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What are some traits that make a top-tier leader?

We can talk about leadership theory, technical skills and leadership competencies all day but what is the essence of true unadulterated leadership?

What is it that makes us want to follow another?

If you were to write a list of everything a top-tier leader should possess, you’d be writing for a long time. Leadership extends far beyond an itemized list of skills.

In some of my other articles, I discuss qualities that top-tier leadership should possess, which include: mastery of communication, competence, soft skills, emotional intelligence, and more.

But there’s one trait that’s transcendent of the rest. It’s what makes strong leadership greater than the sum of its parts. That trait is confidence.

You see, you can have all of the above traits as a leader, but if you’re missing confidence, you’re not going to be able to lead effectively.

You’ll have team members who undermine your leadership, members who seek to sabotage you—all because you lack the confidence it takes to back up your laundry list of leadership competencies.

But, ironically, people will follow you to hell and back if you possess the confidence, even without all of the leadership competencies and skills mentioned above.

This is to say that confidence is the most important of all leadership traits. It enhances leadership potential and allows for further development of crucial leadership skills.

Here are some top leadership qualities that set confident leaders apart from docile leaders.

Open To Risks

Innovative leaders are not afraid to blaze a trail into the unknown. They are willing to take risks and learn from their mistakes.

The most significant benefit of risk-taking is that no matter what the outcome is, there is always something to be gained.

Whether failure or success, leaders who take risks learn lessons via both of these outcomes due to information being added to their leadership schemata.

Motivated By Negativity

“I learned working with the negatives can make for better pictures.” —Drake, HYFR

During my time as a leader I learned to turn negative energy into positive outcomes.

It’s as simple as recognizing that you have ultimate control over how you feel through how you judge events.

When you realize the power of controlling your emotions, you’ll be able to channel that energy into constructive tasks.

Energy is energy. Whether it’s positive or negative energy, you have the choice as to what you will do with it.

You can inhale negativity and let it poison your mindset. Or you can parry it, redirect it back to its source or create something from it.

Ask any successful leader today. They will tell you they love it when people tell them, “You can’t do it!” Or “That won’t work.”

Once these resilient leaders hear some rendition of those lines, it triggers a “challenge accepted” mode within them. Then they go into attack.

Take Action

What’s one important quality that puts confident leaders miles ahead of weak leaders? The affinity for taking action.

Taking action is the embodiment of confidence.

Confident Leaders have a “can do” attitude which allows for them to keep pushing forward. They believe in themselves and the skills they wield.

They don’t just sit around second guessing themselves, wishing and hoping things will go their way—they make things happen.

They take decisive action that leads to results.

If you want to build confidence as a leader, believe in yourself. You’re in a leadership role because you have what it takes.

Second guessing and hesitancy only serves to undermine you in the long run.

Admit What They Don’t Know

You don’t have to know everything. That’s impossible. Confident leaders know this, and that’s why they aren’t afraid of admitting it.

When I first became a union steward, there were a bunch of things I didn’t know and I wasn’t ashamed to admit it. Instead, I made an effort to fill in the gaps.

Put your ego to the side. If you assume you know it all, there will be no room for growth.

Keen Observation

Confident leaders are keen observers. They use their eyes and ears to collect information.

Once they have this information, they filter it through their knowledge or add to their pre-existing schemata.

Confident leaders observe by asking questions rather than making assumptions.

They follow up with answers that encourage elaboration if they need more context rather than jump to conclusions.

Optimistic Vision

Confident leaders envision positive outcomes no matter what the situation is. They believe they have the talent and skills to carry their team through any issue.

Confident leaders believe they have what it takes to impact their organization in a positive way. Their optimistic vision reflects their confidence and allows for them to lead productive conversations.

Always envision the best outcome. And when you’re not feeling the most confident, audit your talents and skills to remind yourself that you have what it takes to make it through any circumstance.

Remain Calm

“Cooler heads prevail.”—Unknown

I have to admit, as a leader I struggled with my passionate, hot-headedness in conflict resolution.

In retrospect, there are times where remaining calm would have made a lot of situations go much smoother.

But when it came to stressful, chaotic situations, I’ve always thrived.

In difficult times, confident leaders merge their talent for keen observation with optimistic vision in order to collect data and enact a plan. These are the people you rely on when the walls are crumbling down around you and you need a way out.

I’m pretty sure you’ve worked with leadership that lost their cool in stressful situations. That’s not exactly the hallmark of confident leadership, is it?

When you eventually find yourself in a crisis, keep your cool, collect data, use vision and enact a winning strategy.

A Final Thought

Trying to lead without confidence is a waste of talent.

It doesn’t matter how many technical skills you possess—without confidence your leadership is impotent.

Working on your leadership confidence is the single, more important thing you can do.

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