We’ve all encountered them: horrible leaders. They lack empathy and humility, offer a vague vision of the future and are slow to adapt to change. But we all know – and love – good leaders when we meet them. Like horrible leaders, their characteristics boil down to attitudes that anyone can adopt.

Here are five winning attitudes of successful leaders:

1. “I have a clear and compelling purpose.” Purpose answers the philosophical questions you’ve probably contemplated at least once in your life: Why do I exist? Where in the world am I going? Purpose is essential to navigating the complex, ambiguous world we live in today, where strategy is rarely set in stone, but rather fluid and rapidly changing. Purpose is the anchor that informs what you will pursue and how you’ll go about doing it.

2. “I act with integrity in my relationships.” You are a leader by virtue of your relationship with others and yourself ¬– whether you lead employees at your company, head up projects at work or manage your personal goals. Relationships play a vital part in your success as a leader. Are you acting with the utmost integrity in your relationships? Integrity is revealed in a number of ways – for example, by maintaining the confidence of sensitive information, communicating early about an issue, taking responsibility for a missed deadline or being true to yourself.

3. “I value learning and development.” Learning doesn’t just take place in classrooms or come from reading books, but also from thinking about your daily experiences or listening to others. While you bring tremendous competence and know-how to your leadership, it is crucial to remain open-minded to feedback and opportunities to grow or change your thinking. If you are leading others, then it’s equally as valuable to provide growth plans for your people. Remember, your success is directly tied to the success of those you lead.

4. “I want to hear from others.” Listening is a neglected communication skill in leaders. Chances are, you were taught to speak up, speak first and speak boldly. After all, it’s your job to cast a vision, motivate people and achieve results. While many of the most influential leaders are incredible orators, the most effective leaders invest time listening before they speak. Listening communicates that you value others and, more important, saves you from leaping into perilous blind spots.

5. “I focus on my circle of influence.” Everyone has worries at individual, societal, global and universal levels – from anxieties about family, health and work to larger-scale concerns like terrorism and the fate of the universe. If you maintain a reactive attitude, then you say, “There is nothing I can do!” But when your attitude is proactive and focused on what you can control, your language is different: “Let me consider another approach.” Instead of being a leader who dwells on problems you cannot change, shift your attention toward areas where you can make a difference. Interestingly, as you continue to exert energy on your circle of influence, worries begin to diminish. Why? Over time, focusing on what you can influence changes your inward feelings about your concerns. You feel empowered and in control, so you express those positive feelings in the way you tackle challenges.

Zig Ziglar says that your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. As a leader, your attitude also determines your influence. Think about the attitudes you bring to the table as a leader. Are there areas where you might need an attitude adjustment?


About Your Columnist

Michele Richardson is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers internal communications. As an internal communications expert, Michele is on a mission to build workplaces where people are led by passion and purpose. Her programs get executives clear about how to communicate a new vision, how to get employees focused on achieving purpose-driven objectives, and how to position their organizations for growth. Michele is the CEO & Founder of Inciteful Communications.


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