What makes a good leader?

By: Serena CassidyOver the past few weeks, I've been paying attention to the U.S. primaries in an attempt to find out which leadership traits are attributed to the candidates by their supporters. I've heard phrases such as, 'ability to unite', 'honesty and integrity' and 'demonstrates the strongest leadership'.

I also couldn't help but notice that once again, 'change' is the buzz word among candidates. Transformational leadership and organizational change often go hand in hand. In order to effectively transform an organization, leaders must be able to effectively garner sustained trust and support well after the election period, something which can be incredibly complicated in a political arena.

There's also been a lot of jostling back and forth over who has the most experience to lead. Political maneuvering aside, experience and leadership do seem to go hand in hand (i.e. to become a leader you need leadership experience, to gain leadership experience you need to have to have had the opportunity to lead).

Fortunately, development of leadership skills is contextual- there are many opportunities to develop leadership skills at various levels of the organization through engaging in training and professional development opportunities. Skill development is not only an investment in oneself; there are many benefits to be gained by the organization as well, such as: motivated employees, a highly skilled workforce, and the development of a learning organization.

According to Bennett, “strategy means thinking long term and with the 'big picture' in mind. The strategic learning contract is a vehicle for thinking and acting in relation to one's current role, career aspirations, or life as a whole.”

The development of leadership skills need not be so formalized however; my first career plan was a take on a popular board game and which I embellished with stickers and scrap booking materials. I called it 'The Plan of Life'. Digging it up from my basement, I see that milestones included: attendance of a Women & Leadership Symposium (inspiration), graduation from the MPA program (education), travel, looking for internship opportunities, volunteering and footprints leading to a square entitled 'Go for It!'.

Looking at this life plan reminds me that there's another part of leadership that's important to mention – creativity. I think that the ability to create, dream and envision, is just as important as project management skills. While I don't think I'll be taking a scrap booking course anytime soon, I will remember to look for opportunities to be creative both personally and professionally.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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