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Leadership takes on various titles and personalities. Leaders can come from any race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, physical ability, and socioeconomic status. What makes a leader is not his/her title or background, but rather, his/her ability to harness and exude the following characteristics.

1. A leader is self aware.

Leaders are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They know when to reach out for help and who they should reach out to for that help. They understand the power of delegation and recognize when someone is strong where they are weak.

2. A leader shows his/her authority through actions not just words or title.

Leaders do not take their title for granted. They know that leadership is a privilege not a right. They do not use their tenure and experience as the sole purpose for why they get to make decisions. Leaders earn their title and trust not demand it.

3. A leader can confront others.

Leaders know how to kindly and authoritatively effect change in a company. They do not demand others to act or speak. They encourage, ask questions, and suggest change with a sense of sincerity, support, and authority. This type of leadership encourages employees to come to them with problems and suggest solutions without fearing immediate wrath, discipline, or rejection.

4. A leader knows when to take a firm standing and when to change his/her mind.

Leaders are not always popular. The phrase, “It’s lonely at the top,” often applies to leaders. Sometimes, leaders need to make tough decisions that they believe will truly be best for the majority of employees, the company, and the company’s consumer audience.

5. A leader leads by example.

Leaders exemplify the phrase, “Monkey see monkey do.” If leaders yell and scream to get their way, employees will often follow suit. If leaders take short-cuts in work and diminish quality, employees will think it is okay to do so, as well. Leaders need to show, with actions, that what is ethical and best for the company and consumer is their priority.

6. A leader is vulnerable with the right people.

Leaders show vulnerability to their management team. They do not do so to just gather compassion and sympathy from others, but rather, to brainstorm how to fix any issues at hand. This encourages honesty and unity within the management team, thereby creating honesty and unity within the various teams of the organization.

7. A leader knows when to say, “I’m sorry.”

Leaders are not too proud that they cannot admit when they are wrong or have failed. Leaders should never be above an apology. On the same token, leaders know how to apologize and then bring a possible solution to the table for all involved to consider. This shows humility, as well as a working knowledge of leading and fixing problems.

8. A leader understands vision and chases after it.

Leaders eat, sleep, and breath company vision. They know the ins and outs of the vision, not only its past and present, but also its future. A leader knows when to chase a vision and when to change the vision to meet the organization’s mission, values, and financial goals.

9. A leader is empathetic.

Lastly, leaders know how to be active-listeners, being well-read on topics of psychology, counseling, and organizational behavior. Leaders listen with the intent to understand not to reply. They consider others as equals, each with valuable insights and understanding. Leaders who are empathetic quickly gain the trust and confidence of their team(s) and encourage others to do the same.

Embodying these character traits makes for a powerful, influential, compassionate, and fair leader.