1. Cultivate a relationship with a trusted mentor. This person can come from a variety of sources; from a former boss to a professional coach/consultant. For the relationship to be effective it must consist of the following:
Your mentor must be willing to be honest about your strengths and brutally honest about your weaknesses. It will serve no purpose to your development if all you receive are platitudes. While we build on our strengths we grow as we improve our weaknesses. Without this commitment from both parties, the mentoring is little more than an occasional nice lunch.
Your mentor must have gone before you in terms of experience. Asking a peer to mentor is the definition of the 'blind leading the blind'. Don't shy away from approaching someone that you may consider 'out of your league' as you may be surprised at how willing others are to help out someone who genuinely wants to improve.
Finally, your mentor must be willing to make the first call and to hold you accountable. Many people are more than willing to share an opinion when asked. Very few will be proactive when it is primarily to someone else's benefit. You need someone who will care about you.
Thanks to Thom Leiper for reminding me of this critical element.
2. These two ingredients are common to every successful leader...honesty and integrity. The leaders on your team will be always be looking to you as the standard bearer. That is, to what degree are you willing to compromise either characteristic in order to succeed. Do you have a set of principles which are inviolable? Or do you function on the basis of situational ethics?
If it is the former, your leaders will always know how you will respond and what they can expect. Accordingly they can operate with confidence because the ground rules have been set.
If it is the latter, expect hesitancy, awkwardness, even distrust because they cannot be certain that the rules have not shifted.
Be consistently honest and operate with integrity. It always pays dividends.
3. YOU MUST BE THE 'GLASS HALF FULL' PERSON.
No situation is perfect; you will always encounter difficulties, failure and disappointment. For many, these obstacles seem insurmountable. For the inspirational leader they are opportunities.
I am not advocating a "Pollyanna" attitude towards these times. Indeed, the more realistic you are in your analysis of the problem, the more likely you are to work towards an achievable solution.
Accordingly, it is your responsibility to keep the team focused and engaged. By always looking at the glass as half full you inspire others to share your view. It is not always easy, but it is always vitally important.
I am sure that there is a legitimate argument to be made to include other characteristics. But for me, these are the top six. If you can master them, or at least acknowledge them and work towards mastery, then you have taken the largest steps necessary to lead leaders. Best of luck.