8 essential leadership traits you need to thrive in today's uncertain economy

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Hold true to your convictions. Think a few steps ahead. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

There's a lot of insecurity in the working world these days.

Artificial intelligence and automation are threatening to replace humans in fields that once seemed secure. Mass lay-offs continue at some of the world's most iconic companies. And the rise of the "sharing economy" and the "gig economy" is disrupting industries and transforming how work gets done, and by whom.

There's a radical shift underway from traditional jobs-for-life, to a world where people are trading their skills and time independent of the corporate structures that have (and still do) dominate so much of our working lives.

Which is all to say that all of us need to become leaders, even if our formal job title doesn't reflect that role. Yes, many leaders do end up with the big title and the corner office. Many leaders do have large teams of people that report directly, or indirectly, to them.

But to be a leader, you don't need the traditional trappings of corporate success. To be a leader, you don't need to have a fancy title or have a corner (or window-facing) office all to yourself. You don't need to have armies of people doing your bidding.

RELATED: Successful traits of the nation's richest people:

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21 traits of highly successful billionaires
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21 traits of highly successful billionaires

1. Oprah Winfrey: Grateful

The former queen of daytime television doesn’t let her $3.1 billion net worth get to her head. Despite her abundant success, Oprah Winfrey's constant gratitude is truly humbling. In fact, Winfrey has had a gratitude journal for at least 10 years.

"I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibrations," she wrote in the November 2012 issue of "O, The Oprah Magazine." "You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots."

2. Warren Buffett: Patient

Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in America behind Bill Gates, built his roughly $65 billion net worth by simply taking his time. Not a fan of trendy stocks or knee-jerk reactions to market fluctuations, Buffett has a “set it and forget it” investing philosophy.

On the "Dan Patrick Show," Buffett said one of the biggest money mistakes when it comes to money is trying to get rich quick.

“It’s pretty easy to get well-to-do slowly," he said. "But it’s not easy to get rich quick.”

3. Bill Gates: Humble

If you want to become a billionaire and be like the richest man in the world, practice being charitable — and humble.

Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have devoted their money and time to improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. But despite his generous donations, Gates recognizes that others are making contributions that he says are more meaningful than his.

“I’m not giving up food, or vacation, or a trip to the movies” to give charitably, Bill Gates said in a video interview for Reddit. “I essentially sacrifice nothing that I want, and there are people who are out in the field and they're giving more ... they're the biggest philanthropists.”

4. Larry Ellison: Inquisitive

Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle Corporation, says his inquisitive nature is responsible for his success.

“The most important aspect of my personality, as far as determining my success goes, has been my questioning conventional wisdom, doubting experts and questioning authority,” Ellison said in an interview posted on Achievement.org. “While that can be painful in your relationships with your parents and teachers, it’s enormously useful in life.”

5. Michael Bloomberg: Brave

When he was 39 years old, Michael Bloomberg was fired from the only full-time job he’d had and loved. But, he took a big risk and started his own company based on an "unproven idea that nearly everyone thought would fail: making financial information available to people, right on their desktops," he wrote in an article on LinkedIn.

“Life is too short to spend your time avoiding failure,” he wrote.

6. Mark Zuckerberg: Persistent

In a Q&A, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked, "What's the most important secret to success?" His answer: "Don't give up," reports Business Insider.

Thanks to his determination and persistence, Zuckerberg built a superior product with Facebook, which continues to reign and push boundaries in the social media space. Today, the social media giant has a market cap of nearly $315 billion while Zuckerberg has a personal net worth of more than $50 billion, reports Forbes.

7. Sheldon Adelson: Tenacious

Sheldon Adelson, the CEO and chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, started his business career at the age of 12 when he bought his first newspaper corner thanks to a $200 loan from his uncle, reports Forbes.

Adelson had a few ventures, some of which were successful. However, he did lose a fortune — twice, reported The New Yorker in 2008. Despite his losses, Adelson's tenacity never wore thin. In his mid-30s, Adelson's net worth was around $5 million. Today, his net worth is closer to $30 billion.

