According to Infopro Learning, 71% of businesses feel their leaders are not able to lead their organization into the future.
As baby boomers reach retirement age, and the commitment to workplaces falls in the millennial generation, many businesses are left without a workforce willing to stay for the long haul.
If you’re struggling to find successful leaders for your business, why not be the example?
This guide will discuss the qualities of a good boss and how to be a leader at work. We’ll also highlight the leadership traits and behaviors of some of the world’s best leaders throughout history.
Let’s get started.
What Leadership Qualities/Traits Make a Good Leader?
There are a huge range of traits and skills that make a good leader. Skills can be divided into soft and hard skills – with some being natural, while others can be taught.
Soft skills include things like communication, problem-solving, and motivation. Hard skills are those that can be learnt, like presentation skills, management, and analytical skills.
So what are the most important characteristics of a good leader?
- Problem Solving
- Initiative for action
- Nuturing & Empathetic
- Active listening
- Strategic & Focussed
- Decision making
- Good communication
- Self Awareness
- Emotional Intelligence
A leader should trust and empower their team
Micro-manager is not another word for leader. Leaders should be able to provide their team with clear instructions and direction, and then let them get on with the task unsupervised. This is one of the best leadership qualities you can possess.
Your job is to lead, not to scrutinize.
Empowered teams are renowned for being more productive, and having a higher level of job satisfaction than those who are under constant scrutiny.
A good leader must be able to accept when they are wrong.
They should be able to share their vision with enthusiasm, to help create direction and motivation within the team.
Even the great leaders of today can’t do everything by themselves. Don’t be afraid to trust your team and delegate projects accordingly. According to one study, only 2 out of 5 employees find their managers are able to clearly define the team’s roles and responsibilities.
Good leaders are innovative and open to new ideas
Innovation is one of the key aspects of leadership. Leaders need to be open to new ideas, and able to encourage their team to think innovatively. This special skill gives staff the chance to learn new things and create their own ideas.
It can be easy to think that as a leader, you have all the information you need. Admitting you need help or someone else’s idea is better, can be tough. But it’s tapping into this openness that will allow you to reach new levels of success.
To find out what the world’s best leaders have to say about innovation, check out these 50 inspirational quotes.
Providing an open and positive environment for staff to share their ideas
Showing staff you’re interested in new ideas. Bringing new thoughts to the table for discussion will encourage others to follow suit.
The solution might not always be crystal clear, but you should be there to help the team find it, so everyone can get back to work faster. This skill will quickly be mirrored by other staff and productivity will increase.
Initiative for action
If you want your team to work hard, you need to show you’re willing to do the same. A Udemy study found that people were 4 times more likely to quit their job if they felt their manager had a poor work performance.
Leaders should be nurturing, empathetic and caring towards employees
Being able to nurture your employees and help them on the road to a successful career is one of the key strengths of a leader. It will also improve staff retention: Staff that feel important and cared for within their role are less likely to look around.
You also need to realise that although you are a leader currently, you are responsible for nurturing the next generation of leaders. Therefore, employees should be treated in a way you’d want to be treated.
Be the leader you would follow.
Show empathy to staff who are struggling, help them get back on track and provide employees access to training they’re interested in.
A study by LinkedIn and ZoomShift suggested that 59% of employees feel their bosses don’t show enough appreciation.
So if you want to understand how to be a better leader, it’s this real attention and care for your staff that will set you apart from others.
Being able to not just listen to your employees, but really hear them.
Staff are sometimes going to struggle. But with a little patience, you can quickly get them back on track
Staff react better to gratitude. Show your appreciation as often as you can.
Think strategically, stay focussed and be driven
Of course, a leader is there to drive the company into future success. In order to be a good leader for your business, you need to be focussed on the end goal every step of the way.
And, in order to get to the end goal, you’ll need to be able to create a bulletproof strategy with the help of your team.
As leadership mentor, Bobb Biehl once said, “Without focusing and getting to clarity, you cannot lead. You cannot motivate. You cannot plan. You cannot communicate.”
There will come a time where you hit a crossroad and need a quick decision to be made. As a leader, it’s your job to take the risk, make the decision and run with it.
Things aren’t always going to go to plan, and the higher up managers may be breathing down your neck. It’s important that as a leader, you’re resilient and don’t give up easily.
If you’re focussed on the end goal, you need to be committed to finding the best way to get there. That might mean taking a step back and letting others take the reins.
Good leaders come with good communication
A leader is only as good as their ability to communicate. Without good communication, how do you get a team to work together with a single goal in mind? How do you present your ideas to stakeholders, or set clear instructions?
A great leader will have incredible communication skills, but there’s a lot more to it than just being able to talk the talk.
You need to be able to get everyone to believe in your vision and work to the same playbook.
Admit when things go wrong and keep everyone in the loop every step of the way. In May 2020, CompareCamp found that only 18% of people believe their company has a transparent and open approach.
