What does it mean to lead? The answer to this question may be very different depending on who you ask. Business News Daily states that leaders meet certain criteria: They remain positive, build others up, improve their environment and possess incredible awareness of self and others. To some, being in charge involves barking out orders at underlings and standing at the top of the heap. It is about power, control and image to them. Many with the label of “leader,” only fit it in the strictest sense of the word. They fail to understand that true leaders guide and nurture others for the success of the group rather than using individuals under their power for selfish gain. The best ones are often defined by a set of unique character traits that gives them the ability to influence others.

1. They Are Aware of and Unafraid To Show Their Humanity

As CEO Hari Ravichandran points out, supervisors and managers who share their struggles are able to relate on a deeper level with their workers. This fosters cooperation and unity. It allows everyone to connect and see themselves as in this together rather than as isolated entities.

2. They Inspire Others To Reach Their Full Potential

The best leaders encourage others to grow. They don’t put them down. They don’t stifle them — instead they empower them to stretch themselves to and exceed their limits. Under good leadership, people find themselves capable of feats they may never have realized otherwise. They want to be better, to meet and surpass expectations because good leaders, by presence and example, show them that it is possible.

3. They Constantly Demonstrate That They Are Trustworthy

Integrity and honesty are important characteristics for anyone in any area of life to have. Leaders, who must show themselves to be above reproach, are held to even higher standards with regards to these qualities. Without them, they will lose the good faith and respect of their followers, peers and clients, thus rendering them unable to perform their function.

4. They Are Different

They are not like others but in a good way. They are innovative, creative and willing to break straight out of the boundaries of the square box the rest of the world inhabits. They possess the mentality needed to see all possible solutions, including ones others would never think of.

5. They Display Empathy

People cannot lead others if they don’t understand them. They cannot inspire and empower individuals whose emotions and motivations as human beings they cannot grasp. The most effective chiefs can put themselves in the shoes of anyone following them. This characteristic also makes them better listeners, enabling them to give team members what they need. This can boost morale and increase productivity. Leaders understand that ensuring the well-being of each member is the same as ensuring the well-being of the team as a whole. They know how to prioritize each as a separate person without compromising the needs of the entire group.

While these attributes are commonly found in good leaders, understand that no two are the same. Some are born with an innate, natural spark in them. Others are forced to step up and learn leadership through fire. Regardless, they are all leaders.

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