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20 Must Have Characteristics For Successful Leaders

(1) Successful Leaders are people of vision
They possess that “I have a dream” approach that inspires people and is a really important factor in being a leader.

(2) Successful Leaders are great communicators
If you can’t communicate your vision or your thoughts, you probably can’t lead.

(3) Successful Leaders inspire trust
The people they lead come to trust them completely.

(4) Successful Leaders have a positive self-regard
Someone once said that if you don’t think much of yourself, other people won’t think much of you either. I have never met anyone I thought was a good leader who didn’t have very positive self-regard.

(5) Successful Leaders cultivate mavericks
This may be one of the more difficult things to do. You all know what mavericks are. They are the ones in the company who are forever questioning things. They challenge things, and if you’re not careful, they’ll be off on their own doing something. They cause problems, other people complain about them and they don’t necessarily agree with you. Yet they force us to get better, and they cause us to improve.

(6) Successful Leaders are innovators
Unless you are innovative, unless you continue to second guess your competition or come up with new ideas or try new things, then you’ve become just another me-too operator.

(7) Successful Leaders are rarely satisfied
They can’t be complacent. That doesn’t mean never being satisfied. But they recognize that there might be better ways of doing things and grasp quickly that there are additional opportunities. If we were half as good at Wal-Mart as people tell us, we would really be dangerous. If they had any idea of how much we leave on the table, they’d be scared to death. You might have good results, but you can never be satisfied.

(8) Successful Leaders are willing to fail
I can’t tell you how much we at Wal-Mart believe that this is a quality that a leader needs to possess. It is a human trait not to want to fail, and we do all sorts of things to keep ourselves from failing – or from giving the appearance of failure. Of course, if failure is more than occasional, you have a different set of problems. But it’s this willingness to fail that gets leaders onto the leading edge and pushes the outer limits. The lack of such willingness could seriously hamper your abilities.

(9) Successful Leaders have a low resistance to change
Once again, it’s a human trait to resist change; we all like the status quo. If everything is going well, why not leave it alone? Remember the old theory that “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The truth of the matter is that if it isn’t broke, it soon will be, and you’d better fix it ahead of time so you don’t have big problems later on.

(10) Successful Leader have an absolute sense of urgency

If a good leader has a sense of urgency, it is contagious and everyone will have it. If he doesn’t, the others will rarely have it.


(11)Successful Leaders must be people-oriented
Good leaders manifest their talents through others, and the only way that can be done is to have great people orientation.

(12) Successful Leaders have integrity
I have never met a great leader who lacked integrity, compromised it or didn’t demonstrate it when called upon to do. I think it is a critical part of the concept of leadership.

(13) Successful Leaders have a grass-roots philosophy
What’s grass-roots philosophy? It’s one that simply believes that almost all of the good ideas come from people out in the stores and on the firing line. They come from the people who serve the customer and work their way up through the organization. When I think of all the changes in our organization over the years, almost everything came from the field. It is our job as leaders of a company to go out, collect all these ideas, reject those that won’t work but implement those that will. The grass-roots philosophy says that everyone has good ideas. You have to sift through and get the good ones. But this positive attitude permeates an organization and creates the kind of idea-generating atmosphere that you want.

(14) Successful Leaders are generalists
I suppose you can be a leader without being a generalist. People will point to leaders in the technology part of the business. Should leaders be generalists? My answer is that they should be. A good leader even in a very specific, technical-type area will almost always have a much broader view of a business, its surroundings, its economics. I think that typing the characteristics of a generalist certainly enhances the leadership field.

(15) Successful Leaders are entrepreneurial
One of the ways to develop leaders is to teach those entrepreneurial skills at the lowest level. We at Wal-Mart believe that everyone should be an entrepreneur. Sam Walton was the entrepreneur of the company. But if you went and talked to any of the 15 department managers we have in the average Wal-Mart store, you’d find they all believe that they are entrepreneurs. So in teaching leadership skills, one of the thin to instill in your people is an entrepreneurial attitude.

(16) Successful Leaders have high levels of expectation
If I were to prioritize this list, I would place high expectations close to the top. Almost everyone, including me, underestimates that. One of the most difficult lessons to be learned by a leader or a manager is the necessity of having high expectation levels. Almost everyone has more capacity and more ability and can produce more than people believe they can. I can’t think of a company that has a problem because their expectation levels were too high.

Those people whom I would characterize as outstanding leaders all have very high expectation levels for their people. At Wal-Mart we have no superstars. We are a company of ordinary people operating in an environment that encourages and perhaps requires us to be overachievers. And this is the healthiest situation of all.

(17) Successful Leaders have a competitive spirit
If you don’t like to compete in every way, you probably will not make a good leader. Good leaders are competitive by nature.

(18) Successful Leaders delegate authority
Good leaders push down the decision-making process and empower people to do things. But there are good leaders with a lot of the other characteristics who are unable to push down that decision-making process or let go of it. With the decision-making process comes power, and power and leadership skills don’t necessarily come together. If you are a good leader, power naturally accrues to you but you’ve got to harness the power of people everywhere. You’ve got to push down the decision-making process to make that work. It’s a very difficult lesson to learn.

(19) Successful Leaders dare to dream
If you don’t take the time to dream about accomplishing things that haven’t been accomplished before, You’ll miss an opportunity. If you deal with total reality all of the time, you’ll miss. that part.

(20) Successful Leaders dare to be different
In this day and age when most of the country has a conformist mentality, we love to be alike, but to dare to be different is the quality that I think great leaders have.

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