Learn to Lead

These are second graders taking turns leading their class by holding their class flag.


My daughter’s elementary school does a great job of teaching team work, and leadership skills. The kids in my daughter’s Second Grade class made their own “flag” which they took turns carrying around the school yard during the annual “walkathon-fund-raiser. Leadership is a more difficult task for adults not only because the best path is less clear, but because there are many more road blocks in the way. Nevertheless, leadership is like any other skill. The more you study and the more you practice the better you get. The following is a handout I wrote for my Leadership Skills courses at Bellevue Community College. While it is written for Wilderness Leaders, most of the concepts apply to any kind of group leadership position.  

The ideal leader is a complex combination of many things.  The following are some traits of effective leadership, No person will score high in all of them but the more of these attributes you are able to develop, the better leader you will be able to become. Note that all of the following are also the characteristics of a saint or a good mother or father, thus qualifying leadership as a sacred activity.

The ability to understand and be understood.  This is the vital skill to maintain and convey a complete understanding of any situation. The ability to transfer information in a clear, concise confident and complete manner is particularly important in an emergency.
SELF EXPRESSION - Produces clear, effective, specific, unambiguous verbal or written sentences.  Makes specific suggestions for actions and solutions to problems.
RECEPTIVENESS TO GROUP IDEAS - Actively seeks and seriously considers group ideas and suggestions.  Encourages input from group members.  Willing and able to listen, clarify and solicit ideas and feedback.

Effectively involves others in the decision-making process.
PROMOTES TEAM MORALE - Expresses appreciation of group/individual excellence and effort.  Encourages others to cooperate with team goals.
IMPARTIAL IN DECISION-MAKING - Makes unbiased decisions for the good of the group.  Deals with issues impersonally, without displaying favoritism or vindictiveness.  Places the interest of the group above personal self interest.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION - Promotes harmonious relations by mediating disputes constructively.  Able to resolve not just the surface problem but the hidden deeper underlying conflict as well.
INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION - Is easy to talk with, displays a genuine interest in each team member as an individual, puts people at ease and is caring and sympathetic to their needs.
PROMOTES INTERGROUP COMMUNICATION - Demonstrates ability to promote the cohesive functioning of the team, puts members with similar interests/needs/concerns into contact,             

Empowers team members to contribute to the group, Motivates all team members to do their best.
FACILITATOR OF INNOVATION - Actively suggests and is receptive to new ideas and proposals,
Encourages creativity in others and contributes creatively to the problem solving process   
ALERTNESS- Aware of actual and possible circumstances. Anticipates and recognizes problems in individuals within the group.
CHARACTER RECOGNITION- The ability to read other peoples thoughts and feelings.
TACT- The ability to correct a team member without offending them.               

Able to create structure and organization out of a chaotic and changing situation.
PERSISTANCE- Mentally and physically able to complete long, difficult and complex tasks.
BEARING- Maintains a positive appearance and deportment.
INITIATIVE- Willing to act in the absence of orders and make changes in plan for the good of the group and in response to changing circumstances
DEPENDABLE- Works diligently without supervision.
PLANNING- Anticipates future team needs and problems, makes a workable plan of action, provides alternatives and follows though on the plan to assure the success of the team
TEAM DEVELOPMENT- Promotes skills of all team members by providing them with coaching, counciling and guidance.
DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY- Assigns duties to qualified team members and grants them sufficient time and power to accomplish the assigned tasks.
ADMINISTRATION- Effectively follows and enforces established policy. Acts as a GOOD ROLE MODEL, practicing what you preach, following the same guidelines you expect your team to follow.
PRODUCTIVE- Able to prioritize tasks and accomplish essential tasks.  Evaluates the importance of various tasks objectively to insure that the most important or safety oriented tasks are done first.
KNOWLEDGABLE- In-depth awareness of the factors pertinent to the activity being led.
SKILLFUL- Having training in excess of what is needed.
EXPERIENCED- Having faced similar and even more difficult situations many times before.

III.             PERSONALITY
Able to get along with most people for an extended period of time.
COMMAND PRESENCE- inspires respect, trust and confidence from others, not only within the team being lead but the community as a whole.
CONFIDENCE- Relaxed and low key.  Having faith in your decision even in the face of disagreement
COMMON SENSE- Able to deal with common problems in a logical manner.
DECISIVENESS- can  take command in an emergency and make quick decisions accurately from a limited amount of information.  Then announce them with confidence, clearly and concisely.  The ability to make the best decision, do the best you can with that decision and avoid second guessing yourself later.
FLEXIBLE/ADAPTABLE- Having versatile skills and abilities.  Able to adjust to change. Able to recognize when there may be more than one problem and/ or more than one solution.
INGENUITY/ IMPROVISING- Able to work though complex problems even when supplies, materials or options are limited.
COURAGE- Maintains a positive attitude in adverse circumstances. Calm under pressure. Avoids panic.  Recognizing, controlling and overcoming fear, anxiety and worry in self and team members.
HUMOR- Ability to recognize and appreciate the funny side of adverse events.
ENTHUSIASM- Energetic and enthusiastic about the task at hand.
WISDOM- The ability to accurately evaluate the relative merit of a variety of ideas in deciding the best course of action.  Having learned from your own mistakes. Also, having listened to and learned from the experience and judgement of others.
INTELLIGENT- Able to comprehend a complex situation quickly and accurately.

Traits which promote teamwork and cooperation.
HUMILITY- Knowing your own weaknesses and limitations.  Avoiding boasting about your abilities.
SYMPATHY- Shows empathy and compassion for the feelings of others.
UNSELFISH- As concerned about the welfare of others as about your own.
INTEGRITY- Maintaining a high degree of honesty and moral character.
LOYALTY- Stays with the team even if the going gets tough.
UNDERSTANDING- Forgiving others for being less than perfect or for making errors.  Seeking solutions to problems rather than seeking blame.
CONSIDERATE- Polite, well mannered, follows the Golden Rule by treating others the way you would want to be treated.
PATIENCE-Willing to give team members the time and opportunity to achieve success.

Some of the above characteristics may in fact be mutually exclusive.  For example, a “black and white” thinker may be able to make quick decisions and have great confidence in them simply because they cannot see any other option.  A “gray” thinker may be more flexible and open to Group Input but may be unable to make an important decision.  One solution is to gain more balance by working on your weaknesses.  For example, a Black and White thinker should work hard on including team input before reaching a decision while a Gray thinker should work on making their own decisions without second guessing themselves.  But change will take time.  Therefore, another good solution to this dilemma is to seek out assistants who are your opposite and bring them with you on your outings.  This will give you a more complete and stronger team, but because you tend to become like the people you hang around with, you are likely to learn much more from your opposite than you would from being only with those who are like you.  Like life itself, diversity of attributes is stronger than even the best monoculture.