There are many great qualities that go into making a great leader. It is said that people that lead are born leaders, but that does not mean that they do not consistently work to improve their leadership abilities to make themselves the best leader they can possibly be for their company. Here are 25 of the most important leadership traits that lead to greatness.
1. Honesty and Integrity
Without it, real success is not possible, regardless if it’s on a sports field, military, government, nonprofit or corporate office. You cannot expect your followers to act with integrity if you lack it yourself. To be a great leader means sticking to strong ethics, values, and core beliefs — all based on honesty and integrity.
To be an effective leader, you will need to be confident in yourself, as well as in the decisions you make. If you are unsure about your abilities, your subordinates will never follow you. Don’t be overconfident, though, but you will need to show your assertiveness to reflect the degree of confidence required to lead your followers to trust you. Confident leaders empower their team members, they do not take criticism personally, and understand that the first time you do something is hard, but it will get easier subsequent times. Confidence and competence contribute to a leader’s success.
3. Inspire Others
One of the most challenging jobs as a leader is to persuade others to follow you or your plan of what the outcome would look like. Setting a good example is the only way you will be able to inspire others to follow you. In stressful situations, they will look up to you for guidance, reassurance, or comfort. If you handle it well, they will follow you.
4. Commitment and Passion
When your team sees you taking the time out to do the grunt work, they will also give it their best shot. Showing your passion and commitment helps you to gain the respect of your subordinates and provide a boost of new energy in your team members. They will perform better because of this. It’s an uphill task for you to lead if you aren’t fully committed or don’t show passion for what you do.
5. Great Communicator
To get the results you want to achieve, you must be able to clearly communicate your vision, mission, and strategy to your team. Words have the power to motivate people to do the unthinkable (in a good way). The better use you make of them, the better the results from your team. What also makes a great communicator effective is that they are focused on what the outcome of their communication will look like. They are flexible in their method of communication and are experts in building rapport this way.
6. Decision Making
Your decisions, no matter how small, will have a profound impact on the masses. The decisions must come from careful thought with as much of the information acquired at the time. Once you’ve made your decision, stick to it. While most leaders will make decisions on their own, it is highly recommended to consult key stakeholders prior to making the decision. Keep in mind that your stakeholders are the ones who will most likely benefit, or suffer, from your decisions. There will be times (hopefully rarely) where you will need to change your decision. When this does happen, make it swift and move forward with conviction. Knowing when to change track is an important skill. Great leaders will remain fixed in their decisions but will also allow flexibility when it is vital to the outcome.
Make sure everyone on your team is accountable for what they do and how they act. If they are doing well, take the time out to acknowledge it, publicly or privately. If they’ve made a mistake, make them realize their mistakes and work together to improve. Holding your team members accountable creates a sense of responsibility, and as such, they will take their role, and the business a bit more serious.
8. Empowerment and Delegation
You cannot be at all places doing everything. As a great leader, your focus should be on key responsibilities while leaving the rest to others. That means empowering subordinates and delegating tasks to them. Micromanaging will only result in a lack of trust by your followers, but more importantly, you will not have time for critical matters that are a priority. Delegate tasks to see how your team members perform. Give them the knowledge and resources to perform their functions, then get out of the way. It is ok though, to ask for updates (only as needed). Your credibility will speak volumes by your actions of empowerment and delegation.
All leaders need to feel empathy with their followers. Unfortunately, most do not and run a dictatorial style, neglecting empathy altogether. They always fail to make a closer connection with their subordinates or team members. It is essential that you understand the problems that your followers experience, and feeling their pain is an excellent start to becoming an effective leader. As a leader, practicing empathy trickles down. Before you know it, you’ve got a loyal, engaged, and productive team — great leaders who show genuine, authentic leadership base their leadership training on empathic leadership.
Great leaders know that to remain effective through a crisis, they must be resilient and carry with them a positive attitude, regardless of the circumstances or how steep the road to recovery will be. You will always find them rallying their followers, and while most people will complain about the problems, great leaders always focus on solutions instead.
11. Emotional Intelligence
All good leaders who connect with people emotionally will always find it much easier to gain trust and have a stronger influence where the people will accept what the leader says. This is done using emotional intelligence. Things like managing emotions effectively, better social awareness, seamless communications, conflict resolution are all ingredients making up an emotionally intelligent leader.
When a leader has high emotional intelligence, they can control their emotions, preventing negative emotions from influencing the decisions they will need to make. They are less likely to make hasty decisions. They are great at understanding emotions and openly care about the feelings of others.