Staff need to feel respected. Underappreciated staff are more likely to look elsewhere for jobs. If you want to lead your team to success, you need to work on staff retention.
The 34th US President, Dwight David Eisenhower said “the supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible”. Without strong, moral principles to fall upon, how can you lead your team?
Accountability is one of the key leadership skills. It’s all about admitting when something goes wrong, or when something hasn’t worked. Leaders should be honest and take responsibility, but show a willingness to learn and adapt.
With self discipline, and sticking to your principles, you can maintain your integrity within your workplace. If something doesn’t seem right – even when it’s been suggested by higher staff – stick to your guns.
In a similar vein, if you do think something is wrong, a good leader should have the courage to stand up and call out.
Confident but not overly confident
Confidence is a leader’s best friend. To gain the respect of your team, leaders should ooze confidence. Confidence in their strategy while presenting, confidence in their own abilities and – most importantly – confidence in their team’s abilities.
Self confidence is a vital part of being a leader. If you aren’t 100% certain about your own ideas, how can you expect others to be?
The easiest way to show your confidence is through passion. A leader should be passionate about their work and their strategy and encourage others to be passionate too.
Those with heaps of charisma ooze confidence. With charisma, you either have it, or you don’t.
To keep that confidence in check, leaders should be self aware of their own weakness and downfalls. This shouldn’t be a cause for concern, as your weakness will likely be the strengths of someone in your team – you just have to have confidence in your team to pull through.
Leaders have a high emotional intelligence
One of the most important traits of an effective leader is emotional intelligence. Leaders with a high emotional intelligence are able to manage their own emotions when things get tough, handle conflict, and know all the right ways to influence their team.
Connecting with people emotionally is the key to a successful people leadership. Ceridian found that 49% of employees list good relations with colleagues as a reason to stay with their current employer.
With higher emotional intelligence comes better social awareness, allowing you to identify tensions or issues within the team before they arise. It also means you can find the right way to approach any conversation topic with any member of staff.
By being able to handle your own emotions, you can maintain a positive working environment for your team, even when you feel down in the dumps.
Ability to see multiple perspectives
Being able to see an issue from both sides is a large part of emotional intelligence. With this both-sided sight, leaders are able to play a role in conflict resolution better – whether that’s between team members or higher stakeholders.
Sometimes, as a leader, you will have to co-operate on things you don’t want to do. You will need to put your personal feelings aside to get the job done for the benefit of your end goal.
The list of important qualities of a leader is never ending, but I think we’ve covered a lot here. A few others include:
- Maintaining a fair attitude
- Self-motivated and motivating for your team
- Being an agile learner
- Committed to your work
- The ability to think creatively
- Being enthusiastic
- Staying loyal to your team and your principles
Bad Leadership Qualities
With the examples of leadership skills in tow, we’re now going to discuss what makes a bad leader. Each trait is listed with their positive counterparts.
Good: Passionate & Empowering / Bad: Discouraging & Unenthusiastic
Bad leaders will do very little to empower their staff to keep working hard even when it seems pointless. Unenthusiastic leaders will find it difficult to properly connect with their team, and as such see a decline in productivity and positivity in the workplace.
Good: Humility / Bad: Too Much Pride
It’s okay to be proud of your achievements, but being too proud to admit when you’re in the wrong can quickly cause tension and negativity in the workplace.
Good: Visionary / Bad: Lack of Vision
While leaders with a vision are inspirational and energetic, those without a vision often leave their team with a lack of direction and unclear instructions. Without vision, goals and tasks can’t be set and the business cannot be driven into future success.
Good: Delegation / Bad: Control Freaks & Micro-Managers
Leaders who micromanage or retain control of all tasks are unsupportive of their team. Team members will quickly feel untrusted and as such, be less productive. If they’re not trusted to do the task themselves, why should they do it?
Good: Innovative / Bad: Sticking To The Comfort Zone
The way to success is through innovation. Leaders who are nervous or dubious about innovation will quickly fail. The best leaders will constantly be on the lookout for new opportunities and things to try.
Good: Positivity / Bad: Negativity
Leaders who create a negative working environment will quickly lose respect and notice a huge drop in productivity. A bad work environment can be detrimental to people’s health, so those leaders who are too negative will find staff turnover rapidly increase.
Good: Inquisitiveness / Bad: Disinterest
Jeff McGregor, from Dash, didn’t realise how disinterest could contribute to a toxic workplace. Good leaders should be open to listening to new ideas, and if it needs work, encouraging staff and helping to develop their idea.
This is one of the particularly important leadership qualities for students and their teachers.
Good: Problem Solving / Bad: Causing Problems
Leaders that actively look for reasons to complain and cause problems for staff and their peers will inevitably be bad leaders. Leaders are there to direct people into the future. Causing problems or seeking out issues will delay progress and impact productivity.
