Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline … Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader. — Sun Tzu
When viewed academically, leadership is a behavior that is studied, with many models and theories dissecting its psychological underpinnings into a number of defined and accepted characteristics. However, even with these accepted characteristics, practical leadership is a difficult thing to comprehend; because not only must the individual possess many of the accepted characteristics, they must also possess some instinct as to who/what/when/where/why&how to apply them.
For instance, given the need to delegate a task to an individual, “the when” is likely highly depends on “the what” (the task) and the “who” (the individual). In the simplest sense, one individual may be more prepared at that moment for the task; but, in fact, this individual may not receive the task because “the where” may take him/her away from a current local project. It is up to the leader to evaluate the possibilities and make a decision with the highest positive outcomes and lowest (anticipated) negative consequences.
To complicate matters, this scenario is probably one of the simplest that the practical leader faces, and is just one of many that they are facing at any given moment in time. Thus, the inner-workings of a leader, and the manners in which they are applied in multi-dimensional circumstances, may never be fully understood. The good news is that the practical leader doesn’t particularly care. They just lead, and like anything else, they become better at it through experience. Consequently, it is up to each leader to identify their personal leadership characteristics to capitalize on strengths and improve upon weaknesses.