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16 Attributes of a Leader

By Doug Moran  |  Posted 01-26-2010 Print

The framework includes the following sixteen leadership attributes: 

Composure - The Power to Keep Your Head
Character - The Wisdom to Know and Trust Yourself
Patience - The Strength to Endure
Selflessness - The Ability to Put Your Cause and Beliefs Ahead of Yourself
Vision - The Power of Having and Sharing a Dream
Self-Efficacy - The Confidence to Gain from Triumph and Disaster
Integrity - The Wisdom to Know the Truth and the Strength to Defend It
Resilience - The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity
Boldness - The Ability to See and Seize Opportunities
Accountability - The Will to Take Ownership Regardless of the Outcome
Courage - The Ability to Face the Dangers When They Become Real
Stamina - The Will to Hold On When You Have Nothing Left
Authenticity - The Resolve Always to Be Yourself
Inspiration - The Ability to Connect With and Motivate Friends and Foes
Enthusiasm - The Energy to Fill Every Minute
Ambition - The Will to Make the World What You Want It to Be

These are very simple words and concepts. The difficulty comes when we decide to put them to use. The "If 16" Leadership Framework© allows a leader to examine successes and failures and to learn important lessons from both. Notice that the primary focus of these attributes is on the leader rather than those we lead. Followers are essential to leadership, but becoming a leader starts with the leader. 

Before we can lead others, we must know ourselves. Before we can challenge others, we must challenge ourselves. Before we can motivate others, we must first be motivated.

This idea of focusing on oneself first seems to run counter to many leadership theories, but it has ancient roots. In the sixth century B.C., Lao Tzu wrote, "He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still." Leaders understand that self-awareness precedes self-mastery, and both precede leading others.

No one is born with the skills to be a leader. Throughout our leadership journeys, we gain experience and perspective, which enable us to grow and learn. But growth and learning are not certain. They depend on awareness and choice. This requires critical self-examination and a rigorous regular inventory of our skills. Knowing the attributes we possess helps us expose those we lack. 

Early in my career, I worked for an IT leader who was, in many ways, the quintessential CIO.  He was strategic. He knew technology from the ground up. He was passionate about IT. His people respected him for his expertise. Unfortunately, he was lousy at working with his business partners. This should have been devastating, yet he overcame this challenge by recruiting and leveraging others who were great at working with business leaders. His self-awareness and choice enabled him to overcome his weakness.

Over the coming months, I will explore each of the "If 16" attributes in more detail, focusing particularly on their importance to today's IT leaders. 

Doug Moran is the author of the forthcoming book, If You Will Lead:  Enduring Wisdom for 21st-Century Leaders, and founder of the consultancy If You Will Lead, LLC. He was previously a divisional CIO with Capital One and served in a number of roles in the Commonwealth of Virginia, including deputy secretary of health and human resources, COO of the department of social services and telecommunications director.

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