Good: Initiative for Action / Bad: Laziness
Without motivation, an initiative for action and commitment to your cause, it can be easy to become a lazy leader. Without focus and drive, leaders are unable to empower their followers and make significant change.
Good: Empathy & Care for Others / Bad: Apathy
Strict, apathetic leaders will find their team quickly suffering from burnout due to the lack of support from their seniors.
Good: Active Listening / Bad: Ignorance
A bad leader will be ignorant towards other people’s ideas and worries. It can lead to a hugely negative work environment or – worse still – increase staff turnover dramatically. Maintaining eye contact and asking questions are just two ways to improve your active listening skills.
Good: Patience / Bad: Impatience
Good things take time. Impatient leaders can quickly take too many risks, be close minded to alternative ideas and rush decision making. Leaders that are bought into a clear vision will be able to stay patient while they work towards it.
Good: Gratitude / Good: Ungratefulness
As we mentioned above, good leaders show appreciation to their team. Ungrateful leaders create a negative workplace that leads staff to feeling unappreciated and the need to look for new employment.
Good: Strategical / Bad: Unprepared
A leader’s vision is only as good as their strategy to get there. Without a plan, a vision is but a random thought. But being strategic isn’t only about direction. Leaders who are unprepared to manage their team, delegate and communicate will quickly fall flat.
Good: The Ability to Make Decisions / Bad: Indecisiveness
People turn to leaders in times of uncertainty, to understand what the best course of action is.
Indecisive leaders will come across as disorganized and irresponsible.
Sometimes, leaders choose to avoid decision making, so not to be held accountable when things go wrong. This is the complete opposite of how a great leader should work.
Indecisive leaders waste time in the planning process.
This can lead to opportunities being missed and projects getting delayed or failing.
Good: Resilience / Bad: Fragile
Harvard Business School studied resilient leadership and found that women (54.7%) are more resilient than men (49.3%). Women were found to be better at problem solving, being reliable and keeping the team motivated.
Good: Strong Communication / Bad: Poor communication
Poor communication can be down to a lack of communication skills, or done deliberately. Often, power-hungry leaders will keep other team members in the dark to hold control.
But, whatever the reason for poor communication, the team cannot work as effectively and there will be a strain on the relationship between leader and staff – typically leading to lower productivity.
Good: Transparency / Bad: Lack of Transparency
There is very rarely a justified reason to not be transparent with your team. A lack of transparency highlights a lack of trust. Leaders who keep information to themselves, are inconveniencing the team on their road to success.
Good: Respectful / Bad: Disrespectful
It’s simple, disrespectful leaders won’t gain anyone’s respect. And without respect, you cannot lead.
Good: Honesty & Integrity / Bad: Dishonesty
In order to maintain moral integrity, leaders need to be completely honest. Those that are dishonest will quickly be found out, and trust and confidence in your leadership skills will unravel.
Good: Accountability / Bad: Irresponsibility
A bad leader blames others when things go wrong, rather than holding themselves accountable.
Good: Self-Disciplined / Bad: Disorganized
Disorganization is a significant leadership weakness. Without organization, staff cannot be given clear direction on the road to success. Disorganised leaders will result in confusion and a pause in productivity. Leaders need to have a clear vision and be able to communicate it.
Good: Courage / Bad: Cowardly
Bad leaders avoid taking risks and hide in the face of adversity. Without risk and bravery, leaders cannot pave the way to a brighter future.
Leaders must be able to challenge the norm and refrain from sitting back. Leaders who doubt themselves, or shy away from conflict – even if it is to better the chances of success – will give the impression that they are not quite fit to lead.
Think you might be a cowardly leader? Check out these tell-tale signs and how to improve on them.
Good: Self-Confidence / Bad: Self Doubt
If you, yourself, doubt your abilities or strategy, how can you expect others to be confident?
Self confidence is an integral part of leading, and even if you only suffer with slithers of self doubt, you will quickly be found out. Push self doubt away and present yourself as the confident leader you want to be: Fake it till you make it.
Good: Charismatic / Bad: Disagreeable
As we know, communication is so important for being a good leader. So having a disagreeable attitude, or coming across distasteful or obnoxious can quickly lead to resentment within the working environment.
Good: Self-awareness / Bad: Obliviousness
Being self aware is an incredibly important skill that just about anyone can benefit from.
Understanding our strengths and downfalls allow us to work better in a team, delegate correctly and lead staff to success. Those that aren’t aware of their own downfalls will often struggle to ask for help when they need it and this can delay decision making and reduce productivity.
Good: Emotional Intelligence / Bad: Emotionally Immature
Leaders need to be able to handle conflict and tensions within or against their team. Emotionally immature leaders will avoid conflict and be unable to identify when issues arise – creating a hostile environment for staff.
