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much of what they do may pass under the radar. An effective leader must ensure that they are supported by a streamlined communications system that disseminates results internally and externally and raises the profile of the successes and the organisation.

Top 10 characteristics of today’s leaders

Having coached and listened to hundreds of executives over the last 25 years, the top 10 characteristics con-

sistently expected of leaders today are: ``

Contagious inspiration: to have a sense of possibility and a passion to achieve; to be “energy giving” not “energy draining”. People are motivated when they feel good about interacting with the leader.

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Integrity: adhering to principles in all dealings; not operating with hidden agendas; being able to make the right decisions even if they are the harder decisions. People need to know – without giving it a second thought – that their leader is operating in the best interest, driven by the highest principles.

Followers are discerning regarding whom they choose to follow and openly judge leaders on their accomplishments as well as their behaviours

❝ ``

Trustworthiness: being honest and truthful at all times, making trust, loyalty and followership easy to offer. When a leader practices “trust giving” behaviours this encourages trust among others and helps promote a trust rather than a “distrust and blame” culture.


Authenticity and congruence: projecting a level of comfort and con- fidence with who they are and who they are becoming; transparent in who they are, their motives and drivers and happy with the relationship they have with themselves and others. When a leader appears uncomplicated they also appear more approachable and easier to build a relationship with.

that there is always more to know and a desire to broaden and deepen one’s understanding as well as encouraging this habit in others. Te more a person learns, the greater their sphere of understanding; the greater their emerging awareness of other personally unexplored knowledge areas and the greater their respect in others who hold different knowledge and experience to them.

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Humility: recognising that they are part of a wider system, and that they depend on others as much as others depend on them. Tey promote the understanding that a streamlined and cohesive collaboration between all parts of the system yields far greater and more sustainable results that the sum of the parts, or indeed, any one of the parts. Tey actively encourage the shift from “me” to “we” and openly seek the ideas of others.

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Belief in others: empowering, sponsoring and encouraging others to develop, progress and achieve more. When people feel valued (for who they are, their experience and what they offer); acknowledged (for their perspective, the efforts they are making and their potential) and significant (as they are consulted and listened to by the leader), they will naturally start to seek more responsibility and accountability.

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Compassion: understanding the challenges that come with balancing personal and professional respon- sibilities; showing acceptance and forgiveness and believing in people’s good intent; understanding that everyone makes occasional mistakes and offering second chances.

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Appreciation: Acknowledging others’ efforts and accomplishments. Recognising and rewarding those people and groups that, through their followership, enable the leader to succeed. Te power of helping people feel appreciated for who they are, what they bring and how they contribute is often underestimated. Continual learning: an appreciation

Self-awareness: knowing when to lead and when to follow; knowing when – for the benefit of the greater cause – it is time to step aside and fall in behind another leader. Different leaders can emerge depending on the current environment and the presenting need at a particular point in time. A successful leader one year may not have the ideal combination of capabilities, experience and relationships that would satisfy the presenting need another year. Different people make more effective leaders at different times. Being ready and able to hand over the baton of leadership to a more appropriate leader when necessary is a desirable and evolving quality.

All organisations have latent leadership potential. Organisations able to benefit from this are those with a culture that recognises the leadership potential of each individual given their unique combination of capabilities, knowledge, experience, relationships and energy reserves at a particular point in time. Is it possible for an organisation

to encourage and facilitate appropriate leaders to emerge to receive the baton of leadership? Is it possible that, on receiving the

baton, the new leader can continue to move the organisation forward in line with the strategy while countering the challenges of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world in which they operate? Perhaps the future of effective

leadership is facilitating the fluid transition of leaders to followers and followers to leaders, depending on the presenting need.

Heidi Ashley-Hacker is a coach and leadership trainer and can be contacted via

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