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Marek Struszczyk

Co-Founder ManagerUp

Last modified: June 8th, 2023

Did you know that Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, is one of the most influential CEOs of 2021? If you look at the list, it’s quite an impressive cohort. But how did they become great leaders? What are the leadership traits they possess that set them apart from the rest? How do they manage to achieve the things we can only dream of?

There is so much we can learn from these iconic leaders.

Let’s explore the mindset of these modern leaders so that we can reach the level of their accomplishments and beyond.

1. A thirst for knowledge

When it comes to leadership traits, ensure you maintain a healthy thirst for knowledge. One of the best ways you can do this is by reading as much and as widely as possible. Seek advice from others, it’s fairly safe to assume that there isn’t a problem or a feeling that hasn’t been written about in some way in the past.

By reading a wealth of books, you can tap into a huge reservoir of knowledge, whether it comes from fiction, poetry, nonfiction, or all of the above. Bill Gates is a passionate reader and he shares a list of his favorite books each year.

It’s not surprising that his list features literature by some of the world’s greatest thinkers, including linguist Steven Pinker, historian Jared Diamond, and civil rights activist Michelle Alexander.

Don’t forget you can also include audiobooks into the mix as well. That way, you can soak up knowledge during your commute, while you wash the dishes, and almost any other time. Audiobooks could even make you look forward to boring chores.

2. Mindfulness

Being mindful and living in the moment is fast becoming a common leadership trait of the modern leader.

Some of the most successful leaders and influencers – think Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, and even Jeff Bezos – engage in mindfulness.

As ambitious people, it’s easy to lose sight of the present as we are often so focused on the future. But the truth is we must always tackle the present before we can reach the future. The biggest reward for our effort is in being mindful of our present.

By increasing our awareness of the present and living in the moment as much as possible, we can reap a wide range of benefits, such as reduced stress, clearer decision-making, and so much more.

While there are many ways you can boost your mindfulness and spiritual levels, practicing meditation on a regular basis is a great way to get started.

3. Self-awareness

A greater level of self-awareness translates into better leaders and in turn, also higher performing employees.

This is because leaders with a high level of self-awareness are better equipped to maintain and develop healthier work relationships.

If you understand yourself better and how you are likely going to react to situations in the office, you can manage your emotions, fears, and feelings before they arise.

Spiritual meditation, while not the only way, is one of the most effective ways to increase your self-awareness.

4. Emotional intelligence

Are you still wondering how to be a good leader? The best leaders have strong empathic qualities. Empathy is like a mental muscle, so it’s important to exercise it as much as possible.

In its most basic form, empathy allows you to feel and understand what another person might be feeling. Not only can this make you a more caring leader, but it can also make you more strategic. For instance, how do you know who your target audience is if you can’t envision what another person might feel or think at a given moment?

Be aware though, that there is such a thing as being too empathic. Being overly tuned in to other people’s feelings can drain you on an emotional level.

This is why it’s important to modulate your empathy as needed. It all goes back to honing your emotional intelligence.

Let’s look at Warren Buffet as an example of emotional intelligence, he felt the pain and suffering of his fellow man and knew that philanthropy was the best solution. In fact, he’s promised to donate over 99% of his wealth over the course of his lifetime.

Without the power of empathy, Buffet would never have been able to accomplish their great deeds.

5. Spirituality

Embracing your spirituality in the workplace means bringing your whole self to work. Spiritually energized employees can tap into their spiritual energy for greater business outcomes.

Spiritual leadership supports employees while providing a space for creativity and innovation. This style of leadership translates into strong united teams and employees with a sense of connectedness to one another.

By breathing life into everything you do, you can share as many positive qualities with others as possible, such as enthusiasm, meaning and productivity. You can inspire and influence your employees and unlock their full potential.

6. Bravery

Bravery is yet another indispensable leadership trait. It might sound a bit dramatic, but you may be surprised by how much bravery leaders need.

As a leader, you’ll encounter a variety of situations where hard decisions are unavoidable. Some people’s worst fears involve the judgment of others. Even firing an employee can end up being a traumatic experience if you’ve never done it before.

Courage also comes in handy when your company fails. Sometimes it’s easier to jump ship than it is to stick around for the long haul and turn a failure on its head so that it’s a resounding success.

We’ve all heard at least one story of a leader demonstrating their bravery during times of war, but there are other examples of bravery as well. For instance, there’s bravery in speaking out against discrimination, hostile workplace environments, illegal business practices, and much more.

7. Innovative

Many people repeat the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While this can be true in a variety of situations, it can lead to complacency.

If you don’t try to innovate your products, services, or marketing strategies, you’ll never know whether innovation is even possible. Nor will you be able to realize any potential success. Innovation and persistence usually go hand-in-hand, and great leaders also need the persistence to see new ideas through.

Imagine where we’d be if CEOs gave up after the first few attempts at establishing an influential brand? What about the first few hundred? Instead, the best CEOS have persevered through countless obstacles to bring us evolutionary products made by Apple, Versaci, and Coca-Cola.

Ready to hone your leadership traits?

Now that we’ve covered seven of the most powerful leadership traits of the modern leader, you can start investing in your own mental and physical well-being. As you create the best version of yourself, you can also create a brand that people will connect with and support for many years to come.

Image attribution: Ministério Das Comunicações, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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