Good: Cooperation / Bad: Being Uncooperative
As Aristotle said, ‘he who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander’. Leaders who do no learn to cooperate with their team, or higher leaders will not succeed at leadership.
Although the position of leadership may feel like superiority, you should still work as part of the team. There are actually courses online to help people learn more about Co-operative Leadership, so if this is something you think you need to work on, check out your options!
Good: Self-Motivated, Focussed & Driven / Bad: Unfocussed
Unfocussed leaders will be more likely to make mistakes by spreading themselves too thin. Ultimately, they could suffer from burnout, leaving the team without any clear direction.
Good: Adaptability, Agile Learning / Bad: Rigidness
Leaders should be able to adapt to changing environments and have an openness to learn. Rigid leaders will often take a ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ approach and avoid change if possible. But this will stint the company’s ability to grow and reduce productivity.
Good: Diplomacy / Bad: Tactlessness
Tactless leaders will quickly be seen as insensitive and inconsiderate – ultimately leading to a negative working environment. Without diplomacy, leaders cannot create a lasting, positive relationship with their followers.
This attitude will keep the business stagnant and unable to progress.
Good: Creativity / Bad: Being Uncreative
Words to describe a good leader are innovative, passionate and visionary. Without creativity, leaders will struggle to present their ideas in a resonating way, be unable to come up with new solutions to problems and create unique strategies to drive the business into the future.
Good: Loyalty / Bad: Disloyal
You’ll see below in our ‘Leadership Traits of the World’s Best Leaders’ list that it is important to be loyal to your vision, morals and team.
Disloyal leaders lack the transparency needed to create a positive and empowering environment. This will also lead to distrust and you will quickly lose the confidence of your team.
Just make sure not to become overly confident and egotistical – as this is just another bad leadership trait. It’s all about getting the right balance.
What is toxic and autocratic leadership?
Toxic leadership comes from incorporating bad leadership traits, like those above. It can be easy to identify, but leaders will often be able to manipulate their way out of repercussions.
These destructive behaviours are a sure fire way to create job dissatisfaction, low productivity and a high staff turnover.
Autocratic leadership is a toxic management style in which the leader controls every aspect of the team, and makes all the decisions – offering very little opportunity for anyone to contribute new ideas.
Leaders will make choices based on their own opinions, rather than what might be best for the business, and avoid asking for advice from anyone else.
Autocratic leadership can work. But not often.
This type of leadership can play a part in small businesses with few employees, where fast decision making is required.
Some suggest the management style is flexible, as it holds the leader entirely accountable for any decision that goes wrong. However, it has very little place in the modern world where involvement is encouraged for everyone on the team.
Experts suggest autocratic leadership resembles the same style as dictatorship, and can be damaging for the workforce in the long run, with very little reward.
What Is The Trait Theory of Leadership?
The ‘trait theory of leadership’ works to identify the ideal personality traits and characteristics involved in good leadership.
Who developed the Trait Theory of Leadership?
This line of theoretical research rose from the original ‘Great Man’ Theory of Leadership, proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the 1800s. The original theory suggests that ‘great leaders are born, not made’ and as such, you are either a great leader or not.
The theory is now researched to understand what characteristics make a good leader, and whether these traits can be nurtured.
What are the conclusions of trait theories of leadership?
Psychologist Ralph Melvin Stogdill had the belief that leadership qualities can be developed.
He suggested leadership was more of a ‘nature vs. nurture’ argument in which the way people interact within social situations leads to a higher or lower chance of being a good leader – rather than simply being born with the right characteristics.
In 1980, James M Kouzes found that the key leadership traits were related to credibility: Being honest with the team, forward thinking, inspirational and competent.
In the end, the Trait Theory of Leadership concludes that certain characteristics and personal qualities we are born with can predict those that will become good leaders, but cannot be used to determine the effectiveness of a leader.
Leadership Traits of The World’s Biggest Leaders
So, what good traits do the world’s biggest leaders hold? Below are several categories of leadership throughout history. Whether political leaders, philosophers, business leaders or even leaders in activism, a lot can be learnt from each one.
Leadership in Politics
John F Kennedy Leadership Traits
As the youngest person ever to be elected as US President, and the youngest to die during office, John F Kennedy made a long lasting mark on the world.
His great leadership was dependent on his incredible communication skills when sharing his vision, encouraging innovation and new technologies, taking risks and – potentially most importantly – following his own moral compass even when this meant going against public opinion.
Abraham Lincoln Leadership Traits
Still held as one of the greatest US president’s of American history, Abraham Lincoln’s leadership style is still highly respected across the world.
His self confidence allowed him to turn rivals into companions, while his self-awareness helped him to identify his own rage and communicate it to those around him in a peaceful and patient way.
Lincoln resolved conflicts rather than avoiding them and continues to inspire modern day leaders to be dedicated and loyal to those around them.
Obama Leadership Traits
Barack Obama was an admired US President, even by those in countries without friendly relations with The States.
