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Ten Essential Characteristics of Great Leaders

Whether great leaders are born or made is still the subject of heated debate. Nonetheless, we have reached a consensus regarding the qualities that all exceptional leaders share. For anyone who aspires to move up the ladder, we have a valuable list of the ten key characteristics of great leaders that will help you understand what it takes. Use our list to take targeted action to improve your leadership skills and take that next step in your career.

1. Being an example for others

The best way to get the work ethic, attitude, and input you want from your team is to be a model of the behavior you wish to see. If you want the people you lead to manage their time well, actively provide ideas, or attend meetings, you must, too. In short, a great leader always leads by example.

2. Taking responsibility

A bad leader steps back when something goes wrong, and a great leader steps forward. Great leaders understand that things go wrong, and when they do, they do not try to shift the blame onto others. Being a great leader is not just about producing great results; it is also about acknowledging challenges, taking responsibility for them, and re-directing the ship to address the issues that have arisen.

Woman speaking in a meeting

3. Knowing where you are going

A strong sense of purpose and direction is vital to solid leadership. A great leader has a focused, understandable vision to communicate effectively to their team. People want to know where they are going and why, and this direction can only come from the top.

4. Creating an actionable plan

With a clear direction in mind, great leaders must also have a feasible, actionable plan to reach their goals. To create this plan, leaders must understand what is required of their team and how they can achieve it. Your plan should be understandable and realistic to ensure buy-in from everyone.

5. Communicating effectively

An exciting direction, a sensible plan, and a realistic set of tasks are all useless if you cannot communicate them effectively to your team. Your team will not be able to accept a plan and their role in achieving it if they do not fully comprehend what is being asked of them and why. A great leader is also a great communicator.

African American woman leading a team

6. Inspiring others

A leader must be able to get things done. Reaching business goals is time-consuming and challenging, and it thus requires endurance and dedication. A great leader can inspire commitment in their team and get everyone to pull in the same direction. To get the most out of people, you need to be able to motivate them.

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7. Supporting others to develop and grow

Your results improve when your team improves, so investing in the people around you makes sense. When you help people develop their knowledge and skills, they will contribute more to the team, and you, as their leader, will reap the rewards. A great leader always finds time to support others.

8. Radiating confidence

If you want people to believe in your vision and plan, they need to believe in you. If you are a leader who radiates confidence, you will earn the trust and cooperation of the people around you. A team feeds off the enthusiasm of its leader, so a great leader is confident.

Two Women showing young lady how to sew

9. Nurturing trust

Trust is fundamental to all good relationships, including the relationship between a leader and their team. You will not be able to get your team to follow your lead if they do not trust you. So, to be a great leader, you need to act with integrity and honesty.

10. Being unshakeable

Great leaders are not easily spooked. Business projects can be complex, have high stakes, and involve various parties, and problems can arise from anywhere. Whether personal issues with team members or unexpected changes to a project’s parameters, great leaders are ready for anything and don’t let a challenge push them or their team off course. When the worst happens, a great leader remains focused and calm.

Now that you’ve looked at the ten qualities shared by all great leaders, you’ve likely identified a few of your strengths and weaknesses. Think about where you could improve and start working on your leadership skills. Could you have what it takes?


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