This is an age-old debate – are leaders born or are they made? People have discussed this topic ad nauseum and each person has his or her own opinions on this. But this issue becomes important when you are trying to get the right people to lead your organization.

It is important for HR to identify the qualities of leadership, or the lack of it, in a prospective candidate while recruiting or promoting. Good leaders can take the organization to great heights, poor leaders can crash it to the ground.

Combination of personality characteristics

Through my experience I would say that leaders are a combination of personality characteristics – some of which are inborn and some are acquired. For all leaders, there are some characteristics that are absolutely essential, even critical because without these traits, they can achieve absolutely nothing. These are integrity, intelligence and emotional maturity – all highly required if one has to set an example and lead the team to success in today’s highly competitive business world.

Apart from these “must-have” qualities there are five qualities that define a leader – some of these are basic personality traits; the person has these characteristics in his DNA or he does not. These qualities have to be inborn. Some other traits can be acquired through training and experience.

So what are these leadership qualities?

What I have found from my experience is that leaders have to have a positive upbeat attitude whatever the circumstances are like – good or bad. They are filled with positive energy, they are highly motivated and ready to take on the impossible. They always look on the brighter side of things and have no time to moan or whine. They turn every negative into an opportunity for learning and moving forward.

Secondly, they have the ability to inspire their people to put their best foot forward, to work to their full potential and make a positive contribution to the organization. People working under them feel motivated and energized and willing to take on the toughest tasks.

Passion in what they do

Thirdly leaders have passion in what they do, in what they believe – they are driven by their passion to do the best for their enterprise. They love people, they love their work, they love life. They are curious and eager to learn and are fired with the desire to do something.

All these traits are personality characteristics people are born with, these are not qualities you can learn easily – you either have them or you do not – and these are hallmarks of a good leader.

Ability to make tough decisions

There are two other qualities that are necessary for every leader and these are; one, the ability to make tough decisions, to be sure and focused on objectives and two, to be able to execute and implement. These are qualities that can be learnt – both these come from having self-confidence and belief in oneself. These qualities can be developed through practice and experience and the best way to learn is to jump in at the deep end. Exposing these people to situations that call for taking a tough call and executing actions that are beneficial to the organization is the best way to teach them because nothing teaches better than real life.

Not everyone can become a leader, but as a leader yourself, you have the responsibility of selecting and grooming future leaders. So when looking for future leaders, look for people with a positive attitude, lots of energy, passion and the ability to inspire an motivate and then train them to execute and take positive decisions in difficult situations.