The One Characteristic That Makes Great Leaders

July 24th, 2017 by LaRae Quy

The FBI will spend a great deal of time, effort, and money in training agents to be great leaders because agents need to be able to land on their feet when confronted with the unknown.

They also need to know how to get people to trust them with their lives, persevere when challenged with adversity, and always come out on the right end of a terrorism case. Great leaders understand how to move when roadblocks threaten their success.

The one characteristic that makes FBI agents great leaders is honesty. Lack of candor will get an agent fired quicker than any other mistake or transgression.

It’s drilled into agents that they always represent the FBI and their actions are a reflection of the organization. By making honesty a key value, the public understands they can trust agents to do their job.

New and unique ideas are essential for entrepreneurs and business owners. But the ability to successfully execute these ideas is what separates dreamers from great leaders. When money is tight, stress levels shoot through the roof and instant success takes time, so it can be hard to always take the higher moral ground.

It takes more than honesty to admit a mistake. It also takes humility, conscientiousness, and an admirable ability to feel guilty when you are less than honest in your dealings with others.

Here is a closer look at the 3 components of honesty to better understand why honesty is the one characteristic that makes great leaders:

1. HUMILITY

Please remember that being humble does not mean being a chump.

Studies confirm that business leaders from both large and small companies who possessed humility as a core trait were rated as far more ethical and trustworthy than their counterparts. They are also able to elicit better employee engagement and job performance.

If you aspire to rank among the great leaders, you need to be humble because your business will only be successful if your team can come together and problem-solve. By being humble and stepping back, you are creating space for others to contribute. Unless you are intellectually humble, you are unable to learn.

How To Make This Work For You

  1. Share your mistakes as teachable moments—by being honest and admitting your own mistakes, you make it OK for others to make a mistake as well.
  2. Engage in dialogue, not debates—don’t get caught up in trying to prove your point of view. Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn about the way other people think.
  3. Forget being wishy-washy—humility indicates that you are confident enough to make a bold statement and then step back to see if you were right.

2. CONCIENTIOUSNESS

A staggering amount of research links conscientiousness with success and great leaders. A National Institute of Mental Health study found that conscientious people earn higher salaries. The National Institute on Aging also found that conscientiousness is linked to income and job satisfaction.

While other traits like extroversion predicts outcomes in some situations, studies have found that conscientiousness has as much impact on a leader’s success as extraversion. Conscientious people tend to be more dependable and achievement-focused, traits that help them rise to the top.

Conscientious people become great leaders because they do things better than others. They set goals, work toward them, and persist when things go wrong. 

Remember the conscientious kids in your classroom? They were the ones who sat in their chairs, didn’t complain, and didn’t blame their teachers when they didn’t receive a top grade. They had the mental toughness to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that would set them up for success.

How To Make It Work For You:

  1. Balance relationships and work—conscientious people are often more task-oriented than people-oriented, so make sure to balance the two equally.
  2. Delegate with care—conscientious people can and do deliver. If one reports to you, resist the temptation to burn them out by overburdening them with work.
  3. Provide structure—conscientious people tend to work best when there are clear rules, high ethical standards, and a clearly articulated vision.

3. GUILT-ACCEPTANCE

The personality trait of guilt-acceptance taps into a person’s healthy levels of guilt. Unhealthy guilt looks more like shame—shame is feeling bad about oneself while guilt is feeling bad about one’s behavior.

A leader’s ability to feel guilty about their wrong doing has been found to be a direct predictor of success. Researchers found that MBA students who scored higher on guilt-acceptance were rated as more effective leaders by their former supervisors, peers, and clients.

Great leaders seek out those who are prone to admitting their guilt when hiring and promoting their staff. People who are honest and anticipate that they would feel bad about their behavior after doing something wrong are better able to get along and get results. They take responsibility for their actions.

How To Make It Work For You:

As a leader, you are often placed in situations where you are either hiring or promoting an employee. Ask these questions: “Please describe a time when you made a mistake at work. How did you feel when this occurred? What did you do? What, if anything, did you learn from the experience?”

Never forget that when you make honesty a key value, you generate the trust that is needed to truly make you a great leader.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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4 Responses to “The One Characteristic That Makes Great Leaders”

  1. Shaik M. Rafi says:

    After all this exercise there is a challenge of sharing of the benefits. A leader who will give up his/her benefits for the sake of others will have a great value. Of course good great leaders did give away their benefits to others while not having any thing for them, yet the people came back to them.
    Nevertheless its a way of passion to lead and get the things done.
    Such kind of leaders often can be found with their own parents.

  2. LaRae – I love how you peeled the onion on honesty. Breaking it down into these three levels is fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Terri Klass says:

    I love this article LaRae! Honesty is the foundation of a trustworthy individual and leader. Working with leaders for so many years I think your critical points about conscientiousness ring so true. Recently in one of my leadership workshops the term “uncommitted” kept coming up and when we dissected the behaviors associated with it, conscientiousness was mentioned.When our colleagues are committed to their projects they are conscientious and transparent when missteps are taken.

    Thanks LaRae for sharing your wonderful leadership insights with us!

  4. Alli Polin says:

    Fascinating insight on guilt acceptance. When I look at people who I’ve worked with, people I’ve led and others who have led me, this does stand out. I had one leader who taught me more about leading with honesty and integrity than she did about any on-the-job skill. She knew I had the knowledge and she modeled leading the way forward.

    Will share. Thanks, LaRae.

    Alli

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