Career Trends: The four pillars of leadership

4 min read

Edition: September 11th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Some people are born with leadership traits, others take the time to learn and apply them. (Image Credit: Shutterstock)
  • Excerpts from article by Vijay Eswaran, published on

“Leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

Steve Jobs

Leadership is not a title. You can never be appointed a leader, whatever your business card may say. Leadership has to be earned. Certain individuals have the ability to impact the lives of others with their action, insights and words.

People like Mahatma Gandhi, who led a non-violence movement and drove the British colonisers out of India, or Dr. Martin Luther King, who inspired an entire generation of African Americans to march for their civil rights, did not hold any specific leadership title or government position. Their drive and passion for a cause bigger than themselves inspired others to follow them.

A leader possesses four distinct characteristics. While some are born with these traits, others take the time to learn and apply them.

Here are the 4 characteristics that every successful and well respected leader has:

1. Taking ownership

  • Most people settle comfortably into the lives and roles into which they are born. They never get to realise their full potential.
  • Then there are those who stand out for challenging the status quo, for seeking to better themselves and the environment in which they are.
  • They are the ones who refused to accept the cards they were dealt with, and sought to change the game.
  • Real leaders take ownership. They do not let others define their path, or allow circumstances to prevent them from taking the next steps. 
  • Leaders also take ownership of the people and the environment that they step into.
  • But that doesn’t mean leaders do everything themselves. Good leaders have mastered the art of delegation.
  • A common mistake many leaders make is to relegate instead of delegate. When you relegate, you abandon your responsibility.
  • When you delegate, your help shape the outcome, though someone else implements the actual task. Ownership is the driving force of accountability.

2. Empowering others

  • We, as human beings, have an innate desire to belong – to a community, class, culture, etc.
  • History shows us that this drive to belong often manifests itself as a yearning to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
  • Thus, when a leader comes along showing us a path to being better not just as individuals, but also as a part of something greater as a group, they raise in others a sense of self-belief.
  • This self-belief is empowerment. A great leader knows how to raise others up and empower them to believe in themselves.
  • A leader is not measured by how much they have themselves advanced, but rather by how well they have advanced the lives of others.

3. Being purpose-driven

  • Leaders are defined by their purpose that is bigger than themselves. When that purpose serves a greater good, it becomes the platform for great leadership.
  • When you have a purpose that goes beyond you, people will see it and identify with it.
  • At its core, your leadership purpose springs from your identity, the essence of who you are. 
  • Purpose is the difference between a salesman and a leader, and in the end, it is leaders who impact the world.

4. Caring about those they lead

  • The earmark of a great leader is their care and concern for their people.
  • Displaying compassion towards others is not about a photo-op, but an inherent characteristic that others can feel and hear when they are with you.
  • It lives in the warmth and timbre of your voice. It shows in every action you take. 
  • Caring leaders take a genuine interest in others. They strive to better know the people working with them.
  • This is not just to make token enquiries from time to time, but because they really want to know their people and encourage them to be the best they can be.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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