Traits of a Leader

The Critical Leadership Trait Needed for Success

Bob Bergeth asked:

How to get people to do their best, always and everywhere, is a leader’s challenge and opportunity? What key leadership trait must leaders’ possess to get people to do their best?

Playwrights know this vital fact about human nature. Novelists know it. Politicians know it too. However, in the main, business people do not. There are exceptions, but they are rare. The few exceptions are the people at the top.

A famous playwright once said that most of his plays were about a race or a rescue. There must be a villain in every popular play and there must be a struggle to win, he said.

The one critical leadership trait you must have is a battle spirit. That is right, a battle spirit!

By battle spirit, I do not mean war in the sense that nations go to war. I do not mean physical confrontation either.

If people are negative, apologetic and timid, they may be very good technicians and may have ability and even character; they do not make good leaders, however.

I am writing about human nature as it is, not as it ought to be.

The truth is people love a fighter and always have.

It is both true and regrettable that a pacifist has no followers while a fighter always has an army at his heels.

The leader of large numbers of people must always be engaged in some sort of a CONTEST. This is what I mean when I say there must always be a fight going on.

The fight is not physical. The fight is against competitors, or overcoming obstacles such as waste; it could be discovering new possibilities or doing the impossible.

The main leadership problem is to get your people wide-awake. You must arouse them from their slumber, brighten their dull eyes and make them keen and quick while working. That is every leader’s problem and challenge. If you do not succeed at this, you will not be successful as a leader.

Most people do not like work; they never have and never will. Nevertheless, they do love games and fights.

Fighting is a basic part of human nature; it is in our bones. It is not a veneer but a bedrock part of human nature.

It is one of the basic principles of efficiency to treat everything according to its nature; if this is so, then you must put the spirit of struggle into your business. You must have a fight or a contest in order for people to do their best and enjoy it. This is one reason why the underdog is so dangerous.

There must be a battle spirit in business. I am sure you hate war as I do. The best way to stop war is to bring the battle spirit into trade and commerce.

When countries and their people have plenty, their people are less likely to want war. The have-nots cause the trouble spots in the world today not those nations with affluence.

Most people go to war joyfully. The reason they do is they are bored with the dullness and red tape of business.

The best leaders achieve corporate objectives. The best leaders create an environment that fosters the belief that management does care about them; that management is concerned for them as human beings.

When you have harmony among corporate objectives and human needs then you have set the stage for maximum human motivation. Job satisfaction will be at its highest level then resulting in motivated, happy and productive employees.

When your emphasis is only on achieving corporate objectives, you may achieve them all right. However, if you ignore the plight of your people, job dissatisfaction follows. Morale will be low and productivity will suffer.

A nation that wants to compete in a highly competitive global economy must have motivated workers. When your workers are bored, disgusted and unhappy with their work and leaders, they will volunteer by the millions for war.

People will fight. Let them fight against competitors. Let them fight with advertisements instead of guns and bombs. Let them fight against waste, high costs, and difficulties.

You will quickly learn the value of loyalty when you honor a victorious salesperson, courageous supervisor or factory worker. When you visit a sick employee in the hospital, attend a funeral or a wedding for someone important to an employee, you will learn the value of employee loyalty.

What would it be worth to your company to have more employee loyalty? How would your company benefit?

How to get people to do their best, always and everywhere, is a leader’s challenge and opportunity? The answer, of course, is to give them hard jobs and cheer them on. Reward them when they win. Attend to their personal needs. That is what leadership is all about.

How can people be loyal to a person who is always on the defensive? How can they follow a leader who is dodging and covering up?

The best defense is to attack. Strike first. Keep your imitators on the run.

“They copied and they copied, but they couldn’t copy my mind. So I left them sweating and swearing a year and a half behind,” Rudyard Kipling.

Of course, there is a difficulty. There always is. That is what makes life interesting and challenging. If there were no difficulty, there would be no fight and if there were no fight, there would be no fun.

This is a glorious world, packed full of impossibilities; that is the attitude needed to lead and win.

When I was growing up in a farming community, all of our neighbors used to take their mechanical and machinery problems they could not fix to this one individual. His motto was, “If Joe can’t fix it, throw it away”. What a great attitude.

When you are a leader, you must be aggressive and always take the fight to your competitors. This one leadership characteristic, above all, if grasped by any person of courage, would raise him into a leader among his peers.

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