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The Unique Characteristics of a Leader

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One of the primary unique components in a person’s genetic makeup is their personality.  Have you ever heard someone say, “she has an outstanding personality” or “he has such an outgoing personality?”  Many people fail to look at personality overall when considering characteristics that global leaders should have.  Characteristics are some of the qualities that form an individual’s personality.  A leader’s personality has a great deal of influence on his or her performance.  There is a relationship that exists between leadership performance and a leader’s personality traits. “It is unlikely that someone who felt no sense of self-confidence, entitlement, or being better than others would ever aspire to a leadership role. Furthermore, the willingness to take risks…think creatively at appropriate times are the very things that can distinguish leaders from non-leaders and great leaders from mediocre ones,” (Benson & Campbell, 2007).  There are other unique personality traits such as ethical responsibility, creativity and innovation, risk-taking, and being culturally inquisitive that global leaders should possess as well.

Some leaders fail to succeed as a result of their lack of ethical values administered when dealing with subordinates and others involved in their organization. Their values and ethical beliefs play a vital part in their success or lack thereof.  Using peer-reviewed articles, the researcher will discuss the differences leaders make in an organization as a result of their ethical choices and actions, the consequences of unethical leadership and the effect of globalization on the different ethical practices across cultures.  The researcher reviewed articles on passionate leadership, leadership values, and will conclude with suggestions and recommendations for the presented problem.  First, there must be an understanding of what an ethical leader looks like.

An ethical leader is someone who adheres to the rules and bylaws that are set in place for everyone to follow.  They lead by example and exemplify personal and professional morale on a scale that will cause others to aspire to be like them.  An ethical leader is someone who chooses not to behave immorally or participate in dishonorable acts to gain supporters or advance.  Although ethics are subjective and there are societal ethics that are held as a community, individual ethical guidelines and beliefs should be taken into consideration when calculating the ethicality of a leader.  Aquinas believed that, in man, there is an inclination to [do] good, according to the nature of his reason (Johnson & Reath, 2012) or what can be considered as subjective ethics.  The natural inclination of a leader’s ability to do well and be good falls on that leader’s personal ethical choices.  It would be nearly unfair to judge another leader based solely on one’s own ethical standards without taking the leader’s standards into consideration as well.

An organization’s need for global leaders strictly depends on the current and future consumers and stakeholders, however a global leader with the right personality and character traits could positively influence those factors.  An organization would benefit greatly from having a global leader if that leader brought diversity in their style of leadership.  Global leaders with the right personality can activate a greater level of cultural tolerance and encourage individuality in any organization. Because the leader’s personality heavily affects his or her performance, the organization should reflect the strengths and weaknesses of that leader and enter into a refreshing challenge of cross-cultural experiences.

“Cross Cultural Leadership” by John Frost and Mark Walker discusses how managers should lead and motivate teams with very different cultural backgrounds and values.  The article explains that present-day managers can effectively lead and motivate employees, groups, teams, etc. in a manner that can quickly manage potential conflict amongst those with differing cultural backgrounds and values. “It is now commonplace for leaders to be working for companies that have a global footprint. As such, effective leadership demands more than just what it takes to be successful in your own cultural environment. Leaders increasingly need to be able to work in unfamiliar situations and cultures in which the leadership skills that they have honed in their local market are no longer enough – and may even be counter-productive when used in a new context,” (Frost & Walker, 2007).

As a leader, one must consider the feelings of other individuals and their team when they are taking on ambassador positions in other countries and to also have an understanding of the cultural disparities that they may encounter.  The authors offer six tips to helping the reader become a multicultural leader and they involve (1) intellectual and emotional preparation for the new role which entails ambiguity, tolerance, humility and treating every new experience as a learning opportunity; (2) Preserving empathy for those who need understanding pertaining to their needs and feelings.  Do not make assumptions about others and/or try to enforce one’s own cultural norms on others because it can constitute as being controlling instead of being an ethical leaders in control; (3) Researching, respecting, and understanding the cultures that you are going to work in or with shows that you have an interest in the organizational culture and its members; (4) Remember to value face-to-face meetings.  Although we live in a global society where video and audio conferencing are professional norms, in-person communication is highly valued and respected and can resolve organizational conflict overall more effectively; (5) Be aware of one’s own limitations by being honest about strengths and weaknesses.  The authors advise creating a development plan that makes full use of the new experience which will result in helping the leader move out of his/her comfort zone; and (6) take care of oneself holistically by focusing on health and well-being aside from organizational obligations and responsibilities so that the pressure of leadership in a multi-cultural environment along with extensive travel and long, anti-social hours will not get the best of the leader (Frost & Walker, 2007).

“Culture, Cognition, and Managerial Leadership” by Steers et al. examines the position of “culture and cognitive processes in leader behavior, and works to explain why such differences exist across regions. The example of China is used to illustrate the validity of this approach. Implications for research, theory development, and management practice are discussed,” (Steers et al., 2012).  One of the most beautiful quotes on leadership ever written is cited in this article and is by leadership expert, Warren Bennis. “Leadership is like beauty; it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.”  This article expounds on the cultural differences in the definition of what leadership is and that impacts the global organization.  “To make matters even more complex, not only does the term ‘leader’ translate in different ways across various language groups, the meanings that are construed from these translations can also differ, sometimes significantly,” (Steers et al., 2012).  The authors conclude that culture and cognition affect each other both through time and interaction with others, which has an influence on how leadership and “followership” results in an organization.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The researcher’s master list of overall leadership characteristics include compassion, understanding, flexibility/adaptability, tenacity, cultural tolerance, patience, submission (to other cultures), and excellent communication/listening skills to name a few.  Of course there are several others that go above and beyond the standard qualities highly valued in a leader.  The characteristics that go above and beyond the standard qualities are those that are unique charades for a leader to have.  Personality and those things that causes a leader to stand out from the crowd is needed in multinational organizations.  The organization will ultimately reflects the decisions, actions, and personality of its leader and team members.  The same characteristics that cause the leader to stand out will be the same characteristics that cause the organization to do the same.


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