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The key traits all good leaders have (that every aspiring manager should work toward)

If you’re an aspiring leader, you have a lot on your plate. Not only do you need to perform your current job well, but you also have to show leadership potential. Once you get there, the tasks get even greater because you may have a team under you (and even if you’re not a direct people manager, you’ll need to lead projects or teams). It can all be dizzying. But when thinking about the top qualities of leadership, there are a few that stand out from the pack. 

20 – The ability to think on your feet

Thinking on your feet is a top quality of leadership

This scenario could easily happen to you as a new leader or manager: the CEO wants to give you a chance to step into your role. Or perhaps you are at a client meeting and the company wants to officially introduce you to the client. 

So your manager asks you to deliver a presentation for 10 minutes on the latest project updates your team has been working on. So far, so good. But suddenly, your team is called away on an emergency and you have to go alone. Now, you aren’t speaking for 10 minutes – you need to fill the entire two hour meeting agenda. You figure this out on the ride over, so you scramble to remember roughly what everyone else was going to talk about and how you’re going to frame the fact that you’re arriving alone (after all, the client was expecting everybody). 

In another example, it’s possible that your well-thought out plan completely fails for a new marketing initiative and it’s back to the drawing board… two days before the campaign launch date. You’ve got a lot of work to do and little time for intense “brainstorming” sessions. You’ve got to think on your feet. 

Thinking on your feet like this is something that all good leaders are able to do. They know what their own messages are, but they also pay attention to everything else. It may never be necessary to turn a 10 minute presentation into a two hour one, but thinking on your feet can happen in a variety of ways. 

How to get better at thinking on your feet: There are a couple things you can do to think on your feet more efficiently. 

For one, have basic frameworks in the back of your mind that you can draw on. For example, a framework that helps you plan a talk or a framework that helps you test out new ideas. When times get tough, you can pull out these frameworks and immediately get to action. 

Secondly, be observant. Look around at what’s going on. Pay attention to what people say in meetings. Keep your ear to the ground, so the speak, to learn what other people’s initiatives are. This isn’t about spying or gossiping. Instead, it’s for your own knowledge and context. It will not only help you make your work more integrated with what everyone else is doing, you’ll also be more prepared if an emergency comes up and you need to handle it. 

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