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10 Powerful Leadership Characteristics

“ Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality & sustain it” – Bennis


Joel Barker taught in the 1980s that a paradigm is a way each of us sees the world. It’s a roadmap that applies to both our business and personal lives. A paradigm is useful because it sets the ground rules for the game we are playing, helps us solve problems while playing that game, and establishes behavior norms on the playing field. We spend our whole lives trying to perfect our skills, knowledge, and actions to better our lives within our personal paradigms.

Alternatively, a paradigm shift changes the game to a different set of rules and norms. When a paradigm shifts, everyone goes back to zero. Skills and knowledge that made experts in the old paradigm become irrelevant in a new paradigm. The new game and rules require a different set of skills, knowledge, and actions to succeed. So what does this have to do with leadership?

The traditional comparison of management and leadership characteristics says that the manager’s role is to manage (control and direct) the group’s performance in pursuit of a given goal, while the leader leads (influences and inspires) the group towards a vision. Or, as Peter Drucker once said


“Leadership is doing the right things; management is doing things right” – Drucker



From a slightly different viewpoint, I would like to offer this.

“The manager improves performance within the current paradigm. The leader moves the group from the current paradigm to a new paradigm”.



Because all paradigms eventually hit the wall, new paradigms emerge with innovative solutions that break the old rules to solve previously unsolvable problems. What appeared to be impossible in the old paradigm suddenly becomes attainable in the new paradigm. This is where leaders make their living. They move groups from the old way to a new and better way and, of course, the sooner the better. This is why leadership is so rare and valuable. The return on investment of an excellent leader is virtually immeasurable and therefore the best leaders regularly command their asking price.  Shown below are 10 characteristics of the powerful leader.


10 Powerful Leadership Characteristics

These leadership characteristics shift paradigms.  The powerful leader,


1. Has the authority to lead the group. 

Whether formally assigned as a group leader or informally elevated to the top, the leader must be seen by the group as the one to lead them forward.


2. Establishes the group’s vision of the future.

The leader must decide where he/she wants to take the group.  A common and compelling vision is essential for a leader to gain group acceptance for change.  Those being led must buy into the place where change will take them.


3. Accepts responsibility for the welfare of the group.

The leader accepts that, above all, he/she is responsible for the well-being of the group.  The team must believe that the leader always has their best intentions out front as they move into the unknown and sometimes scary future.


4. Operates according to group principles.

The group brings an established set of rules and norms of behavior that the leader models for the rest.  A group victory achieved at the expense of its core principles carries negative costs that outweigh the benefits received.


5. Confronts the group’s reality.

The leader must be willing to confront the hard truths that stand in the way of vision achievement.  “Be hard to be soft” implies the need to address difficult challenges swiftly with conviction and compassion.


6. Sells the need for change.

First and foremost, a successful leader is a salesperson.  He/she constantly sell the group on the value and benefits of achieving the vision.


7. Motivates the group toward the vision.

The powerful leader uses all available tools and strategies to motivate the group to change.  Both positive and negative consequences are deployed the make things happen.


8. Influences the group to attain the vision.

The powerful leader utilizes influencers to help others move toward the vision.  A small and determined core team can move a much larger group through the diligence of influence.



9. Keeps the group informed of progress.

Strong communication helps keep the group moving forward.  Regular progress reviews and updated status reports help people feel connected and engaged in group progress.



10. Operates transparently.

Effective leadership comes from the transparency that fosters trust between the leader and the group.  By carrying no hidden agendas, the leader earns respect and loyalty that hold the group together.


These leadership characteristics require a high character with a great many interpersonal skills, including integrity, maturity, trust, empathy, discipline, listening and consistency. A leader that moves the paradigm lives the credibility of their character, demonstrates the strength of their capability and sells the conviction of their vision.


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