What makes a leader?

Innumerable lists of the characteristics of effective leaders have been compiled. One such list, by Miles and Priest (1990) shown in Table 44.1, identifies seven skills and seven attributes that can be found in an effective leader.

Ringer (1995, p.3) added ‘passion and aliveness’ to the list of characteristics, suggesting that these attributes are ‘small but vital parts of the interpersonal and intrapersonal domain of leadership’, and are often overlooked by more traditional listings of technical skills and attributes. Letting your own passion and enthusiasm for the outdoors shine through in your dealings with other people can be the inspiration that others admire and may wish to emulate.

As a developing leader, it is useful to look at a list like this and identify your own strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses are obviously where you need to further your development. It is important to remember that to be an effective leader you do not need to excel in all the skills and attributes—your own unique set of strengths and weaknesses are what gives you your identity as a leader. However, nearly all leaders will improve by actively addressing weaknesses and trying to build on strengths.

Table 44.1 Characteristics of effective leaders

Technical activity skills Motivational philosophy and interest
Safety skills Physical fitness
Organisational skills Healthy self concept and ego
Environmental skills Flexible leadership style
Problem solving and decision-making skills Awareness and empathy for others
Instructional skills Personable traits and behaviour awareness
Group management skills Judgement based on experience