8. Sergey Brin: Innovative

Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page met when they were students at Stanford University in 1995.

Larry and I] experimented with a variety of things," said Brin in a video posted by Stanford. "We had some shared interests. Larry had this crazy idea that he was going to download all the links on the web and then do something with them; it wasn't entirely clear what. We did find that there were great applications. And one of them was search, which eventually became Google."

Brin and Page's innovation was the forefront of their motivation to succeed — and it paid off. Today, Brin is worth nearly $40 billion, according to Forbes.

9. Jeff Bezos: Courageous

Amazon founder — and fellow innovator — Jeff Bezos once said his willingness to fail makes him a successful innovator, which is a brave admission from the founder of one of the world’s most forward-thinking companies.

“Without a willingness to fail, you cannot innovate because most innovations won’t work," said Bezos, according to GeekWire. "...for the big innovation, you have to be willing to fail. Every startup company faces that."

10. Donald Trump: Passionate

If you want to achieve billionaire status, you better be passionate about your goals — like presidential candidate and businessman Donald Trump.

“Without passion, you don’t have energy, and without energy, you have nothing!” tweeted Trump in 2014, who also added that this is just one more of his "totally brilliant quotes," so "use it well."

11. George Soros: Impulsive

With a net worth of about $25 billion, George Soros is arguably one of today's most successful investors and business magnates. But compared with other rich investors, Soros seems to be more impulsive. In fact, he's admitted that a back pain once influenced his investing decisions.

"I rely a great deal on animal instincts," wrote Soros in his book, "Soros on Soros." "When I was actively running the Fund, I suffered from backache. I used the onset of acute pain as a signal that there was something wrong in my portfolio. The backache didn't tell me what was wrong ... but it did prompt me to look for something amiss when I might not have done so otherwise."

Soros added relying on signs of back pain "is not the most scientific way to run a portfolio," but there's a bigger takeaway from this experience: Sometimes, you just have to go with your gut — or, in this case, back.

12. Carl Icahn: Competitive

Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor, exhibited his competitive nature early on in life, which likely helped him amass a net worth of about $17 billion, according to Forbes.

To pay for room and board during college, Icahn joined a poker game. Although the other players cleaned him out at first, he bounced back.

“I read three books on poker in two weeks, and after that I was 10 times better than any of them,” Icahn told fellow billionaire Tony Robbins, as reported by Business Insider. “To me, it was a big game, big stakes. Every summer I won about $2,000, which was like $50,000 back in the '50s."

13. Steve Ballmer: Detail-Oriented

According to one of his former co-workers, Steve Ballmer “is a master of precision questioning to analyze and get to the root issues of any problem whether it is business or technology related.”

This kind of detail-oriented critical thinking and problem solving helped Ballmer break down flawed conclusions and build one of the greatest software companies in the world: Microsoft, where he once served as CEO.

14. Phil Knight: Determined

Nike co-founder Phil Knight started with a niche product and brought it mainstream by recognizing a market opportunity, reports Inc. With an initial investment of just $1,000, Knight sold his shoes from the back of a station wagon to local runners and eventually grew the company, which has a market cap of more than $100 billion, according to Forbes.

15. Michael Dell: Confident

Dell CEO and founder Michael Dell became the youngest-ever CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 1992, according to the Dell website. He founded the company in 1984 when he was only 19 years old — and with only $1,000.

“You don’t have to be a genius or a visionary or even a college graduate to be successful," Dell has been quoted saying, demonstrating his confidence. "You just need a framework and a dream.”

16. Charlie Ergen: Tough

Charlie Ergen, co-founder and CEO of DISH, is a pioneer in satellite broadcasting — and has a reputation as a tough boss. However, he's aware of his rep and has no problems defending it.