So what made Obama such a popular and effective leader?
His emotional intelligence and communication skills allowed him to talk about his vision with conviction and perseverance. He was passionate and determined to make change, and worked with a together attitude, rather than individual.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Leadership Traits
Another renowned US president celebrated for his leadership traits is Franklin Roosevelt. His determination and willingness to take action helped him guide the US through the Great Depression and WWII.
His best leadership traits include presentation skills, curiosity and self-confidence.
Alexander the Great Leadership Traits
Alexander the Great relied on influence, ruthlessness and care for his people to lead them to success. He was willing to fight on the frontlines with his following, and get stuck into the work.
He used his troops to their strengths, allowing him to become one of the most successful military leaders in history.
Bill Clinton Leadership Traits
Bill Clinton is incredibly intelligent and backs up his views with statistics and evidence. He is approachable and optimistic, which helps to bring a positive attitude to those around him. Clinton treats people with respect to establish a connection – something that is integral to becoming a great leader.
Sheikh Zayed Leadership Skills
The desert taught Sheikh Zayed to be patient, resilient and determined. Although filled with self-respect, this didn’t stop the Sheikh from being incredibly compassionate to those around him.
He had great vision, completely transforming the desert into the UAE and empowered and inspired his nation. The Sheikh didn’t avoid conflict, but instead held his integrity and used peaceful negotiation to resolve disputes.
Colin Powell Leadership Traits
US Statesman and General, Colin Powell lead via the Situational model.
He has displayed different leadership skills in different events throughout his career, depending on the skills and standard of his team. He is open to receiving feedback and ideas, and focuses on communicating clearly.
Powell can delegate when needed, but also show compassion and empathy for those around him.
Churchill Leadership Traits
Churchill was what is known as a transformational and charismatic leader.
He offered unrivalled communication and motivational skills that helped him lead a nation through war. Churchill was a passionate and dedicated man who had a vision to better his country. He was a courageous leader with a willingness to take action.
Hillary Clinton Leadership Traits
In Forbes’ 2010 article about Hillary Clinton’s leadership secrets, they highlight how she ran for US president in a courageous move against Donald Trump.
Although unsuccessful, Clinton is a huge inspiration to other women across the world. Hillary Clinton was resilient and authentic while navigating her campaign; she knew how to communicate her vision in a way to inspire action and used ‘Smart Power’ to learn and adapt to new situations and challenges.
This is everything a leader should be.
George Washington Leadership Traits
The first president of the United States was a man of deep faith and a willingness to take action. He held his own integrity, living by his own morals and principles every day. Those reporting into the president were treated with respect and trust, despite Washington having high expectations for his own success and those around him.
Julius Caesar Leadership Traits
Julius Caesar, military leader, historian, writer and politician made a huge impact on Western Civilization. The Roman general made sure to connect with his troupes personally, and celebrated their success at a team, rather than as a leader. He developed trust and pride for his troupes – empowering them to be brave and loyal.
Leadership in Business
Mark Zuckerberg Leadership Traits
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is known to be an aggressive, yet encouraging leader. He is always on the lookout for innovation, and delegates his staff to optimize his business’s growth.
He believes in his employees, and shows them as such. Zuckerberg is an example of how autocratic leadership can work when combined with democratic and laissez-faire leadership strategies.
Ratan Tata Leadership Traits
Chairman of the Tata Group, Ratan Tata, is an inspiration to leaders across the world. He is hugely visionary but humble within this role. He is famous for his quote ‘I don’t believe in making the right decision. I take decisions and make them right’ and spearheads his corporation as a great decision maker.
Tata is also a risk taker and says that life without excitement is too boring and dull.
Steve Jobs Leadership Traits
Co-founder of Apple and developer of Pixar, Steve Jobs, has become an icon for leadership and innovation in the modern world.
His ability to empower and delegate work to his team gave him more time to focus on other areas. In an interview, Job said, ‘it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do: We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do’.
Jobs’ humility and self-awareness allowed him to step back and let those more knowledgeable take the stage, rather than micro-managing.
Carly Fiorina Leadership Traits
Carly Fiorina broke through the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to ever head up a Fortune 50 company when she became CEO of HP.
This in itself made her an inspirational leader for women across the world.
As a boss, Fiorina has been reported as a motivating and self-disciplined leader with high expectations for herself and her employees. But this drive for success hasn’t stopped her from being able to emotionally connect with staff and her audience.
Jack Welch Leadership Traits
Serving as the Chairman of General Electric for over 20 years, Jack Welch is renowned as one of the more respected and formidable leaders of his time.
In a blog post he wrote on LinkedIn, Welch highlights five key traits for a good leadership: Having a positive energy and the ability to energize others, critical and clear decision making (yes or no, never maybe), execution and passion.
Welch says, ‘leaders have passion. They care deeply. They sweat; they believe’.
