Leadership qualities and competencies

By John Dudovskiy
June 24, 2012

leadership Attitude is of primary importance for Kuyumi (2007, p.27), who insists that whatever leadership traits and abilities a person has, their successful application depends on a leader’s attitude to his work and workers.

One of the most respected and experienced leadership scholars Posner (2002, p.27) claims, that in almost every survey he has conducted since the early 1980’s, although with varying percentages, honesty has topped the list

Lutz (2005, p.44) believes integrity to be the cornerstone of leadership traits and insists that most effective leaders have a code, according to which they live, and they do not waver from it.

Many authors have singled out passion as one of the compulsory ingredients of leadership characteristics. Davies (2007, p.16) believes passion to be seen in terms of passion for social justice, passion for learning and passion to make a difference. And he  highlights the passion to make a difference as a key instrument to turn believes into reality and as the mark of sustainable leadership.

Stressing the importance of vision Kumuyi (2007, p.9), reminds about the vulnerability of the vision and warns that ‘vision can’t be held sacrosanct’. The importance of the ability to have a vision and communicate the vision to all stakeholders of the company has been highlighted by many authors including Pockell and Avila (2007) and Parks (2005). The authors state that the ability to formulate and communicate the vision and making sure that the vision is shared by each member of the workforce can be considered as a cornerstone of effective leadership because it will result in increased level of motivation and performance among workforce.

Effective communication skills, Frank (1993, p.386) argues, is the hallmark of an effective leader, and he clarifies, that this particular skill can be developed through education and practice. Northouse (2007) also considers communication skills to be among the most important leadership skills stating that the majority of activities business leaders have to engage in involve intensive level of communication with various stakeholders.

As a result of long-term study of leadership behaviour Sanborn (2006, p.55) positions the importance of concerning about other people as an irreplaceable quality all effective leaders possess and he convincingly argues that  if we have that quality along with other leadership qualities people in our organization will be bound with us regardless of our title in the organization.

The ability to build relationships is seen as an important quality all leaders possess by Phillips and Loy (2003, p.71), who clarify that relationships should be built on mutual respect and trust. However, this statement is still to general and fails to describe specific leadership qualities which can be used in leadership development efforts.

Crawley and Graham (2002, p. IX) explain the importance of the trait of mediation for leaders saying that many managers are afraid to get too involved in interpersonal conflicts of employees. However, interpersonal conflicts among employees in the workplace may damage any business significantly.

Martin (1998, p.41) identified trust as the most important characteristic for a leader/follower relationship to prosper, stressing the importance for a leader of being trustworthy.

The use of emotions by competent leaders is observed by Ginsberg and Davies (2007, p.13), who claim that as well as evoking strong emotions on their followers, great leaders even themselves are effected by the interactions with their followers. The observation above throws light on the phenomenon of leadership and highlights the use of emotional leadership as an instrument for leaders to influence other people to get things they want to be done through others.

Bennis and Thomas (2007, p.18) insists that one key asset all leaders share is ‘adaptive capacity’ – a term by which authors point out to the ability of leaders to be open to new experiences, integrating them and benefiting from them. This serves as an explanation for how effective leaders are able to deal with changes, both, expected and unexpected.  According to the authors above the answer seems to be through decisively implementing new procedures and processes for themselves and for the company in order to meet the demands these changes bring and to benefit from these changes making them contribute to the competitive advantage of the company.

Fox (2002, p.118) draws the distance between managers and subordinates indicating that effective leaders can be friendly with their subordinates, but they never can be a friend to them because of the simple reason that employees usually feel uncomfortable with excessively familiar superiors, they can’t relax and be themselves in the presence of the latter.

‘Enthusiastic leaders provide hope to others, even when the latter feel there is none’ (Paters, 2006, p.20). According to Perkins (2005, p.37), the tools of leadership which reflect the manager’s values, strengths and abilities are the ones that work best for him.

Charisma, as an important trait of leaders has been stressed by Tyler (2007) and a range of other researchers. However, it has to be noted that charisma is a much debated and contradicting subject in the literature which is sometimes compared to the “Great Man Theory”.