"I think I'm a really easy guy to work for and with — if you're a high achiever and you want to achieve something," Ergen said in a 2015 "Titans at the Table" interview. "If you just want a job, you're probably not going to like it too much [at DISH]."

17. Larry Page: Intuitive

Larry Page didn’t know if there were any practical applications to his work when he co-founded Google — he just knew he was onto something. It’s a good thing he listened to his gut because Google is a top search engine and the second-most valuable brand in the world behind Apple, according to Forbes.

18. Charles and David Koch: Strategic

Love them or hate them, the Koch family has made some very prudent and strategic moves that have allowed them to build a combined net worth of $89 billion, according to Forbes. They are strategic in every decision they make, including hiring.

“A lot of companies — and we’ve been guilty of this in the past — want to hire the smartest person, the most talented person,” Charles Koch told The Wichita Eagle in 2012. “Well, the worst thing we can do, as we found, is hire a very talented person with poor values. If we are going to hire somebody with poor values, we want somebody who’s not very smart, because he or she will do less damage.”

19. Jan Koum: Straightforward

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is a self-made billionaire with a net worth of $8.8 billion, reports Forbes.

In an exclusive for Forbes, fellow WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton recalled sitting across the desk from Koum, who moonlighted at Ernst & Young in 1997 as a security tester.

"You could tell [Koum] was a bit different," said Acton. "He was very no-nonsense, like ‘What are your policies here. What are you doing here?’"

20. Richard Branson: Creative

Billionaire Richard Branson gushed about his love for creating things in an interview with Entrepreneur.

"Most entrepreneurs are not doing it for financial motives in the first place," he said. "They're just people who love creating. From the time that I created my first magazine or first record company, I just wanted to create things that I could be proud of. Money was just an evil byproduct to pay the bills at the end of the year."

21. Mark Cuban: Charming

You’ve got to be a people person if you want to build an empire. Mark Cuban, who has a net worth of $3.2 billion, knows the importance of winning hearts and minds.

“People hate dealing with people who are jerks,” Cuban wrote for Blog Maverick. “It’s always easier to be nice than to be a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.”

You got it, Mark.

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Whether you're working in a corporate job or pursuing your entrepreneurial dream, here are eight essential leadership traits you'll need to thrive in today's increasingly uncertain economy:

1. Hold true to your convictions.

Being a leader is holding true to your convictions, abiding by your values, and doing what is right--"even when nobody is looking"--as the poster says on the wall of my kids' school.

2. Generously share your ideas.

Being a leader means not just thinking of creative ideas for improving how things are done, but sharing them proactively, without worrying that someone will reject it, or take credit for it.

3. Think several steps ahead.

Being a leader is thinking two, three, or six steps ahead--and then plotting a path to get there. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received during my career is from a project manager I once worked with early on in my career. He told me to always be thinking one or two weeks ahead on a project. Anticipate the problems you need to solve, and start solving them before you reach the point on your "workplan" that tells you that you should be solving them, he advised.

4. Take the first step.

Being a leader is taking the first step when nobody else even thinks of taking it--or are too afraid to.

5. Have the courage to defend your ideas.

Being a leader is having the guts to speak up and defend yourself or your ideas, even when that makes you the "lone man (or woman) in the room."

6. Treat others as you hope they would treat you.

Being a leader is treating others as you would hope they treat you. The most inspiring and successful leaders I know are the ones who treat people as individuals with unique personalities, valuable skills, and rich personal lives beyond the office. And they treat everyone with the same level of respect, regardless of how far up in the corporate pyramid they stand.

7. Give generously of your knowledge and skills.

Being a leader is sharing generously of your knowledge and skills--without asking for anything in return.

8. Have confidence in your own abilities.

Being a leader is having confidence and trust in yourself and in your abilities--even when others don't know you well enough (or simply don't care enough) to have the same level of confidence and trust in you. For the young professionals out there, know this: No matter how long you've done something or how good you are at it, there will always be doubters. You can beat the doubters by believing in yourself.

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