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5 Qualities for Advancing in Leadership

Would you like to get a promotion?

Would you like those over you to take notice?

Do you want to advance as a leader?

If your answer is yes (and I hope it is!) then I have a BIG question for you...

Are you exhibiting the qualities necessary for advancement?

The first time I ever "supervised" anyone was when I was in my early 20's working at the local Starbucks. Unlimited coffee, meeting new people, wearing the famed "green apron"... it still ranks as one of my most favorite jobs.

As a supervisor for the first time, I had the responsibility of making sure things went well on my watch. In this process I began to see my co-workers in a different light. I quickly learned who I could count on and who was going to flake on me. I knew who would go the extra mile and who was going to do as little as possible to get by. I knew who would cut corners and who would be thorough.

Through all of this, do you know what I discovered?

The workers who were lazy, flaked, and cut corners did not advance! They did not get promoted, they did not gain influence, and eventually they quit or got fired.


Since that time, I have had the opportunity to lead/supervise in many other contexts and it seems that in most every situation there are some consistent qualitiesthat are present in those who are promoted and advance in leadership.

If you are looking to get promoted and advance as a leader, then make sure that you are living out the 5 qualities below.


INITIATIVEself 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 with initiative because they have typically createdsomething before you asked them to create it, solved a problembefore you noticed it, invented somethingbefore you thought of it, or implementedsomething 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 - disdain for status quo, above and beyond, unique

I think that success and excellence quo go hand-in-hand.

I love what John Wooden says about 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 [1]

People who are not content with the status quo go above and beyond to make things the best they can be. They have a way of adding a little flare to make something that much better.

People who are dissatisfied with the status quo are people who want to succeed.

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.


CONVICTIONresolve, clarity, ability to say no

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 have conviction.

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 teammate who has shown up late for the thirteenth time or a co-worker who has been slacking, people who want to advance in leadership must demonstrate an ability to have healthy confrontation and not avoid it.

I look for conviction because I can have confidence that this type of person will lead with 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 EQUITYteam 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.

People with relational equity 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 people have a unique ability 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.


ABILITY TO DELEGATEempowering, selfless, secure

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.


If you are hoping to advance in your leadership, I hope you found this helpful.

If you dedicate yourself to improving in these 5 areas, promotion is bound to come your way.

If you would like a helpful tool that gives some simple tips on how you can begin to practice these qualities CLICK HERE


[1] John Wooden with Steve Jamison, “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” (New York: McGraw Hill, 1997), 192.

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