Much is written on the traits that make a leader. Ideologies of leadership are ever evolving and often influenced by pop culture and industry trends. An individual’s responsiveness to particular leadership traits is connected to personality, aspirations and life experiences. Yet, some core traits transcend personal preferences and trends. There are qualities involving the head and the heart that consistently characterize good leaders, the individuals who shape vision and inspire action.
1. Great leaders are authentic.
We are drawn to authentic leaders because we understand the courage required to be aware of one’s strengths, to own one’s weaknesses and to live in alignment with values. It takes integrity and character to remain genuine in the face of the conflicts, difficult conversations, tough decisions and change that so often confront leaders.
An authentic leader allows us to feel safe investing our trust, time and energy. We are drawn to authentic leaders because their authenticity is an invitation for genuine connection. We are willing to take risks, go through the trenches and share a vision with someone who is whole-hearted in their work and in their interactions with others.
2. Great leaders are passionate.
Passionate leaders have the ability to inspire and influence through their convictions. Passion cannot be manufactured or willed. It comes from internal purpose and makes the work we do meaningful. Those who lead with passion bring energy and light to purpose.
Passionate leaders connect purpose to the incremental steps needed to achieve greatness. Passion provides the endurance required to accomplish the goals that are long-term and far-reaching. Passion is the fuel that advances leaders beyond the challenges they encounter.
3. Great leaders seek information.
A leader must be knowledgeable, as well as passionate, to be effective. Leaders continually seek information and aim for global understanding of an issue. They solicit information and input from those closest to the work, as well as those impacted by the work. They actively listen to gain insight.
Leaders must stay current with industry trends, as well as the “climate” that gives context to the trends. They look to reliable data for objective insights. Where available, they utilize evidence-based practices to get results. They monitor progress and adjust strategy based on measured information.
4. Great leaders build capacity, especially in people.
Leaders take action to remove barriers, provide tools and support development. They encourage others to fully contribute within their scope, at the highest level of their abilities. Leaders facilitate collaboration, and enable others to find solutions to problems.
Successful leaders lift up those they lead. They accept more of the responsibility when things go wrong, and take less credit when things go well. They shine the spotlight on the contributions and unique skills of those they lead. Effective leaders take the time to build new leaders.
5. Great leaders facilitate engagement.
An organization functions optimally when stakeholders are engaged. A good leader is curious about what motivates stakeholders, what draws them in and what keeps them invested. An effective leader works to connect with people at the place where they find fulfillment.
Engagement can’t be created for people, but a good leader sets the stage for an engaging environment. They know engagement is more likely to occur when the culture is one of respect, transparency, inclusion and dialogue. They foster engagement by allowing people to share their strengths to make a difference. They communicate the outcomes, and celebrate successes.
These leadership traits involving the head and the heart are especially important in healthcare. Altru Health System employs evidence-based leadership practices that support these qualities. Leaders are held accountable to hard-wire the “must-have” practices. They facilitate engagement, gain information and build capacity through activities like rounding, huddles and thank you notes.
Altru’s organizational behavior standards shape our culture and definition of leadership. We recognize and celebrate the leadership qualities of all employees within the framework of our standards. We strive to live those values and to lead with the head and the heart.
At Altru Health System, we are serious about providing an exceptional patient experience and positively impacting the communities we serve. To learn more about exciting career opportunities at Altru Health System, please visit altru.org/careers.