A great leader is always selfless and will always think about their teams first, before themselves. This is why the leadership style adopted by most great leaders is one more focused on problem-solving and team dynamics, than focusing on self-promotion. Humble leaders welcome inclusion and an appreciation of other points of view and cultures. They appreciate what diversity brings to the team. Humble leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. They know that they were initially hired because their strengths would benefit the organization. They are confident in their vulnerability and will seek out support for any weaknesses rather than try to cover them up or, even worse, hide them.
This is a great way to win the trust of your team. Rather than hide information, openly share it if possible. Your followers will buy your vision and support you with conviction simply because you chose to share relevant information. This gives your team clarity, autonomy, and create a sense of empowerment while keeping them engaged.
14. Purpose and Vision
To be a great leader, you must always have a vision and purpose that you are committed to and willfully share it with your teams. Give your followers the chance to see the bigger picture and where the whole organization is headed. A great leader will take the time to explain the vision and why they are moving in a particular direction, along with the strategy and action plan to achieve that goal.
15. Hiring the Best Available
Leadership involves more than just being the best you can be. It also means hiring the best people to be the best they can be in delivering top results. Great leaders who know this will assemble people who are more knowledgeable and skillful than they are.
16. Focus on Long-Term Success
This still means it’s ok to go for the quick win but, great leaders understand that their best investment is in long-term sustainable success. This requires the buy-in of the teams, and everyone to understand it will take time and effort to achieve, and for all to know, it is well worth it in the long run. Great leaders will leave a legacy of success behind them, which will continue long after their departure.
17. Share the Wealth of Knowledge
Leaders know the reason they are where they are is to get the very best resources out of their teams. When that time comes to decide strategy, problem-solving, or resolving, leaders will have looked at the best resources on the team in order to get to the solution quickly. Great leaders are well aware that leading isn’t always about providing all the answers; it’s about ensuring the best answer is identified and implemented.
18. Taking Smart Risks
Great leaders will know the difference between a safe bet and a wild bet. Creating a team culture of smart-risk-taking will ensure stable growth and increasingly positive outcomes. It will also help to build their confidence. Taking smart risks also means finding new ways to stay competitive and innovative as a business while improving processes and job satisfaction overall.
19. Plan First
The best leaders know that failing to plan will result in your planning to fail. While great leaders understand the need for urgency, they will never put themselves or their teams in a position where the chance at success fails due to a lack of planning. All good leaders will know when to slow things down, step back, and ensure their teams are where they should be and focused on what they should be.
20. Thinking Small Picture when Needed
While leadership is mainly about thinking’ big picture’; once the communication of the vision and team direction is completed, great leaders will still need to understand how success will be achieved. That requires the team and on occasion, the leader to get down and into the weeds. Great leaders cannot only stay big picture every day. There will be times when thinking ‘small picture’ is critical.
21. Working Well with Others
In order for leaders to get the best out of all the available resources, they need to be great at relationship building and working or playing well with others. They will leverage their networks, knowing this is a two-way street and that they will also provide support when needed in the other direction.
22. Consistency is Key
Leaders who are not consistent will always cause instability within their teams. It’s as if things are working well in one area one day but are seen as poorly organized the very next day. Inconsistency will create doubt in the minds of your team. Poor decision making will result due to insecurity of what the expectation will be or what kind of feedback will come. Mistakes will be made. Great leaders build confidence in their teams’ abilities by keeping consistent daily.
23. Stay Focused
Great leaders help to keep their teams focused on the goals. This focus minimizes any distractions because this would result in the organization overall, becoming distracted. Positive response to milestones made as well as a public celebration of goals achieved builds the teams’ focus on the next target to hit. Competent leaders know that multitasking doesn’t work and that reaming focused on finishing the ‘to-dos’ one at a time consistently is the fastest way to achieving the goal set forth.
24. Masters of Time
Leaders are successful only because they get things done. They make the best of the 24hrs given to them. Great leaders value their time and see the direct connection between time spent and their energy. Always being on time will ‘train’ their teams to be on time as well. Respecting others’ schedules generally results in others respecting your time.
Leaders who spend all their time talking about doing something and doing nothing, in the end, will always fail. Successful leaders ‘do’ more than ‘say.’ They do not wait for the right conditions to be perfect before they take action. They will just go for it, observe the feedback, and take the next steps accordingly. Great leaders do not suffer from procrastination.
The common theme of all the traits listed is that a leader works to be the best they can be so they can inspire their employees to be the best they can be. All 25 of these traits work together to make a leader who inspires their employees to achieve greatness.
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.