Traits we should all want

leadershipI saw a recent piece in the Huffington Post, called “7 Habits of Natural Leaders,” and found it riveting. You don’t necessarily have to be in a leadership position, however, to benefit from making these attributes staples of your everyday life.

I’ll list them and give my own take on each of the attributes:

1.  They dare to fail: I was a prof for nearly forty years and found that most students opted to play it safe–take the easier courses, avoid the good, but tough professors who gave A’s only for singular achievement. I have often thought of Lincoln, who mostly failed in his early political efforts. But he never gave up, and the rest is history.

One of the problems with not assuming risk is that it can pursue us all our lives and we simply run away from all life’s tough spots and sometimes ourselves. If you think about it, we owe our country’s greatness to its founding fathers, willing to risk their lives to confront tyranny.

I have always liked how the poet Robert Browning famously put it: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

2.   They follow their purpose. In short, they stay the course. Over my lifetime, I’ve found the real nemesis of success is not that we quit, but that we quit so soon. Consequently we find ourselves saying, “what if?, when with perseverance, we might have achieved our goals.

Strong people can be difficult to get along with, since passion often governs what they do. At the same time, I find them attractive people, the kind you want to be friends with. They have a vision, know what they want, follow their bliss, and are exciting to be around.

3.   They give. I think we shouldn’t just think of giving in the way of money, but of ourselves. Currently, there’s a seeming panic going on about ebola. Several caretakers, or medical staff, have recently returned to the States, victims of the disease. What’s extraordinary to me is that they went to West Africa in the first place to confront this ugly disease. One of them has actually labored in Liberia for sixteen years, trying to improve its meager medical resources.

When it comes to the monetary aspect, while the vast lot of us aren’t rich, we can still give something. As Peter Singer, a philosopher who specializes in ethics, has said–if all of us in western counties just set aside five percent of our incomes for special needs, we’d eradicate poverty.  I would add, maybe a good many of our diseases as well.

I do know that what we give of ourselves and our assets is a sure indicator of our capacity to love.

4.    They give themselves a break: It’s important to sometimes treat yourself. Right now, I try to keep up my health as I grow older, working out on our elliptical machine and even lifting weights.

But I also schedule timeouts, one or two days when I don’t work out, like Wednesdays and Saturdays. It makes my exercise far more palatable, knowing tomorrow I can simply relax, and without the guilt. I sometimes suspect that dieters would be more successful if they’d cheat one day a week.

We Americans are hard-working and studies show we don’t take much time off.

That’s a pity!

5.    They really listen: Now here’s a trait I’m trying hard to achieve. After all, when we interrupt or ignore what someone’s saying to us, it’s a form of self-absorption, maybe even narcissism. Certainly, it’s selfish

It’s also demeaning to others, a way of saying you don’t matter or what you’ve come to me with is trivial. I don’t want to be this way. I want to value people and for them to know that. I want them to feel when they talk to me that they’re the only one in the room. In short, that they matter, for they do.

6.    They seek out new experiences and ways of thinking: Hey, I’m all over this one and hope you are, too. I like seeing new places, meeting people, chance conversations, reading serious books and magazines.

Guess that’s why I love being around college campuses, especially their real beauty–young people excited about life, filled with dreams, willing to challenge cultural norms turned into unthinking rituals.

Always, I yearn for stimulation, of being challenged to new ways of seeing things. TV doesn’t do that for me. I’m into romping blogs, trying new things, meeting people whose ideas may often challenge my own. I aim to grow, not stagnate, to wake tomorrow wiser than I am today.

7.   They empathize with others:  I like this a lot! Can’t come by a better trait than this, putting yourself in another’s shoes. This happened for me in a unique way many years ago when I took a chance and accepted an invitation form a college friend to visit his country, India.

I saw not only the Taj Mahal, but more importantly, how much the greater portion of humanity suffers in the shackles of ubiquitous poverty, disease and early demise.

I have learned since, and am still learning, the way of compassion, for people, animals and, yes, a wounded earth. I wish I were wealthy, not as its own end, but that I might empty my wallet for others.

If there really does exist what they call an “emotional quotient,” or EQ, then surely compassion is its ultimate marker.

I want it, and want it bad. Hope you do, too!


Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

3 thoughts on “Traits we should all want”

  1. I’d like to know more about all those who did these and still got nowhere – rephrase that, did not get to that fabled leadership place. No guarantees in life, none whatsoever.


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