The Second Most Important Leadership Trait

It’s no surprise research has shown one of the characteristics people most want to see in their leaders is honesty.

Honesty is not geographically bound.

This characteristic is listed as one of the top five most important leadership qualities from people around the world.

Do you know what the second most important leadership trait is?

Forward thinking. Being a visionary.

Regardless of country, survey respondents in a global research study (The Truth About Leadership, 2010) listed forward thinking in the top five  (Forward thinking was actually listed second by most countries.)

Not only do we want our leaders to be honest, we also want them to be visionaries.

When those same respondents were asked what they thought were the most important characteristics for coworkers, honesty remained in the top five.

Forward thinking was not even listed.

We place a high degree on honesty with both our leaders and our coworkers, but we don’t expect our coworkers to be visionaries.

Forward thinking is a characteristic we hold only for our leaders.  And we place a high value on it.

Unfortunately, forward thinking is not a characteristic many leaders demonstrate.

Leaders are often so caught up in the day-to-day operations they fail to take the time to look into the future.

They may be great managers, but are they leaders?

Here is the difference between the two.

Managers are tactical. Leaders are strategic.

No doubt we need both leaders and managers, but if you truly want to be a leader, you must become a forward thinker.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as a forward thinker, or you don’t feel you have the ability to be a visionary.

Does this mean you will never truly be a leader?

I don’t believe so.

Forward thinking is a skill we all possess.  You may just know it under a different set of circumstances.

For example, as a parent, have you never looked toward the future for the sake of your children?  You may have even strategized how college would be paid for in 10 or 15 years.

How about as an employee?  Have you spent time considering your retirement?  Maybe you've peered into the future to see how you will be spending your days.

Even newlyweds look toward the future as they begin planning families.

Do you see the common denominator?

In each case, we set aside the time needed to step into the future.

As leaders, we need to do the same.  We need to break away from the daily grind.

Begin by setting aside 30 minutes every week to reflect how your department or team will be in five years.

Ask yourself how your industry will look.

Don’t just stop with the first answer that comes to mind.  Be creative and look past the obvious.

If you have others on your team who have strengths in this area, form a committee.

I have a reoccurring meeting every two weeks in which I included two team members - one who carries the Strength Finder assessment Futuristic and another who carries the assessment Strategic.

Together we discuss how we see the industry as well as our department during the next five years.

Will we become antiquated or will we be cutting edge?

Although forming a committee may not be the right avenue for you, the key for success remains the same.

We must spend time in the future.

As leaders, our responsibility is to understand where we are going.  This is what our constituents expect from us.

Do you have your plan in place?

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