Which Trait Makes a Good Leader?

Photo by Theodor Vasile on Unsplash

Hello dear reader, with all that is going on in the World, should you choose the TV, the Internet or any other medium, if you are heading for some news, it is inevitable that you will be inviting to your place some World leader.

So, for the last couple of days, I’ve been dealing with the thought of what makes a good leader?

A second question arose: are those traits exclusive to leaders, or should anyone have them?

It’s been a challenge to fencing the arguments on both answers. And I have absolute certainty that I could not, and will not, be able to write all the gazillion arguments and traits I tried to mix.

I have picked one that I know for a fact that many people see as THE characteristic – Self-Management.

Self-Management has a pretty straightforward definition: “‘Self-control’ or ‘self-regulation’, the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours effectively in different situations”.

You must agree with me. This definition is easy to follow and understand.

However, in today’s world, people live in a rush, always thinking about the next bill, the next meeting, the next meal, the next paycheck, the subsequent performance evaluation, the next weekend, the following holidays, the next…

With such a speed and tons of things on our heads to juggle, we forget to think about ourselves. How can we regulate emotions and thoughts if we live through the motions?

I believe that the first and primary trait of a leader is Self-Awareness.

Let me drop a definition to help you distinguish both self-management and self-awareness.

“Self-awareness involves being aware of different aspects of the self, including traits, behaviours, and feelings. Essentially, it is a psychological state in which one self becomes the focus of attention.”

What a delight this is. If one is related to “regulation”, the other is to “awareness”.

Being aware of what we are feeling, our behaviours, and the characteristics we present to the World is not easy.

We live our lives in a rush. We do not have that much time to process emotions or think about our behaviour this morning when someone cut our way in traffic. But if we drop all the guilt to the time, the answer would be easy. Just improve your time-management skills. However, the honest answer is not this simple.

Our eyes are facing outwards. We spend our lives looking at other people. That is why it’s easier to remember your spouse’s emotional meltdown when you had that fight the night before. But can you remember the emotions you felt and your behaviour during the altercation? You are looking outwards.

In the 1950s, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham, two psychologists, presented the “Johari Window” concept.

Johari Window

The concept is easy to grasp.

Imagine yourself staring at a window on a sunny day. You can see the Sun and feel the warmth on your body. Probably you will not be very aware of the tiny droplets of sweat on your forehead. However, someone on the outside looking at you can also see the Sun and the droplets of sweat on your forehead but does not know about the level of warmth you are feeling. For both of you, there’s something shareable, the existence of the Sun (the Arena). There is something that only you know, the warmth you feel on your skin (the Façade). There is also something that you are not aware of, but other people can see on you, the droplets of sweat on your forehead (the Blind Spot). But, what is the “Unknown”? It’s the shadow that lies behind you that not you nor the other subject on the outside are aware of.

Now, how does this thing goes? How to have a blast playing this “game” with your friends?

You pick a group of friends and ask them to list adjectives they see in you. You will be composing that same list but separate. The exercise will demand that both parties use the same possible adjectives. Then, you can start the party by comparing your list with the list they present.

You will have the traits that you and your friends know about you in the Arena. These are the characteristics that you present to the World. Your public side. Your conscious side.

In the Blind side, you will have the traits you don’t know about or that you do not perceive, but other people can see them in you. It is also a public side, but an unconscious one.

The traits you know you have but others don’t know about them are stored in the Façade. It is your private side, and you are fully conscious of it.

All gets weirder when you face traits that neither you nor other people know you have. Those characteristics should lie in the Unknown. This is a private and unconscious side. Not an easy place to go.

To be self-aware is to be aware of all the traits stored in each compartment. It is to be willing to dive heads on into the unknown area and learn more about yourself.

A good leader should have the desire to learn more about himself. The emotions they are feeling. To be more aware of possible behaviours, depending on the feeling you face. No more living with the motions. You are living the present, living in the moment.

And then, yes, you can start self-regulating, self-managing your behaviour and life towards better personal leadership.

Yours truly,

Ricardo Castelhano