5 Qualities for Advancing in Leadership
I want to ask you a thought provoking question.
If you were going to promote someone to a higher level of leadership responsibility what are some qualities that you would look for?
What are the first things that come to your mind? Are they qualities related to character and integrity? Work ethic? Perhaps relational E.Q.?
It is important for leaders to have a good answer to this question because the answer is incredibly helpful for showing younger leaders qualities that they need to develop if they are going to advance in the ranks of leadership.
I have been thinking about this question and I believe that there are five qualities that are essential for advancing in leadership; in fact, these are the qualities that I look for when I am considering placing people in higher leadership roles.
I hope that these might be of help for you
Initiative – self starter, lack of slack
Anyone who aspires to greater leadership levels must become a person of initiative. In its most basic form initiative simply means “making something happen.” People who possess initiative rarely get told what to do; they find what needs to be done and they do it!
It is not hard to spot the person of initiative because they have typically created something before you asked them to create it, solved a problem before you noticed it, invented something before you thought of it, or implemented something before you approved it.
People with initiative have an unrelenting desire to push for the “uniquely better.” They are less content with the status quo and want to see things improved, started, or created – and then they take action!
With a person of initiative you will be able to have peace of mind in knowing that you do not have to be the driving force behind every project, task, or idea. People with initiative will help with this.
I look for this quality because I know that a person with initiative will need less oversight, they will need less motivation from me, they will not waste time, they will get things done, and I can rest knowing that they are making the organization better.
Excellence – above and beyond, unique
I absolutely love John Wooden’s definition of success, “True success is attained only through the satisfaction of knowing you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of being.” 
When I think of success I think of the word “excellence.” In some ways I use the two terms somewhat synonymous. I believe that striving for success is striving for excellence.
People who exhibit excellence go above and beyond to make things the best they can be.
In some ways this quality is harder to measure because “excellence” is somewhat subjective. At the same time most people can tell the difference between a job that was completed doing the bare minimum versus a job that was completed with flare.
Maybe the best way to describe excellence is “adding a little flare” to make it that much better.
Really when it comes down to it people with excellence have an inner drive that compels them to do the very best they are capable of doing.
I look for this quality because this type of person will make sure that everything they oversee is rising to the best standard it is capable of. I know that they will think outside of the box and try new things. I know that I will be proud of their work and they will represent the organization well.
Ability to Say No – convictions, resolve, clarity, confronting
A leader who is going to be effective must learn that they cannot say yes to every request, please every person, or compromise on core values. A leader must be willing, able, and demonstrate the ability to say no.
This starts in casual conversations and formal meetings. I look for people who do not agree with everything that is being said. I look for push-back and other ways of thinking. I look for a leader who demonstrates the ability to have a conviction and stand by it without compromise.
The idea of “saying no” also extends to confronting others for either moral or task related failures. Confronting is simply saying “No, that is not acceptable.” Whether it is correcting a volunteer who has shown up late for the thirteenth time or a co-worker who has been slacking, advancing leaders must demonstrate an ability to have healthy confrontation and not avoid it.
I look for this quality because I can have confidence that this type of person will lead from conviction and principle and not be moved by the whims of feelings and emotion. I have confidence that this type of person will hold firm to the core values of the organization and not compromise. Finally, I have confidence that this type of person will hold their team accountable and make sure that everyone is operating to a high level.
Relational Equity – team player, good reputation, considerate, respected
Leaders must be able to get along well with others. A leader who cannot work with people will damage an organization and a team.
Relational equity goes beyond simply being kind to others, smiling in the hall, and having a lot of friends. These types of people are confident and consistent in their interactions with people regardless of their position or status. They have a strong E.Q. (emotional quotient) and can intuitively navigate a variety of interpersonal situations.
A person with relational equity is respected (not simply liked) by others.
People with relational equity have a unique ability to be able to work with people to accomplish things. Because of their humility, tact, and determination people enjoy helping them out and will do whatever they can to assist.
These have a unique ability to be able to be a bridge between different groups of people. They do not silo (isolate themselves from others) but network with a variety of people for the betterment of the whole.
I look for this quality because this type of person will be less likely to bulldoze over people to get things done. They will have good working relationships with the majority of people and they will do their best to not taint their relationships because of petty issues. I look for this type of person because their knack for relationships tends to make them less selfish and have a greater concern for the good of the whole.
Delegation – empowering, recruiting, developing
A leader must be able to delegate tasks, responsibilities, and leadership as it becomes appropriate. Delegation is a hallmark of leadership.
People who delegate have the ability to know what needs to be done and find the right person/group to do it. They delegate with clarity of expectations and provide needed follow-up to ensure completion.
People who delegate well do not micro-manage but display trust to those in whom they give responsibility.
People who delegate accomplish more and tend to be more effective. Not to mention they include more people which can lead to better and better results.
I look for this quality because this type of person will tend to be less selfish and want to include others. Their focus will be on the team and not on them. This type of person tends to be a multiplier of other leaders because of their willingness to release control and give opportunity.
I believe that these five qualities are essential for advancement in leadership. Perhaps these are helpful to you and the next time someone asks you what they need to do to advance in their position these can serve as a guide.
 John Wooden with Steve Jamison, “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” (New York: McGraw Hill, 1997), 192.