In Leadership, There Are Critical Traits #succession

Richard Shrapnel's Orienteering Succession blog

‘Worthy leadership is founded in character’ is an expression that reflects the importance of developing the right character traits to underpin the most effective leadership possible. And while there are positive traits, there are also negative traits that will weaken and undermine leadership performance.  


Active Knowledge Question:

In leadership, do you focus on your underlying character to lift your leadership performance?


If we look back into history, we will find clear lessons on the traits that we all should develop to be effective leaders. I’ve drawn from a series of works that reflect the essence of classical Chinese thought on strategy in which leadership is a cornerstone. These works reflect practical knowledge that has been consolidated over a period of some 1200 years and stood the test of time for another 2000 years. Leadership tested in the establishment of empires and command of armies in combat — leadership which was dependent upon winning the hearts of the people.

In business, success depends upon winning the combined talent and effort of everyone working within and with that business. And that requires establishing trust leading to full engagement. This is where the character of a leader becomes vital.

The strengths in character that should always be developed are:

  • Courage to act and take the risks to enable the business to achieve its goals.
  • Discipline to enforce the rules within the business in the pursuit of purpose, vision and culture.
  • Sincerity and humanity so that everyone in the business knows that you are authentic, committed to the purpose and vision of the business. And that you will support and reward them for their efforts and understand their needs as people. 
  • Wisdom to enable you to quickly recognise circumstances in the business environment and lead necessary change expediently.

The weaknesses of character that should be recognised and avoided at all times are:

  • Cowardice will only lead to lost opportunities. A leader who is scared of failure will not be able to lead a business through change.
  • False pride is readily manipulated by a competitor and reflects those who will quickly place their own wellbeing, image, and feelings above that of the business. 
  • Impulsiveness can be provoked into rage, negates wisdom, and reflects someone who can be easily exploited and led.
  • Recklessness will only destroy a business and is often found in bravado and overconfidence. Courage must be moderated by wisdom. 
  • Weak compassion which leads to a relaxing of the need for strict conduct and compliance with purpose, vision and culture, and a weakening of competitiveness.


Leadership commences with looking inward and recognising the areas where you need to strengthen your character so that you may step forward as a worthy leader. 


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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel