Leadership Qualities – The Two “I”s of Leadership

Leadership Qualities

In some ways the leadership qualities title is a little misleading as Two “I”s could very well symbolize a fixation on the self, but with a little bit of creativity you could also see them as the Two EYEs! This piece is about a combination of both. We should hopefully be able to view (Eyes) ourselves (I) as Leaders and analyze how we can get better at what we do.

What is Leadership?

It is your ability to help people explore their potential and hopefully break the self-imposed boundaries of their capabilities. It’s about being able to see what makes a person “tick” and then giving them the opportunity to exploit that strength. And, if you can get them to go beyond what they thought was possible, that is real leadership.

If you look at great leaders through our history you will notice this thread.

I will refer to one of them: Mahatma Gandhi. He led a nation to a vision which none thought was possible. He wasn’t blessed with great oratory skills or with great physical attributes. He had his weaknesses but there were two things which made him different. He had belief and he was honest enough to admit the shortcomings of his methods.

He was clear to communicate what he wanted (words and action) and was willing to pay the cost for following that road.

Leadership Qualities: 2 “I”s – Intent and Integrity

Simple words and quite honestly pretty easy to execute. They mean: be yourself. Trust yourself to be able to do the right thing and do it in a way that leverages your strengths.

People look for honesty in approach (integrity) and knowing where they are headed (Intent). As long as we can demonstrate these two things (leadership qualities), they will easily deal with our other areas of “opportunities.”

You will have disagreements (like any good team should have) but these will be frank and fair. At the end, the team will work together to get things done.

The 2 “I”s in practice

Going back to Mahatma Gandhi, he had a vision, he believed in it and was honest enough to agree that there could be costs involved with that path.

He stayed with his beliefs and was able to clearly tell people where he stood. The Chauri Chaura incident is a classic example.

In 1922, India was in the middle of the Non Cooperation movement against the British Rulers. Many believed that India was on the verge of independence. Gandhiji was now the undisputed leader of the Independence movement and the whole country now believed in his methods of nonviolence and Satyagrah.

During this time, when the movement was at its peak, a mob of Indian protestors burnt down a police station and killed all the policemen inside. Gandhiji called off the movement (as this incident was against the value of nonviolence) and India had to wait another 25 years for its independence.

He believed in his vision—non violence—and was willing to demonstrate Integrity with it. A lot of us have disagreements with it (as did people who lived in those times – Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru etc.) but none of them or us stopped looking at Gandhiji as our leader. We understood, we worked together and got the result we wanted, the way we wanted it.

That is the power of the 2Is, these leadership qualities help you tide over your own imperfections and bind a great team together.

In very simple terms, people prefer to work with a person who has a set of core values and lives them. It does not matter whether we agree with them or not. The ones who will stay on the team will believe and will work with you to get it done.

The concept is simple, people have belief when they can trust you to be honest (Integrity) and also to work for their well-being (Intent). Once you have achieved that, they will do wonders, they will not think about pressing the button when you ask them to.

They will trust their team members to do their jobs, they will trust you to manage the stakeholders. That’s the hallmark of successful teams—where each guy is giving his best and not thinking about how he will get impacted if the others don’t perform—he has belief!


So the next time you are dealing with people remember to be Honest and show intent. They should be able to see that what you are driving towards is good for them and other stakeholders (Intent) and they should feel that you believe in what you are doing (Integrity).

Once these are done, the rest is relatively simple—put your feet up and let the team give you outstanding results—do remember to step in when things show signs of slipping. Those would be hard calls, but if you make them, you will have a better team and you will be a better leader. If not, nobody will take you seriously.

Read more Leadership Qualities in our post – Qualities of a good leader.

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About the Author

Vikas Srivastava is a post graduate in Management and has worked in the Finance and Outsourcing domain over the past 15 years. He has an avid interest in human relationships, global cultures & history, and believes that these are a great source of learnings in the area of leadership.

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