You Can’t Send A Duck To Eagle School

Personality Traits of Leadership

Not long ago a client was sharing with me her frustration with regards to management training. She was faced with spending approximately $5,000 – $7,000 to send one of her directors to The Center For Creative Leadership for management training. Her frustration and disappointment comes when three months later she notices that the director has failed to incorporate the new management skills, but rather falls back into her old style of management. This raises the question as to what personality traits can a manager look for in an employee that might indicate leadership potential? Organizational Psychologists’ opinions can vary but most of the research agrees on at least four of the most important (and most difficult to find) personality traits that are indicative of leadership.

Intellectually Agile

It should not be necessarily assumed that intellectual agility implies an extensive formal education. The employee is relatively bright and able to grasp abstract concepts that would be crucial in his/her reasoning ability and quality of his decision-making. Their thinking is usually well organized and carefully thought out. He/she enjoys brainstorming, is receptive to the idea of others, and can follow where those ideas could lead. They are typically abreast of new developments in their industry and enjoy learning in general.

Dealing With Ambiguity

Typically, the employee can cope effectively with change and can embrace change as an opportunity for enhancements to policies, procedures, or methods of operation. He/she can feel comfortable making decisions even though they frequently do not have what might be considered totally sufficient data. They are comfortable taking calculated risks when there is no clear solution or outcome. He/she can continue to multi-task and not feel like each project must be completed before moving on to a different challenge.


The employee displays the talent to present new and unique ideas. Their ideas tend to be viewed as original and are valued in brainstorming sessions. They are not afraid to take risks nor are they afraid to be seen by other employees as bold, different, and perhaps eccentric at times. They are likely to enjoy creative problem-solving in order to find new solutions to old problems. Creativity sometimes goes hand-in-hand with the ability to visualize new opportunities for an organization. They think outside the realm of a manager and talk about possibilities or perhaps a future purpose for the organization.

Action Oriented

The employee is constantly striving for results and accomplishing the tasks at hand. They display initiative and will tend to take action without procrastination or feeling like they first have to get permission to act to cover their backside. They are decision makers whose primary focus is getting the task accomplished in a timely fashion. There is a quiet self-confidence in his/her demeanor that instills a sense of trust in peers and may serve to help motivate employees. They manifest what might be considered as “management courage” when it comes to making unpopular decisions, getting involved in conflict resolution, confronting unproductive employees, or even disagreeing in a respectful manner with superiors.