Work Traits


Assertiveness means having a strong hold on rules and principles, as well as guiding others towards upholding them too.
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What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness means establishing and asserting rules and values is important to you in life.

You’ll operate from the concept of one universal rulebook, believing that the behavioral standards or cultural norms that you hold yourself to also apply to others around you. 

The more important these values are to you, the more you’ll request, tell or even impose them on others. You place high importance on setting explicit values, principles and modes of conduct on others. This can be a helpful trait in companies that need leadership, especially during times of adversity.

We call it: Assertiveness

Level of importance to know the rules and standards and your comfort levels with telling others what is expected of them.

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.

Rosalynn Carter

Leaders known for their assertiveness

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King was an American minister and activist who was one of the most important leaders in the mid-20th-century US civil rights movement. 

Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work and is remembered for  his efforts in advancing civil rights through non-violent methods. His assertiveness in his values was most famously demonstrated in the ‘I have a dream’ speech, which called for racial and economic equality for all. 

This isn’t to say he never had doubts. MLK would regularly undergo bouts of introspection and even depression, but his convictions helped him strengthen his courage to pursue them.

Emma Watson

Emma Watson is an English actor, activist, and model. She rose to fame playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films and since went on to star in numerous Hollywood and independent films. 

Alongside her acting career, Watson is an assertive and passionate activist, fighting for gender equality and women’s rights across the world, particularly in the areas of education and political participation. 

As she explained in a 2016 interview: "I am willing to be seen. I am willing to speak up. I am willing to keep going...I am willing to go forward even when I feel alone."

Emma Watson
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Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, also known as The Crocodile Hunter, was an Australian zookeeper, TV personality, environmentalist and conservationist. His wildlife documentaries helped him become a global icon for animal welfare, and his enthusiastic demeanour encouraged many others to campaign for environmental causes. 

Irwin never stopped asserting the importance of conservation: “My job, my mission, the reason I’ve been put onto this planet, is to save wildlife. And I thank you for comin’ with me. Yeah, let’s get ’em!”

Since his death in 2006, his legacy has lived on through his family, who broadcast educational conservation-based TV and operate the world famous Australia Zoo.

The benefits of assertiveness

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You don’t have to wait for someone’s instruction to get things moving; you’ll take the reins yourself.

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Others are inspired by your leadership and are happy to follow your instructions and examples.

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You’ll have a strong moral compass as well as being the upholder of organizational values that others might be tempted to ignore.

The blind spots of assertiveness

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Once you’ve made your decision, you’re unlikely to stray from it - which can be dangerous when you make a mistake.

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Black and white

You don’t do things by halves, which means you can sometimes see things from an over-simplified, binary viewpoint.

illustration of a blind spot of a trait


You might occasionally be accused of moralizing and wielding your power in an unfair or disproportionate way.

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How to be more assertive

1) Consider your values.

Step back and take a moment to think about what your values really are. Do they fit with those of the organization? What do you think is right and what’s wrong? What are the roots of your feelings? Do they come from optimism or fear? 

Sometimes all it takes is a little self-reflection to really fire up your sense of purpose. The more in tune with your values you are, the more likely you’ll be to stand up for them and want to impose them upon your working methods. 

The more confident you are of your values, the better you’ll be at explaining them and persuading others to join the cause.

2) Speak out more.

It might seem daunting to assert your opinion in front of others. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. So take advantage of opportunities - whether that’s in meetings, online, or during calls - to say what you really think about other peoples’ statements, proposals and opinions. 

As long as you’re respectful and articulate, it won’t make you any enemies. Not only does this grow your confidence in the act of speaking up, but more importantly, it highlights you as someone worth listening to. By speaking up more, your peers and colleagues will start to see you as someone with courage in their convictions. For those that are reticent to speak up themselves, you can become inspirational, and they can flock to you as someone who can stand up and represent them. 

Sure, challenging orthodoxy can be a little challenging - but if your principles are strong enough, you know you’re right to take a stand.

3) Seize opportunities when you can.

As the saying goes, the pain of regret is worse than the pain of failure - so make sure to minimize your potential to regret missed chances. 

When there’s a gap in a meeting - say what you want to say, before everyone moves on. When you catch sight of an authority figure walking between appointments, take that moment to speak to them and (figuratively) get your foot in the door. 

These chances don’t come along often, and despite conventional logic it’s sometimes better to act first, and trust yourself to figure out what to do next. Time is of the essence -  so make sure to assert yourself without hesitation.

4) Grow your confidence over time.

Confidence is closely linked to assertiveness, and it grows in tandem with the above activities. Firstly, it starts with having confidence in your ideas and values, which comes from introspection. 

Then, it grows more with exposure. Taking opportunities to speak out when you feel issues need confronting will do you favors in the long run, as you’re gradually exposed to being in the spotlight. At first it seems unnatural to stand up in a meeting and voice your opinion, or to push back on a strategy call that you don’t agree with. 

But like any activity that involves conquering fear and standing your ground, each time you do it will be less scary - and eventually, it’ll feel as natural as getting out of bed.

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