8 Essential Characteristics that Define Good Leadership

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” – John C Maxwell

Regardless of how you define a leader, he/she can prove to be a difference-maker between success and failure. Good leaders shape our nation, communities, and organizations. With a leader with great leadership traits, a company can flourish well, stay ahead of varying trends, attract top talent, and keep team members encouraged and stirred.

When you are leading teams, you have a lot on your plate and refining your leadership skills might not be your priority. Though, taking the time to understand how you lead and how that influences business metrics can be a huge benefit to the organization. Contrary to popular beliefs, leaders aren’t born. Different characteristics make leaders successful. These attributes can be either ingrained from a very young age or cultured with experience. Based on our research, we have found that great leaders consistently possess these eight leadership characteristics:

  1. Vision

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion.” – Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders have a clear vision. They have a clear idea of what they are going to do and where they are going. They can see into the future and analyze what they need to accomplish to achieve the organizational goals. This is the core ingredient that separates them from managers. Clear vision turns a transactional manger into a transformational leader. Visionary leaders can look forward and see where the team is headed. By keeping the result in mind, vision provides motivation and inspiration to keep ongoing.      

  • Integrity

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.” – Zig Ziglar

Without the most important ingredient – honesty and integrity – no real success is possible. How can you anticipate your followers, to be honest when you lack these characteristics yourself? Good leaders stick to their values and core beliefs. They can establish an honest connection with their peers. A relationship based on integrity makes the team know that their leader will be there for them. Consequently, this motivates them to be there for their leader, too. Whether it is giving proper credit for accomplishments, acknowledging mistakes, or putting safety and quality first, great leaders demonstrate integrity at all times. They do what is right, even if the decision is not in favor of the current project.

  • Courage

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” – Winston Churchill

Another important trait of a good leader is courage. Having courage implies that you are willing to take risks in the achievement of your goals without the complete assertion of success. There is no certainty in life or business; your action and commitment entail a certain risk factor. Courageous leaders make decisions with the potential for revolutionary change. Their confidence motivates their teams, uplifts customers, and positions their companies as leaders in societal change. It isn’t an intellectual quality, or it can be taught in the classroom. It can only be gained through an experience involving personal risk-taking.  

  • Humility

“The first test of a truly great man is his humility. By humility, I don’t mean doubt of his powers or hesitation in speaking his opinion, but merely an understanding of the relationship of what he can say and what he can do.” – John Ruskin

Humility doesn’t exhibit that you are weak or uncertain of yourself. It shows that you have self-confidence and self-awareness to identify the value of others without feeling threatened. Great leaders are strong and decisive but also humble. This is one of the fundamental characteristics of good leaders. It requires the repression of their ego. It implies that they are willing to admit they could be wrong. They admit the fact that they may not have all the answers. Also, humility means that leaders can give due credit.    

  • Good Communicator

“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.” – Gilbert Amelio

As long as you communicate your vision clearly to your team and explain the strategy to achieve the goal, it will not be difficult for you to get your desired results. Simply put, good leaders can communicate their message effectively to their team. Words have the power to motivate and encourage people. Leaders use words wisely and effectively to achieve better results.

  • Strategic Planning

“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: its starting point.” – Henry Mintzberg

Good leaders have outstanding strategic planning skills. It is another fundamental leadership trait. They can look ahead, to anticipate industry and market trends with some accuracy. Strategic leaders also possess some other qualities, including loyalty, compassion, self-control, and social skills. They know who to keep themselves updated. They make very judicious use of power and have a wider outlook. Strategic leaders create organizational structure, allocate resources, and express a strategic vision. They work in an ambiguous environment on very challenging issues that influence and are influenced by occasions and organizations external to their own.

  • Focus

“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures, and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to the fulfillment of their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them.” – Jack Canfield

Leaders always focus on the needs of the organization and the team. They focus on the outcomes, or what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the company. They are very organized and plan well ahead while remaining spontaneous enough to handle unexpected challenges. Great leaders emphasis on strengths, in themselves and their peers. They focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. Great leaders ensure that everyone is focused and concentrated on the most valuable use of their time.

  • Cooperation

“If your imagination leads you to understand how quickly people grant your requests when those requests appeal to their self-interest, you can have practically anything you go after.” – Napoleon Hill

The value of cooperation means working together for a common purpose; or collaboration. Good leaders can get everyone working and pulling together. Leadership is the ability to get people to work for you because they want to. The 80/20 rule is applicable here: Twenty percent of your people contribute 80 percent of your results. Cooperation succeeds because it is nice, tough, forgiving, and clear. This skill doesn’t come naturally. It is a skill that needs to be learned.  

To become a good leader, you must have all these characteristics, but if you lack some of these traits, then you might face challenges in the world of leadership. You must set a good example for others to follow. That is where your commitment, passion, honesty, and integrity come into play. Strategic planning and cooperation also play a vital role in the success and failure of a leader. While some of these leadership qualities may be more naturally present in the personality of a leader, it is something you can develop and strengthen over time.