Throughout my career, I have developed a personal philosophy of what it means to be a leader. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I have come to believe that leadership traits are gender neutral, and that the required attributes evolve as circumstances and organizations change.

Leadership is a concept difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. From my experience, an effective leader must inspire people, establish a sense of direction, create change, and anticipate customer needs while effectively balancing her personal and professional lives.

In addition to these responsibilities, a leader helps find the right lens and the right perspective. It is the leader’s job to find the next right answer and make the tough decisions to get there. But above all, leaders arepassionate and committed to what they do. Leadership doesn’t just happen while you areat work; it’s a 24/7 state of being.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several great leaders. While the list of attributes they shareis long, four critical traits stand out above the rest:

  • HONESTY–Nothing is more important than personal integrity and ethical behavior. I’m not talking just about what is legal, I’m talking about what is right. You never get a second chance to be trusted and respected.
  • PASSION–Be passionate about everything you do. You should play as hard as you work, and you should have fun at both. In my experience, the most successful business people have incredibly interesting personal lives. They are often well traveled, well read, have exciting hobbies and interests, and are generous with their time and money.
  • EXCELLENCE–Hold yourself and your people accountableto a high standard of performance. Lead by example, and never ask your employees to work harder than you are willing to work yourself.
  • FLEXIBILITY–Be flexible, open minded, and cooperative …no matter what! Embrace change and uncertainty. Continue to brutally reassess everything, be proactive, and act quickly to adapt to the changing marketplace.

These four traits are critical components of my leadership philosophy; they continue to prove valuable and relevant. As you develop into the leaders of tomorrow, Iencourage you to consider how these traits relate to you and your vision of leadership.