What do you think is the first essential trait of leadership?
“The first essential trait of leadership is positive energy-the capacity to go-go-go with healthy vigor and an upbeat attitude through good times and bad.” – Suzy Welch
In response to the quote above, I commented, “I do not agree. . .” Although I am not sure what I would put as the first essential trait of leadership, I am confident it would not be "positive energy,” at least not for me, with all due respect to Suzy Welch.
While it is not certain that this is the first essential trait of leadership, it does beg the question, “What is the first essential trait of leadership?” And this is the question the Chick-fil-A Leadercast rightfully asked in response to my comment of disagreement. Below is my response:
“Servant-hood would be a good choice for the first essential trait of a leader. A good leader will exercise selfless service, whether or not the leader "feels" like leading, "feels" positive, or has an “upbeat attitude.” A good leader will exercise good self-care in order to give their very best in service, which may mean resting, exercising restraint, delegating, asking for help, or humbly stepping aside when they recognize their inability to lead effectively in a particular situation.
"Positive energy" is an ambiguous concept. If an “upbeat attitude" is what is meant by "positive energy,” then I understand the concept being portrayed. However, I am fairly confident that a leader will find themselves at the end of their "leadership rope" if this is their first priority, or their first characteristic, of leadership. An upbeat attitude, or “positive energy,” though a great leadership attribute, will not compensate for timely and well-balanced exertion of service, skill, and humble restraint.”
Regardless of what our first essential trait of leadership is, it is important to recognize how we are thinking and leading through our presuppositions about leadership. What we think about and prioritize in leadership will affect our leadership. So we must reckon with the question, “What do you think is the first essential trait of leadership?” We could also ask, “What leadership trait is exhibited as a result of our leadership? Are we modeling effective leadership? Are we leading well? Are we thinking rightly about leadership?”