We have all heard the term, “She’s a born leader” and it makes you wonder sometimes, can a person learn to be a good, quality leader or do you really have to be born that way?

I believe that life is much simpler than most of us tend to make it and am always looking for the elementary way of looking at things. For me, it makes life more enjoyable and fulfilling rather than complicated and frustrating.

My take is that if you possess 5 basic traits you have the ability to become an incredible leader. While I readily admit that we could easily list more traits of a leader, I believe these five must be inherent or adopted at a very young age and create the foundation upon which a strong leader is developed.

1. Honest
2. Forward-looking
3. Competent
4. Inspiring
5. Intelligent

In several of the leadership programs I have been involved; one of the books we used was the “Leadership Challenge” by Kouzes and Posner to guide us through some leadership theory. In their book they list 20 traits/qualities of a leader and the above are the top five.

Honesty as a leadership trait: Now-a-days, the internet, twitter and face book will expose any mis-step or indiscretion a leader might make. It is not just a matter of not telling a lie, but rather, more about being forthright and venerable about yourself as a whole. People are way more likely to follow a leader they perceive as sincere and real than one who is simply a leader because of their position.

Forward-looking: All strong leaders have the ability to look forward with vision. The effective leader has the ability to communicate the vision to the group and to interpret what the meaning of the change will be for both the group and for the individuals moving forward. The leader does not make promises they cannot keep. There is a risk involved with being forward-looking. One risk is that your vision may not ever happen which may lead the group to lose confidence in you. Yet, most great leaders have a way of taking their group to places others thought were not possible. In addition to the leader having great vision, they must posses the ability to communicate that clear vision to the group. When she shares the plan to achieve the vision with the group and the individuals can see themselves in the big picture, they are far more likely to band together, as a team, in the efforts of achieving the goals necessary to reach the vision.

It is not necessary to be totally competent in the entire organization, especially in today’s world of specialization, however, they must demonstrate their competent in the area they are focused upon. In this regard, the leader cannot be arrogant in their demonstration of competency but rather she may give credit to the group for reaching certain plateaus within the organization. For example:”We set a goal for 1,000 sales and this team was outstanding, accomplishing 1,125, what an incredible team!”

Inspiration as a leadership trait: This is a super powerful trait to posses and may be the one trait more easily learned than any of the others. It is the single most necessary trait and with this trait alone, someone can lead a group for a while. Inspiration is a form of charisma in interacting and communicating with groups and individuals. Story telling is the most common way to inspire and share emotional feelings that will stimulate the group to move forward as a team. Ask yourself, “who inspires me and how do they do it”? Once you are clear on this, don’t be afraid to emulate what they do and learn to make it a part of yourself.

Intelligence: This is an interesting trait to talk about because almost all people believe they are intelligent. Yes, intelligence can be learned and it can be a long hard road. When we talk intelligence we are speaking of the practical implementation of gained knowledge. So, for simplicity, a person with lots of knowledge in a specific area, is not necessarily intelligent and yet may be quite knowledgeable. The person with a basic understanding of things who has the ability to apply that understanding to new challenges with similar parameters thereby demonstrating their power of reason would likely be considered intelligent. Lastly, it is the leading of others to the information and answers that will demonstrate the leader’s intelligence. This can often be done by asking questions and then acknowledging the intelligence of others.

There are many books worth reading on the subject of Leadership and I am a believer that we must become a student of whatever it is we wish to focus on. Being a leader also means that we acknowledge life is an ongoing learning opportunity and that we remain students for a lifetime.

When we focus on learning, life remains fairly simple!