This article The Common Characteristic of Leadership seeks to understand the common traits of leaders across time and geography.
Through history, we have seen all types of leaders; military conquerors, political leaders who changed nations, business leaders who changed the way business was done. But no matter how different their field is, they had common characteristics
In my study of many leaders, I have discovered three main characteristic of leadership that made a significant impact in the world.
1. A leader has passion
The first common characteristic of leadership is that leaders are usually passionate people. They usually have a strong belief in a greater cause than themselves.
While most people think about their survival and their own needs, most leaders often put the cause they believe in even higher than their own well-being. This is because they are extremely passionate about what they believe in and it consumes them day and night.
They think about it when they sleep. They think about it when they eat. They think about it every waking moment of their lives. For some of them, they even dream about it!
At the peak of his career, Sam Walton acknowledged that his passion had always been in retail and he had given every single ounce of his life to it. Wal-Mart, one of the world’s biggest corporations, was a result of the undying passion of Sam Walton.
After being mistreated in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi began a lifelong campaign for the independence of India and the end of discrimination of the Indian people.
Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers is so deeply passionate about winning that it can be called an obsession.
He so deeply believes in winning that he once said: “We didn’t lose. We ran out of time.” That was the level of obsession he had with winning; he wouldn’t even admit a loss!
Without a doubt, it is not the love of material success, but a deep seated passion that cause these individuals to be such a success in whatever field they have been in.
2. A leader has vision
Out of the passion of a leader flows a vision for something greater. Leaders often have a vision of what things could be, whereas most followers see what things are.
Having a vision is a powerful thing because it gives direction and inspiration. The vision is like a destination and keeping the vision in sight keeps you focused in the journey.
In the journey to success, there are many distractions and discouragements that will keep one from reaching his goals. Keeping the vision close to one’s heart will help one preserve through discouraging times and keep one focused, and away from distraction.
Articulating a vision is powerful because it inspires a following. People will follow someone if they believe that this person can bring them to where they want to be.
Martin Luther King Jr shared the vision of an America without apartheid and inspired the civil rights movement in the United States.
Ray Kroc had a vision of many restaurants churning out fast food in an assembly line, much like what Henry Ford was doing with his cars. He was the eventual founder of McDonalds Franchise we see all over the world today.
The vision of these leaders inspired many to follow them and more importantly, help them persist through tough times.
3. A leader has persistence
Ultimately the most common characteristic of leadership is persistence. Persistence is what set leaders above the others.
The journey to the vision that a leader has set out is fraught with many obstacles and distractions. To reach the goal, the leader usually is extremely focused in his/her pursuit.
For most of these leaders, they had suffered many setbacks in their journey to their goals.
Nelson Mandela went to jail for many years as a result of fighting for the end of apartheid in South Africa. When he came out of jail, he shortly became the first black President of South Africa.
Steve Jobs could have given up; whined all about himself after getting chased out of his own company in 1985, but he persisted in following his dreams and started another company almost immediately. He would eventually return to Apple as the Chairman and CEO.
These are just a few examples of the never say die attitude of these leaders. Although the circumstances were extremely unfavourable to them, they never stopped pursuing their dreams. Eventually, most of these leaders accomplished what they set their hearts out to do in the first place.
In my research, I have discovered that these three characteristic of leadership were the most common in successful leaders. You would notice that none of them have to do with ability; anyone can have them.
This means that you too, can become a leader of significance and make an impact in your world. Remember, leadership is not about ability; it is more often about character.