Young professionals aspire to be leaders, and look up to those who exhibit leadership qualities. They want to better themselves and, in turn, be a leader for someone else down the road. This begs the question…what makes someone a leader?

Some people think being a boss or being in charge is what makes you a leader, but in reality, it’s much more than that. For some, leadership is a trait they’re born with; for others it’s something they’re taught. Being a good leader takes the right attitude, patience and organization. It requires you to be connected and informed. It requires you to be trusted, trusting and dependable. And perhaps one of the best leadership qualities is to lead by example. Here are some traits of good leaders.

Leaders have a good attitude. Your attitude is a direct reflection of who you are. In order for people to trust, like and respect you, your attitude needs to be sincere and believable. A recent study done at the Toulouse School of Economics in France shows that a genuine smile is a sign of having a good attitude. Smiling plays an important role in how people judge your character and general trustworthiness. Genuine, convincing smiles elicit trust because they are considered a signal of positive character, and smiles have proven to induce cooperation in situations requiring mutual trust.

Leaders ask questions and listen. This creates a dialogue and keeps the lines of communication open. It is important to communicate with clients and customers on a regular basis—not just when you need something. It’s been reported that listening is the most neglected skill in the communication process. Being a good listener can help improve interpersonal relationships with coworkers and friends, increase your professional image, close a communication gap that could otherwise result in misunderstanding, and increase your knowledge.

Leaders can multitask. A good leader knows how much he or she can handle (work, volunteer projects, family commitments…). Most importantly, a leader knows when to say no. Don’t take on too much, because you may not be able to put in the attention needed. Being a good leader means paying attention to all of the details that a project, job or task requires. Leaders are typically multitaskers, and that requires a great deal of organization.

Leaders are well connected in their community. Whether through volunteer efforts or financial support, a good leader is involved and connected. They tend to lend a helping hand before being asked to participate. They are committed to their community and realize that if their community is thriving, their business will be more likely to thrive, too.

Leaders are well-informed. Leaders pay close attention to the news and want to stay informed of what is happening around them. They are always learning. If you are informed, you’re less likely to be caught off-guard by something that may affect you or your business. Also because current events are common topics of conversation, being informed will help you make general banter and avoid those dreaded lulls in a conversation.

Leaders are part of a team. A good leader needs a good team. Make your team feel like they are an important part of the organization. People want to feel they are important and necessary for the survival of the organization. Include your team in your planning and problem-solving process. People with a personal interest in a project are more likely to want to see it succeed.

Leaders are all ages. Being a good leader doesn’t happen because you’re older than everyone else in the office or have been with the company for decades. A leader can be any age. Leaders take initiative, get involved and demonstrate many of the positive characteristics listed above, whether they are 20 years old or 60.

Leadership isn’t something you should keep to yourself. Be a good leader and teach someone else to do the same. Lead by example and pass it on. iBi

The Young Professionals Organization of Greater Peoria is a program of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce.