The Seven Characteristics of Leaders

May 3, 2010 · by James P. Cramer

Start with vision, humor, enthusiasm, and a deep motivation to learn.

What does it take to be a leader today? Tomorrow? I’m not talking about getting things done in professional practices. I’m talking about getting extraordinary things done. There are plenty of challenges, and this means there are countless opportunities for leadership.

Several years ago I wrote an article describing the seven characteristics of leaders. Many readers have requested reprints. I’m happy to provide this updated edition.

1. Leaders have a vision.

Beyond day-to-day operations, the construction industry needs people who can think strategically about the future and who have a vision for the possibilities that can be made real.

2. Leaders are strong day-to-day coaches.

They embody informed optimism and an encouraging communication style because these are the qualities that people are inspired to follow and the characteristics that drive success. Always finding new and better ways to recognize achievement, leaders know how to get people charged up for challenges that would get the average organization down.

3. Leaders can bring in the bottom line consistently.

Even in a poor economy, leaders find ways to learn and be resilient. These are people with attitudes and skill sets who use self-discipline and personal experiences to achieve bottom-line performance.

4. Leaders are enthusiastic about both design and construction.

It is key to be a builder not of fragments in the industry but of the integrated potential. They create a zone of fresh information and genuine enthusiasm for better building. They appreciate the fact that integrated services fight waste and inefficiency while leading change holistically.

5. Leaders are informed.

Not content with last year’s style and solutions, leaders are constantly learning and finding new ways to achieve success. They understand that knowledge is more than power; it is sustainable life.

6. Leaders are consistent and mature emotionally.

They know how to build respect, and they do not overreact to the problems that predictability reoccur. Leaders regularly find ways to turn average people into high performers through listening, encouraging, and advising. But not preaching.

7. Leaders keep it all in perspective with a sense of humor.

The stresses on leaders are immense and never ending. But leaders find ways to balance situations and bring humor along with action. They know that humor is a glue in healthy office cultures and a lubricant in tight situations.

Now, back to the question: Who are these people? They are you.

Leadership can be learned. But true leadership happens only when there is motivation. The motivation to be a leader is a choice, a state of mind. Change or fail — a leader’s job is not only to anticipate the future but to create it. It is not someone else’s responsibility — it is yours.

James P. Cramer is the founding editor of
DesignIntelligence and co-chair of the Design Futures Council. He is chairman and CEO of the Greenway Group, a management consultancy and strategic foresight firm that helps professional practices and industry organizations navigate change to add value and to outperform peer benchmarks.

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