By Samantha Armstrong/ AS Graduate Advisor

I have often sought to understand what makes great leaders tick. What are some of the characteristics that tip the scales for some individuals making them seem like they were born to lead? I’ve compiled a list of five traits from George Mason University’s Center for Service and Leadership below. According to them, exemplary leaders share the following behavioral practices:

1. Exemplary leaders challenge the process. They are pioneers; they seek out new opportunities and are willing to change the status quo. They innovate, experiment, and explore ways to improve their organizations. Such leaders view mistakes as learning experiences and are prepared to meet any challenges that may come their way. Challenging the process requires two leader commitments: (a) to search for opportunities and (b) to experiment and take risks. I challenge you to search for opportunities and take risks!

2. Exemplary leaders inspire a shared vision. They look beyond what is right in front of them and envision the future with a positive and hopeful outlook. Exemplary leaders are expressive; their genuine natures and communication skills attract followers. They show others how mutual interests can be met through commitment to a common purpose. Inspiring a shared vision requires leaders to commit to (a) envisioning the future and to (b) enlist the support of others. Be Inspiring!

3. Exemplary leaders enable others to act. They engage others via spirit-nurturing relationships that are based on mutual trust. Exemplary leaders stress collaborative goals. They actively involve others in planning and permit others to make their own decisions. These leaders make sure their followers feel strong and capable. Enabling others to act requires two leader commitments: (a) fostering collaboration and (b) strengthening others. Collaborate and let others shine!

4. Exemplary leaders model what they want to happen. They are clear about their values and beliefs. They keep people and projects on course by consistently behaving according to these values and by modeling the behaviors they expect from others. They plan thoroughly and divide projects into achievable steps, thus creating opportunities for small wins. By focusing on key priorities, such leaders make it easier for others to achieve goals. To model their way requires leaders to commit to (a) setting an example, and (b) planning small wins. Remember to set manageable goals and plan for success!

5. Exemplary leaders encourage the heart. They encourage people to persist in their efforts by recognizing accomplishments and contributions to the organization’s vision. They let others know that their efforts are appreciated and they express pride in their team’s accomplishments. Exemplary leaders find ways to celebrate achievements. They nurture team spirit, which enables people to sustain continued efforts. Encouraging the heart requires leaders to be committed to: (a) recognizing contributions, and (b) celebrating accomplishments. Appreciate those around you!

For more information on how to excel as a leader or to find out more about characteristics that define leaders, visit the Student Activities Leadership Library on the floor 4 of the Viking Union, or check out the third edition of The Leadership Challenge, by J.M. Kouzes & B.Z. Posner.