Leadership Development Characteristics

Several characteristics can influence a leader’s effectiveness: self-regulation, goal orientation, self-efficacy, self-awareness, and implementation intention.

Self-regulation is one of the most essential skills a leader can have. Being able to control behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes allows leaders to adapt their behavior to specific situations and interactions. Self-regulation is similar to willpower, as both act like a muscle, meaning that leader can exercise it to make it stronger. For example, a leader can practice not to be the first one to speak even though it might be their automatic behavior. Learning how to control behavior in insignificant situations will build up the ability to control them when it is critical. Increasing a leader’s willpower and self-regulatory processes will increase a leader’s situational effectiveness as it helps a leader maintain consistency and focus to deal with challenges that arise.

A leader’s goal orientation plays a significant role in their approach to learning, which, in turn, increases leadership effectiveness. Leaders with a learning goal orientation focus on developing their competence through developing new skills. Such an orientation increases a leaders’ efforts and persistence when facing challenges, which, in turn, improves the chance of a successful outcome. Goal-orientation, therefore, indicates the current and future potential of a leader.

Internal beliefs about how well one can complete a task or handle a challenge is referred to as self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is important in leadership development because it forms the attitude towards development, which guides if a leader will participate in developmental opportunities. In other words, if a leader has a self-efficacy view that they are able to communicate effectively in all situations, this leader is unlikely to participate in opportunities to further increase their communication skills.

Self-awareness is related to self-efficacy as it revolves around the understanding of a leader’s own strengths and development areas. Self-awareness essential to leadership effectiveness because leaders need to be aware of how others respond to their communication, behavior, and leadership styles. Understanding other people’s reactions through their self-awareness, leaders can adapt their behavior to the needs of each situation and person.

Implementation intention relates both to goal orientation and self-regulation. One of the challenges of leadership is starting a task or finishing one. Implementation intention strategies can help leaders with this challenge by establishing certain behaviors that lead to goal completion. Whereas goal intention is focused on reaching a specific outcome, implementation intention revolves around performing a particular behavior when encountering a certain situation. For example, a leader’s goal intention might be to stop procrastinating on answering challenging emails, while their implementation intention might be to write a draft immediately after reading a challenging email and rereading and sending the answer an hour later. Implementation orientation guides leaders towards behavioral actions that are easy to understand and act upon. Such an orientation will guide leaders to adapt their behaviors to be more effective and will allow them to fulfill their goals proactively.

When looking at this list of leadership development characteristics, which could you further develop in order to increase your leadership potential and effectiveness?



-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.

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