived and ultimately took over as a household brand. Youtube started as a dating site, but as we also know, it pivoted to take over our phones and devices. These companies and others like them were able to survive and flourish not because they were able to humbly assess their business, learn, and pivot.
Great companies, teams and leaders, therefore, are teachable. They are humble and seek to truly seek their situation despite what they may not want to hear and open to new insights and constructive feedback.
Related: 9 Reasons Humility Is the Key Ingredient to Exceptional Leadership
“FIT” leaders are great leaders
Although there are a multitude if not an infinite amount of characteristics that lead to great leaders, the one thing (or three things) almost every capable and effective leader has as their foundation is a faithful, intentional and teachable attitude. They are people committed to the mission, willing to do what it takes to get things done and humble to hearing and learning new ways to operate and lead.