Leadership Traits of Warren Buffett
Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, is an inspiration to millions. His pledge to donate 99% of his wealth charity is just the beginning.
His leadership approach is known as Laissez-Faire, which is also known as delegative leadership. This approach requires leaders to have confidence and trust in their team, while also empowering them to make their own decisions.
These leaders are helpful and nurturing leaders, but expect most problems to be solved by the employees themselves.
Buffett’s success has come from his strong vision and his ability to inspire others into striving toward that vision, too.
Henry Ford Leadership Traits
Henry Ford was a people person. His appreciation and empathy for his staff made the workplace positive and productive.
With emotional intelligence in his favour, he was able to influence his staff’s loyalty by offering higher pay and shorter shifts than his competition. Ford was incredibly inclusive and diverse, hiring just about anyone who was interested.
Ford was also highly visionary and passionate – allowing him to work on his own inventions while continuing to manage other projects.
Tony Fernandes Leadership Traits
CEO of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes is hugely empathetic and caring for others.
During the tragic loss of AirAsia QZ8051, Fernandes boarded a plane to copy the same flight path, just to comfort the families of the lost passengers. This is an incredibly humble and inspiring step for a CEO of any business.
Even in the aftermath of the incident, Fernandes maintained accountability and focussed on empowering his team to continue, even in the face of adversity.
Jack Ma Leadership Traits and Skills
Alibaba’s Jack Ma has an unrivalled work ethic and humble attitude when it comes to discussing his success.
He has a strong vision for the future which is motivating and inspirational, and an incredible way of communicating his plans. Jack started with an innovative and unique idea and influenced those around him to buy into it.
Howard Schultz Leadership Traits
Howard Schultz started at Starbucks when the business had just 6 stores.
Now, he has used his leadership skills to grow the business, and the ‘Starbucks experience’ so that the global brand is now a household name.
He did this by delegating and hiring the right staff to do the right jobs, while also considering their welfare. He has continuously stuck to his strong values and holds accountability when things go wrong.
Sam Walton Leadership Traits
Sam Walton, founder of Walmart was a self aware, active listener who was willing to continue learning new skills when he identified a gap in his knowledge.
He was also great at building relationships to gain the help of others to achieve his goals. Walton wasn’t afraid to take risks, lead change and motivate others to do the same.
Bill Gates Leadership Traits
Bill Gates is a transformational leader. He has a strong vision, passion and an energy that helps him keep his employees positive and empowered. He encourages creativity and uses inspiration and clear communication to motivate his team into greatness.
Jeff Bezos Leadership Traits
Jeff Bezos is one of the greatest leaders of our modern world.
Founder of Amazon, and set nicely in the top 10 richest men in the world, Bezos has become a household name across the world.
His ability to innovate and think outside the box, allowed him to create his empire. As a business leader, Bezos is conscious to keep a customer focused approach within all discussions, and uses small groups of skilled people to drive his company to success.
Tim Cook Leadership Traits
Tim Cook took over as Apple’s CEO. He is humble about his own skills, believing that he doesn’t possess the traits of a leader. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cook is willing to take risks, innovate and drive the business to future success. He’s also an active listener which allows him to build trust within his workforce and create long lasting connections.
Cook also highlights accountability as a key leadership trait, as well as knowing what you’re good at, and where you need help.
Susan Wojcicki Leadership Traits
Established as one of the greatest business leaders in Silicon Valley, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, is still part of the small number of world renown female business leaders.
There is a lot about leadership one can learn from her; She is open to new opportunities, has clear vision, a strategy to get there, and is open to receiving feedback from her staff to better herself. She highlights the importance of coaching, rather than managing, to gain respect from your team, too.
Elon Musk Leadership Traits
Creator of Paypal, SpaceX and Tesla, Elon Musk is an admirable leader that has become a household name. This leadership is based heavily on 5 traits: Entrepreneurial spirit, his passion for innovation, positive attitude, strategic thinking and personal integrity.
Leadership in Sport
Kobe Bryant Leadership Traits
In the wake of his passing, Kobe Bryant has been under the spotlight, but not just for his huge impact on the sports industry.
Bryant was classed as an Agile leader, allowing himself and his team to accelerate their success. With his adaptability on the court, and his passion for creative arts, Bryant inspired a generation of people to believe that they could have it all.
His determination and dedication to get back in the game – even when injured – shows just how great Kobe was as a leader.
Derek Jeter Leadership Traits
Ranking in 11th place in Fortune’s 2014 list of The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Derek Jeter was the only sports figure to make the list.
Derek Jeter’s humble approach to his own personal achievements and his remarkable self discipline, allowed him to maintain a successful and positive career. Jeter was also great at playing under significant pressure but to an incredibly consistent standard.
Leadership in Religion & Activism
Dalai Lama Leadership Traits
In an article for LinkedIn, Dave Carvajal discusses the leadership skills he learnt from the Dalai Lama when bumping into him in a hotel lobby.
