Seven personality traits of effective leaders

 
Sept. 14, 2009 | by Thom Rainer

Leadership resources abound.

There are books, courses, conferences, coaching, and mentoring.

There is no shortage of leadership material. So I can’t even pretend to make any significant contribution to the discussion. But there is one area that fascinates me. It’s the matter of the leader’s personality. Again, I know that a plethora of materials and data exist on personality assessments and characteristics, so I’m not likely making any new discoveries or pronouncements.

The personality of leaders

Of course, my background is such that most of my observations have been about church leaders and other Christian leaders. In the process of over two decades of research and consultation, I’ve seen and worked with a lot of leaders.

Some of them are effective. Some are not.

And I’ve been fascinated to observe the personality characteristics of these leaders. Over the course of these 20 years, I’ve thus taken copious notes on leaders. I’ve found that some of the most effective leaders share common traits. That is not to suggest that they are personality clones. They do, however, have commonalities.

Seven common traits

Since my research is more subjective than not, I don’t want to suggest that this list of personality characteristics is exhaustive. Nor do I want to suggest that the order is one of a particular priority.

Okay, enough disclaimers. Here’s the list:

Effective leaders are loyal. They are loyal to God, their families, and the places where they serve. They are loyal to friends. And their loyalties are intense and clearly noticeable by all who know them.

Effective leaders are joyous and fun. One of the main reasons they are good leaders is because they have eager followers. People like to follow leaders who are fun and who demonstrate obvious joy in their lives. After all, who wants to follow a grumpy and joyless leader?

Effective leaders have a strong work ethic. In fact, one of the greatest challenges of these leaders is maintaining balance. They are prone to be on the task 24/7.

Effective leaders are self-aware. They are able to see their strengths and weaknesses with a great deal of objectivity. They seek out critical evaluations from people they trust to tell them the truth. Because they are self-aware, they are constantly seeking to improve.

Effective leaders take initiative. These leaders do not need to be prodded to complete a task. To the contrary, they go well beyond others’ expectation. Good managers complete an assigned task. But good leaders are regularly envisioning a better way and better strategy.

Effective leaders love people. Some effective leaders are extroverts; they are energized when they are around people. Other effective leaders are introverts. Put them in a crowd sharing small talk, and they will be drained by the end of the day. But both types of leaders have a love for people. They truly care about others. They embody servanthood.

Effective leaders are tenacious. You rarely hear about them giving up. While others may view a setback as failure, the effective leaders see it as an opportunity to move in another direction.

Personalities that make a difference

Notice what is not on the personality list. There is no mention of charismatic personalities. And though most of the effective leaders I have observed are pretty smart, they are not necessarily the most intellectual persons I have known.

The good news is that these seven personality traits can be learned. For sure, some traits may be more natural for some people than others. Still, none are beyond the capacity of any leader.

Do you really desire to be an effective leader? Maybe you need a personality change. Well, at least in part. Effective leaders are relatively few in number. But, in God’s strength, you could be added to a group who are really impacting the world with their great leadership personalities. 

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Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, and for 15 years prior to that led a church and denominational consulting firm. He is the author of 21 books. His latest, "Simple Life," was released this month by B&H Books.



Topics: Leadership , Ministry , Research , Teaching Resources , Vision


Thom Rainer / Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a church and denominational consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 24 books, including his new release, “Autopsy of a Deceased Church + 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive.”
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