You’ve had good ones and bad ones in your life — leaders, managers, and bosses.

What separates the effective from the ineffective are simple but powerful differences in temperament.

Here are the four qualities that successful leaders possess and how you can cultivate them for yourself.

1. Creativity
What direction to go, what decision to make, what move to take — these aren’t always obvious. It takes a leader to accept uncertainty and embrace it as an opportunity. It’s a chance to show not only that there are many options available when it comes to solving problems, but also that you have the will to adapt to change.

A good leader won’t jump at the easiest or fastest solution — they will weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

Everyone has creative capabilities. The people who are able to harness this creativity are the ones who capture ideas — meaning you can pluck them from your imagination and turn them into concrete actions.

It’s a simple concept, but also a powerful one: Write down the ideas that spring into your head. You can do this anywhere, using what’s available to you. Carry a sketchbook or notepad, grab a nearby napkin, jot a quick note into your smartphone or shoot an email off to yourself.

The key is to seize the idea from mind’s eye and make it permanent.

Image: NPR

2. Positivity
This isn’t about pretending that everything is okay. A positive leader is able to accept circumstances and people as they are and figure out the best way to put their qualities to work.

This will allow you move away from wallowing in inaction or the wishful thinking that your situation was different, and will move you instead towards actively identifying the productive approaches that best fit the challenge at hand.

It comes down to this: You are what you think.

So start with positive self-talk — the thoughts that swim in your head every day. If these thoughts are mostly negative, you will likely have a pessimistic outlook on life. Instead, try to cultivate positive thoughts. You can actively train yourself to see and seek the benefits of every situations and every person. Just remember: It takes practice!

3. Goal-Oriented
Good leaders know what they want to accomplish. They can then set their sights on the outcome and make an action plan for how to achieve it. It’s about motivation and accountability.

To put it another way, goals create focus.

Workers understand what is expected of them in relation to the desired outcome. Goals can also create unity within a team, as everyone is working towards the same result.

Creating manageable goals is about staying grounded in reality. Sure, you could set goals to dominate the market, create a 100% increase in profits, or win prestigious awards, but why not set goals you can fulfill?

Staying realistic is key to effective goal-setting. This allows the goal to be attainable, which in turn keeps workers motivated.

However, it’s just as important not to set overly easy goals, since this won’t motivate anyone. Instead, opt for goals that challenge imaginations and draw on talents and skills.

In order to stay inspired, set goals that are clear and measurable. It’s rewarding to set a goal, work towards it, and see it achieved, but it also pushes you and others to set more goals in the future.

4. Communication/The Ability to Listening
So you’ve set goals, you’re staying positive, and you’re being creative — but if you haven’t communicated your desired accomplishments with those involved, you’re headed for failure.

It’s essential that goals, plans, and ideas be shared in a clear and succinct way. This ensures that people understand their role, their importance, and significance.

Communicating includes people, connects them with the cause, and empowers them.

It’s also essential that you allow others to communicate with you, and that you listen in turn. This opens you up to new perspectives, helps you identify possible issues, and also helps you earn the trust of those around you.

Becoming an effective communicator involves connecting on a human level. It’s about building productive working relationships.

This means treating people as people first and foremost.

Ensure that you establish a friendly rapport with those you work with. This creates a positive baseline for every one of your interactions. You can start this by simply saying hello when you get into the office before getting to work.

When issues do arise, be direct but not blunt. People appreciate straightforwardness, but not brashness.

This also includes being an effective listener. Listen more, talk less. Effective communicators speak less than they listen. A good ratio to aim for is 25% talking and 75% listening.

When solid communicators do talk, they pose questions to the others to ensure they understand the group’s opinions and contributions.

If you take the time to listen, you will also pick up on what isn’t being said. You can get a sense of the context of a situation, and what others’ needs might be. This shows that you care, that you carefully consider other opinions, and that collaboration matters to you.

Be the Best Leader You Can Be
There is no such thing as a natural leader — being an effective leader takes practice. If you focus on and cultivate these four skills, you’ll be well on your way to leadership success.

About The Author

Megan Ray Nichols is a full-time freelance writer and blogger. If you enjoyed this post, check out her blog Schooled By Science to join in on more scientific discussions.

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