In one hand, there are authors like Tyler (2007) and Parks (2005) who consider charisma a personality trait that a person needs to born with. On the other hand, authors like Adair (2007) and Burek (2010) state that virtually everyone can enhance the level of their charisma and offer specific recommendations for this purpose.

Martin (2007) argues that the reason for many people failing to utilise their leadership potential relates to the lack of self-confidence. Leaders, the author maintains, have to possess huge amount of self-confidence in order to go ahead with tough and unpopular decisions that are going to benefit the organisation in the long-term perspective.

Pockell and Avila (2007) mention the trait of honesty to be important for leaders. According to authors the importance of honesty as a leadership trait has increased in the 21st century with information about various scandals and affairs becoming more easily accessible to the public due to technological advancement and increasing role of internet.

Bennis and Thomas (2007) argue that an important key asset all leaders share is ‘adaptive capacity’ – a term by which authors refer to the capacity of leaders to embrace changes as new opportunities, and benefiting from them in various levels. Moreover, the authors state that without these specific skills business leaders would not be able to survive in current business environment, taking into account the fact that nowadays change has become an integral part of the corporate life.


It has to be noted that leadership traits, skills and capabilities discussed above are not mutually exclusive, and usually effective leaders possess the majority of these skills at the same time.

The global tendency for the workforce becoming more multicultural and its implications in leadership has been discussed by many authors including Johnson (2006), Burek (2010), Fairholm (2011) and others.

There are no arguments in the literature that workforce becoming more multicultural is primarily caused by the increasing forces of globalisation along with a range of other reasons. Specifically it has been stated that “as globalisation increases, corporations and work community leaders are putting people of various cultures into working teams, resulting in quantum growth of multicultural and multinational teams” (Fairholm, 2011, p.13).

Nevertheless, the implications of multicultural workforce for company management have been explained in a way that nowadays managers have to take into account cultural differences among the workforce that reflect on many aspects of corporate life.

Specifically, Burek (2010) specifies the biggest challenge of leading multicultural workforce to be differences in motivation due to cultural differences. For instance, in some cultures power and prestige are mainly associated with money, and accordingly most of the representatives of that culture would be primarily motivated by money. In some other cultures, on the other hand, people aspire to position and title in the workplace and these elements are considered to be main motivational factors for the representatives of the latter type of culture.

Pockell and Avila (2007) offer an interesting viewpoint regarding this issue. Specifically, authors state that there are no fundamental differences between leading multicultural and monocultural workforce and the only difference relates to the differences in motivating them. To justify their viewpoint Pockell and Avila (2007) refer to the theory of Hierarchy of Needs introduced by Abraham Maslow stating that the theory equally relates to everyone regardless of their cultural background. Therefore, business leaders only need to increase the level of their cross-cultural knowledge in order to be successful in leading multinational workforce.

A variety of measures have been proposed by other authors regarding improving the performance of leaders in multicultural organisations. One of the respected scholars in the field states that “effective multicultural leadership development is a process-oriented program. It can be completed by an individual, but ideally it should be a joint effort between the organisation, the leadership candidates, and existing leadership team” (Johnson, 2006, p.49)

According to Northouse (2007) as taken from Adler and Bartholomew (1992), there are five cross-cultural competencies global leaders in the 21st century need to concentrate on:

Firstly, having a comprehensive knowledge about specifications of business, political and cultural environment at a global level;

Secondly, possessing a detailed knowledge about perspectives, tasks, trends and technologies of many other cultures globally;

Thirdly, an aptitude to work simultaneously with many other cultures;

Fourthly, the capability of adapting to living and communicating with the representatives of other cultures;

Fifthly, the necessity of learning to relate to people from other cultures from the perspective of equality rather than cultural superiority.

Fairholm (2011) advises organising training and development programs for strategic and operational level management that should be aimed at increasing the level of their cross-cultural awareness. Moreover, it has been proposed that “to measure the training effectiveness and its acceptance by managers, and the effects on managers, 360° feedback discussions can be conducted, before, during and after the training” (Burek, 2010, p.115)


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Category: Leadership