The Most Important Leadership Characteristic

Integrity. Honesty. Responsibility. I attended a leadership conference recently that encouraged the participants to discuss the most important characteristic of leadership. Wow! What a hard question. The participants presented different terms and ideas that they felt were valuable for any leader. Determination. Encouragement. Perseverance. The list could go on and on.

Ryan Eller

At the age of 20 Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character. He brainstormed specific virtues he thought were important to emulate, narrowed his list to 13, and then set out to master them. Below you will find his list:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

I am trying to develop my own list, which is a huge challenge. I think ranking leadership virtues depends on what the list-maker needs from other leaders. I am strong in encouragement, development, and enthusiasm, so I obviously value those strengths. However, I strongly value leaders who have discipline, order, and self control…mostly because I am not strong in those areas.

Do you think our view on characteristic leadership values depends on the perception of our own strengths or upon the strengths of others? Which characteristic do you think is most important trait to have as a leader? Have you ever created a list like Benjamin Franklin? If so, what was your top virtue?

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