What do you look for in your
ideal leader?
Defining common traits and characteristics of leaders is a challenge as each
successful leader in the workplace is different. As such, there is no one set
of qualities which can be held out as being the ideal model. There are of
course common traits seen in all leaders, but it is dangerous to portray any
single list as being the perfect set. For our purposes, we will concentrate
on building a leadership profile that focuses on the qualities most appli-
cable to you as a potential first-time leader. We will also concentrate on the
more tangible personal qualities which you can more realistically develop
over time.
What do you look for in a leader? As we build the leadership profile, a useful
initial exercise is to determine the personal characteristics that you look for
in a leader. Think of that great leader you identified in the earlier exercise and
try to describe the qualities they possessed that gained your respect. This
time, focus less on what they did and more on what type of person they were.
Consider that great leader at work again and try to define their personal
qualities that impressed you and helped them to gain your respect.
Keep a note of your thoughts for later use.
Now that you have defined some of the leadership qualities you personally
admire, you would find that if you compared your list to someone else’s,
many of the qualities identified would be the same, for what we look for in
leaders are common human requirements. Keep those personal qualities
you have just identified in mind as you read on.
The leader’s challenge
In order for us to explore what a leader is, it is helpful to probe more
deeply into what a leader does, for they are obviously connected. A leader’s
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main challenge is getting the right balance between the outcomes required
by the organisation and the needs of the people or team. When we talk
about outcomes, what exactly are we referring to? In any organisation out-
comes can be described as:
Productivity Quality Efficiency
Financial Stability
For any commercial business, maximising profit is naturally a key objec-
tive. In non-profits, the emphasis may be on achieving financial stability.
Either requirement is achieved by:
Ensuring employee productivity is high
Through delivering quality products and services to customers
By operating the business processes efficiently
Your focus as a leader in relation to outcomes will therefore be to make
sure that your team members are productive, complete their work to a high
standard, and carry out that work as efficiently as possible.
On the other hand, when we look at the people or team side of things,
what are we referring to?
Competence Commitment Motivation
Productivity, Quality
and Efficiency
Therefore, in any organisation:
Employees must be competent at what they do
They must also be committed to the goals of the organisation
They must be motivated to do the work to the right standard, as it
is through this motivation that real quality and efficiency are achieved
This relates back to what we mentioned earlier about the difference
between job done and job done well. Employees who are competent, com-
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