While not all leaders will develop their talents and abilities to the same level, all successful leaders more or less begin with the same foundation. Here’s the thing – the foundational elements of leadership require no skill or talent whatsoever.

Clearly the difference possessed by all great leaders is that they refine, develop, and build from their foundation – they don’t ignore it or take it for granted.

However, the most important thing I want to communicate today is that I’d take an unrefined leader with a strong foundation over a slick leader with a weak foundation eleven times out of ten.  I’ll share 6 leadership characteristics that require zero talent or skill.

What we’re experiencing today is too much form over substance – leaders lacking in foundation, but replete with social/political savvy. You can work with someone where the basics are in place, but lacking certain fundamentals, there really isn’t much you can do. Organizations would be well served to move past the infatuation with beauty contests and look for real strength in the areas that matter. In the list that follows I’m going to share with you 6 leadership characteristics that require absolutely no talent or ability, but that must be present in order to succeed over the long-haul as a leader.

  1. Show-up: You can’t make a difference if you don’t show up. It requires zero talent to be present mentally and physically. In most sports I’m aware of you cannot play if you don’t suit-up and show-up. Leadership is a participation sport and never works well in absentia.
  2. Care: There is great truth in the old axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Extending basic human courtesy requires no talent – just a willingness to behave in a decent manner. It’s highly probable that you don’t like rude, elitist, arrogant, dismissive, or condescending people, so don’t become one yourself.
  3. Hustle: I learned this lesson at an early age…I had a basketball coach take me aside after I finished far ahead of the pack after a long set of down-and-backs. He pointed to a slower teammate who was still running his lines and said, “he may not be as fast, but he’s giving 100% – Did you?” He went on to say, “it takes no talent to hustle and your team deserves better.” I don’t ever remember dogging-it again.
  4. Follow Through: It takes no ability to simply do what you say you’re going to do. Nothing is more important for a leader than keeping promises and commitments. A leader who fails to understand this will never create the trust bond necessary to lead effectively. It’s just not that hard to deliver on your promises, and if you have no intention of doing so, don’t make the commitment, to begin with.
  5. Positive Attitude: To the one, the best leaders I’ve ever known all smile, listen, engage, have a positive outlook, and have a high energy level. This is a mindset thing, not a talent thing – it’s as simple as making the choice to be pleasant.
  6. Do the Right Thing: While it will often require courage, it takes no talent or ability to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Real leaders don’t compromise when it comes to core values. It takes no skill to tell the truth and great leaders will always forgo doing things right where such actions conflict with doing the right thing.

There is no doubt that the list above could be expanded as there are large numbers of leadership characteristics that require no talent or ability, just desire. This is where you come in – it’s your turn to share. Please add to the list by adding your contributions in the comments section below. Let’s see how many leadership characteristics we can come up with that require no talent…

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