How To Identify & Improve Your Leadership Qualities

Benjamin Franklin - Leadership QualitiesThe qualities of an effective leader have been debated for a number of years. Leaders and non-leaders alike add their two cents to the conversation on a regular basis.

This conversation reveals a plethora of answers—many of which are great and hard to argue against. However, the question that remains is this: What are those key qualities leaders should focus on as they strive to become better leaders?

As a possible answer to this question, I suggest that you stand in front of the leadership mirror and take a good, long look at your personal strengths, limitations, and leadership beliefs and values.

If asked, could you sit down and make a list of them? Are they obvious or subtle? Do you need help identifying them? Is the list too extensive and consuming?

At this point, I suggest that you consider (as a developmental starting point) taking the simple approach that Benjamin Franklin took in 1720’s while in his 20’s, he took on “the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” [1]

Benjamin Franklin, a well-recognized Founding Father of the United States of America developed a relatively simple worksheet as he undertook his own self-improvement. It was nothing more than a basic form designed to help him define and develop the leadership qualities and character traits he felt were most important to him.

After much personal reflection and work, he had narrowed his focus to thirteen topics. After he finalized this list, he took the simple approach of focusing on a single topic each week for thirteen weeks. Then, after the thirteenth week, he would start again on the first topic, cycle back through the list, and refocus his efforts.

The Top 13 Leadership Qualities Defined by Benjamin Franklin

So, what were the topics Franklin was most concerned about? The list follows.

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits of your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus Christ and Socrates.

Take the time to create a list of your own. Keep in mind that Franklin took a while to create his list, so be patient with the process. But at the same time, keep at it. Use the instructions given below to get started.

[1] Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Qualities of Leadership Worksheet

Instructions:

Step 1: Make a T-Chart (or use the downloadable form provided below).

Step 2: In the left column of this chart, list the Qualities of Leadership you admire the most in others that you see.

Step 3: Again, in the left column, circle the leadership qualities that, with a little effort and practice, you can make your own. Focus on these for a set time period (from three to seven consecutive days). You define the time period that works best for you and your situation.

Step 4: In the right column, list the qualities that you see or experience in others that you like the least. This list should contain topics that you feel are objectionable, that you would like to disregard, or that you would like to eliminate from your leadership style. Decide to stop or avoid doing these things.

Step 5: Take action on what you have outlined. Make copies of your list and post it in your office, your car, on your bathroom mirror, and set calendar reminders so you can see each topic multiple times during the week and begin applying those leadership qualities that are the most important to you.

Qualities of leadership worksheet - CMOE

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Sample Qualities of Leadership Worksheet

Leader Qualities to Attain Leader Qualities to Avoid
Humility Micromanagement
Conviction Perfectionist Mentality
Effective Communication Condemning Others
Patience Acceptance of Mediocre Performance
Courage Impatience
Diligence Backbiting
Subject Matter Expert

This activity, and the resolve to keep working at it, must have worked for Benjamin Franklin. He is well known for inventing numerous items that are still used today, including bifocals, the lightning rod, the odometer, and the urinary catheter used in the medical industry. This is not a bad list of one man’s contributions to society.

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About the Author

Chris Stowell

Christopher Stowell is currently serving as CMOE’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing where he works with multi-national organization to develop their people. His special interests lie in coaching teamwork, strategy, e-learning, and assessment design, and delivery. Chris has a special talent in helping companies assess their organizational effectiveness and identifying key issues and opportunities in order to advance their performance and achieve long term results. Additionally, he has extensive experience in designing, coordinating, and facilitating customized adventure based experiential training events for high performance teams.