To start, leaders should have self-discipline and lead themselves to greatness. By training the mind, and practicing mindfulness, those looking to become leaders can do so properly.
Leaders should inspire others while maintaining their own integrity and be able to visualize their goal in a way that can be communicated to others.
Leadership Traits of Martin Luther King JR
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great leader for many reasons, and will go down in history as one of the most iconic leaders ever.
The leadership traits he possessed were intelligence, self-confidence and determination. His emotional intelligence allowed him to empathize with his peers and influence them to work with him to advance the African American civil rights movement.
Leadership Traits of Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was a selfless leader and an inspiration to the world.
She was determined and committed to helping those less fortunate. Her self-discipline and agile learning capabilities allowed her to speak a whole range of languages, so she could reach more vulnerable people.
Her vision was world peace, and she inspired the world with her kindness, moral compass and integrity.
Jesus Christ Leadership Traits
Of course, Christ himself was one of the first leaders.
His leadership skills include honesty, complete integrity and compassion. It’s this positive, caring attitude that allowed him to create an equal give and take relationship with those around him. His ability to influence also helped to create a following that now transcends across the world.
Mahatma Gandhi Leadership Traits
Contrary to the Trait Theory of Leadership, Gandhi wasn’t born a leader. His ability to remain calm, humble and kind – even while being courageous and defiant at times – allowed him to achieve great things.
Gandhi was charismatic, and held his integrity to fight against the British in a non-violent, peaceful way.
Rosa Parks Leadership Traits
Rosa Parks was highly focused on her bold vision. She was determined, motivated and willing to take risks. It’s this, combined with her ability to stay humble and be driven by her own values and integrity that allowed her to be a great leader.
Nelson Mandela Leadership Traits
Now one of the most iconic people in human history, Nelson Mandela had incredible leadership traits.
Although a man of peace, Mandela was able to hold a powerful presence and take action in the face of adversity. He had a positive outlook which allowed him to spread hope and communicate his vision to the masses. He was focussed and determined to reach his goals and last of all, he was incredibly patient.
Harriet Tubman Leadership Traits
Harriet Tubman played an integral part in freeing hundreds of African-American slaves.
In later life, she also founded a home for eldery Black Americans to reside.
She served in the Union army as a cook, nurse and even a spy. Tubman’s perseverance to continue freeing slaves, even when the battle was never ending, makes her an incredibly inspirational leader. Her commitment to her cause, and empathy toward her peers is second to none.
Leadership in War
Genghis Khan Leadership Traits
Genghis Khan is one of the most notorious leaders in history.
He conquered the majority of the Eurasia continent and ruled one of the largest empires known to mankind. Although many see Khan as a bloodthirsty kind of ‘evil’, he was also a powerful leader. He had a strong vision, patience and accountability.
Napoleon Leadership Traits
Napoleon inspired and empowered his army to be the best; to never settle.
He was able to spot opportunities and delegate the right people and their skills to be put to use. Napoleon was innovative and a trailblazer while maintaining honesty and his integrity. Lastly, he was humble; accepting that he couldn’t accomplish everything he wanted alone.
Leadership in Philosophy
Plato Leadership Traits
Greek philosopher Plato, used leadership as an integral part of his learnings and teachings. Plato believed that leaders require four virtues: Wisdom, fairness, self-discipline and resiliency.
Now, the ‘Platonic Leader’ must be committed to constantly learning and understanding the truth. They should work hard and value justice above all else.
Aristotle Leadership Traits
Aristotle’s remaining writings can be studied for powerful leadership messages even today.
He discouraged the idea of avoiding action, conflict and accountability. Those that ‘say nothing, do nothing’ will become nothing.
He also highlights the need for leaders to understand and empathize with the needs of the whole group. Lastly, Aristotle talks about the importance of speaking the truth and becoming independent.
Albert Einstein Leadership Traits
It’s Einstein’s constant inquisitiveness and interest in learning everything he could that makes him such an inspiration to leaders around the world.
He was incredibly humble about his abilities and credited his curiosity and determination for his accomplishments. He also suggested the secret to his success was imagination, intuition and self-trust.
How to become a better leader?
So, with our list of key leadership traits – good and bad – as well as inspiration from some of the world’s best leaders, you might have recognized some downfalls in your own leadership technique.
So how do you become a better leader?
Get to grips with good leadership traits
Using the list above, you can easily identify which of your traits are good, and which might need a little work. You can easily find guides online to become self-disciplined or more focussed, or any other skills you think need polishing.
Read autobiographies by the world’s biggest leaders
Getting to know the world’s biggest leaders, and understanding their perspective will naturally help you become a better leader. In 2016, Forbes created a list of the best biographies to improve your leadership skills which is definitely worth a look.
