If you possess these four essentials, you’ll be better equipped to lead now and lead well.

Let’s be honest: you don’t want to fail. But if you’re a leader, you’ve more than likely failed at one point or another.

One of the most prevalent reasons for failure is the lack of the essential elements needed to lead now and lead well. Here are four traits you must possess if you want to succeed as a leader:

1. Authenticity

Every leader faces the temptation to project a persona rather than be themselves. They think that to maintain the confidence of their team, they must appear faultless, flawless and wise. Yet most organizations need an authentic leader, not a perfect one.

Today’s leader must develop the art of self-awareness. Quit trying to emulate someone else and start being yourself. Share and be honest about your own struggles. By doing this, you’ll immediately gain influence.

2. Courage

As a leader, you can’t wimp out. You must be willing to be bold and take risks.

Will it be hard? Absolutely. Will it be scary at times? Probably. But courage is not waiting for your fear to go away; courage is always confronting tough decisions and conversations head-on.

You may find that this trait doesn’t come natural to you. The good news is that courage can be learned. Start practicing now.

3. Principles

Every organization fails at one time or another. If a leader is principled at the time of the failure, he or she is much more likely to learn from it and move on to success.

Leaders are defined by their inner strengths and convictions, not the outer portrayal of who they are. Your character will determine your level of leadership and your legacy.

Living on principle is one essential that will help you lead well and finish well. There are three elements of being a principled leader: humility, discipline and integrity.

Want to know if you possess these three valuable principles? Start searching your speech for phrases like, “I’m sorry,” “thank you” and “I trust you.” Listen for patterns of “we” and “us” versus “I” and “my.”

Practice the art of these principles and establish an accountability system to help keep you grounded. No one likes a leader with a big head.

4. Collaborative spirit

Every strong leader shares at least one desire: to grow. Very few successful leaders say, “I think we’re about as successful as we need to be. I’ve decided we should just coast from now on.”

If you want to grow, you need to start collaborating. Leaders tend to shy away from other leaders because they don’t want to give away their secrets, but this mentality is backward.

Collaboration creates innovation, reduces unnecessary risk and amplifies success. If you desire to advance your level of leadership, one of the best things you can do is to build bridges.

Start by looking for two kinds of organizations: one you have profound philosophical differences with and another that is in the same line of work, but not a direct competitor. Once you’ve found them, set up a meeting and begin sharing best practices and brainstorming. You’ll be thankful you did.

It’s been said that following is easy, but leading is difficult. That is no doubt true. Leading in this century is a daunting task. But moving toward these healthy habits and characteristics will help you become a successful change maker capable of leveraging your influence for the betterment of the world and the collective good of others.

Brad Lomenick is President and Key Visionary of Catalyst, one of America’s most influential leadership movements, and author of The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials to Becoming a Change Maker. Follow him at @BradLomenick or http://www.bradlomenick.com.


  1. Sebastian Daniels

    Great post. I am a young man and am striving for authenticity as a person. It is a very difficult thing to do when you have been taught at a young age by parents to be inauthentic in order to please them. It is doable though, but takes a lot of time.

    I agree that a leader must be willing to admit they made a mistake or that the organization made a mistake if one occurs. The worse thing is a boss who just keeps doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

    Collaborative Spirit is essential also. It is a myth that a person can make it solely on their own. Yes it requires a lot of hard work and dedication, which only the person can bring, but you need others to help you and to learn from.


  2. Brittsbro

    I think you hit the nail on the head with these 4 traits. If more leaders or “so-called” leaders possessed these four characteristics we would not see so many unethical practices taking place in business these days. There are too many leaders who tend to become followers of other leaders because they lack originality and want to copy what other leaders are doing instead of blazing their own path the way leaders should.

    One of the main points you made that is true of almost every business I know is being afraid to collaborate with other leaders. They are too afraid that someone is going to steal their ideas and practices so they are unwilling to share ideas to help make the industry stronger.

    Great job!


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  3. jrandom421

    If everyone tries to lead, who follows?

    • Angla36963

      Who said you need to lead others? Try to lead yourself… 🙂

      Nelly | Kosttillskott | Moringa

      • jrandom421

        Lead yourself? Sounds like some one is definitely not a team player!

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