6 Traits You Need if You Want to Lead

dancing leading

A treasure, hidden for centuries, awaits the lucky retriever. Three brothers each go on a quest for the treasure with the opportunity to claim it as his own.

The two older brothers fail; the youngest submits to a series of trials in which he demonstrates various characteristics of leadership, and succeeds in the quest.

Erika Andersen, leadership coach and author of “Leading So People Will Follow,” would read bedtime stories like this to her children, and it was then that she began to notice a pattern. In every story like this one, there was a pattern in the characteristics demonstrated by the protagonist that made him, or her, a natural leader.

Andersen deciphered this age old pattern and now applies it to her writing and her practice as a leadership coach. Levo had the privilege of learning the characteristics from Andersen, so that we can all find out what makes others want to follow:


Andersen says that a leader is someone who can articulate a compelling and complete view of the future. Someone who can say, “Here’s where I think we should go,” but not in a my-way-or-the-highway kind of way — in an inclusive way that says we can do it together.


Passion doesn’t necessarily indicate being loud or charismatic about something, says Andersen; it indicates depth. People are eager to follow a leader who is deeply committed to the quest—or, in business, to the good of the enterprise. Good leaders don’t get “shiny-object-itis,” says Andersen. Good leaders are those who will follow through.


A good leader is someone who can make tough decisions. Leaders will make decisions that make them personally uncomfortable, if it’s for the good of the enterprise. It’s a rare trait to have, as historically people tend to avoid discomfort, but a leader will do it if it helps the greater good. To a leader, the business is more important than personal comfort.


Leaders have the ability to think deeply, Andersen says. They see patterns in the enterprise and share them with their colleagues, which allows them together to make the moral choice. Speed in action is often commended, but thinking deeply about important topics and making decisions that aren’t spur-of-the-moment, and are taken seriously, is more commendable, especially in a leader.


Generosity in leaders isn’t primarily about materials goods, says Andersen, as leaders do also have to be frugal when it comes to the business. But that’s not to say one can’t be generous in spirit, with praise, hope, faith, information, responsibility, and power. When leaders believe in us and support our success, that’s the best kind of generosity.


Historically, leaders were elected to protect a group—be it a family, a kingdom, or a business. When you don’t trust a leader to protect the group, you feel like you have to protect yourself; and when a group is self-protected, it’s hard to interact freely. When it comes to making a leader, none of the other traits can exist without the rest, but trust is foundational. When we trust leaders, we trust their character and their competence. Someone capable of leading and capable of being competent to do the job gives us faith in them.

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