Of course, 5 years later, there are plenty more autobiographies published, so take a look at your local bookstore or online for leaders that interest you.
Read other books about leadership
As well as reading content from your favourite leaders, there are more theoretical and academic books that can help you improve.
For example, there are several different leadership strategies which are all worth researching. Leaders can be agile, autocratic, delegative and more. Perhaps it’s not that you are a bad leader, but that you haven’t quite found the right strategy for you.
To name a few, these are some of the best leadership books out there:
- On Becoming a Leader by Warren Dennis
- From Good to Great by Jim Collins
- Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Watch movies about leaders
Although highly sensationalized in movies, watching films about great leaders can easily spark inspiration and passion to improve your own leadership skills. There are leaders in almost every film, but these are a few of the best options if you’re looking for an inspirational watch:
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions for those researching leadership:
What is the best definition of leadership?
Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to achieve a common goal. In business, the idea is to encourage people to act to meet the company’s needs.
Why is leadership an important skill?
Leadership is an important skill to have, and incorporates a whole number of qualities and traits, as explained above. Leaders are responsible for making sure everyone has the same vision and works towards it.
What should a leader do?
A leader should be able to inspire and influence people to become better, or to achieve a goal. They should be confident and provide clear instructions while keeping staff focussed and empowered.
What should a leader not do?
A leader shouldn’t shy away from making decisions, or display self doubt.
They shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves, or insult others along the way. While maintaining positivity and empowerment within the workplace, it’s also important for leaders to not give praise too easily, to encourage staff to work harder to reap the benefits.
What makes a good manager?
A good manager communicates their appreciation for their employees and creates a positive environment to set their team up for success. Good managers will also be able to resolve conflict and use their hard shell to navigate tough conversations.
What does the bible say about leadership traits?
There are several bible verses about leadership qualities. As a general overview, the bible suggests leaders should be humble, practice integrity and protective of their following. They are emotionally intelligent, hardworking and utilise those around them when they need advice.
Is leadership a character trait?
Leadership itself is not a character trait. Instead, leadership is a skill that can be nurtured using character traits such as self control, honesty, courage and self awareness.
What is trait theory of leadership?
Trait Theory of Leadership is the research behind whether Leaders are born, or made.
The argument originated in the 1800s when it was concluded leaders were born with the correct traits for the job. Further research opened the discussion into whether this was true, and suggests that pre-existing character traits can predict good leadership, but skills can also be learnt later on in life.
Can leadership traits be learned?
Absolutely. Leadership skills can be taught, but many people believe certain traits need to be pre-existing in order for a leader to be successful.
How to learn leadership skills
Learning to be a good leader is a never-ending journey. Even the best leaders in the world still have room to improve. You can learn leadership skills through online courses, watching and reading about leaders, as well as working on your communication skills.
How to be an effective leader
To be an effective leader, you need to learn to lead by example.
Leaders shouldn’t be putting their feet up while their team works hard. You should be an example to your team.
You should also take responsibility for the actions of your team, as well as being goal oriented. At the end of the day, an effective leader will also be able to show their appreciation and celebrate the team’s success, too.
What do leaders do?
Leaders are there to keep the team moving towards a shared goal. They work to empower staff by providing clear instructions and a positive working environment. When things go wrong, leaders can be held accountable by senior staff – meaning they need to be resilient and confident in their team.
What does it take to be a leader?
To be a good leader, you need vision, passion and integrity. Great leaders should be experts in communication and provide an inspirational example to their following.
What is leadership in management?
Leaders and managers are different. While managers delegate responsibility, hire staff and organize the company, leaders provide direction for staff by sharing the vision, communicating the strategy and inspiring the team to achieve their goals. Leaders are more flexible and willing to follow their own instincts, while managers stick to the current policies and procedures.
Why do we need leaders?
Leaders provide a purpose. They are an integral part of inspiring people and communicating vision. They empower people to feel part of something bigger, and gives a feeling of belonging to their following.
They also lead people to achieve common or personal goals.
How to develop leadership qualities
Developing leadership qualities can be done through practise.
First, take a look at the good leadership qualities we’ve mentioned above and highlight those that you want to work on.
Then, take a look at leaders you’re inspired by and read their content, watch their TED Talks to get to know them better.
While doing your own research, you should also focus on being a good role model for those around you, practicing your communication skills and active listening.
Are leadership traits reflective of a person’s upbringing?
While the Trait Theory of Leadership originally suggested that leaders were born, newer studies report that leadership could potentially be more to do with a person’s upbringing. I
n essence, your leadership style could easily be based on your upbringing, as those that were subject to apathy, self doubt and delegation will be much different leaders than those who came from an emotional and nurturing background.
What leadership traits do you possess?
There are tonnes of leadership traits that people can naturally possess, while others may have to practise to improve on these qualities. To find out what traits you already have, and which you might need to nurture, you can take a leadership traits quiz.