The Top Ten Character Traits of Great Leaders

Leadership is a term which has many definitions. Having been within the executive search business for over 12 years, we’ve been fortunate and privileged to have interviewed many leaders. Each person always brings something unique to their leadership role but, over the years, we’ve noticed that there are some character traits that all exceptional leaders have in common. We’d like to share with you the top 10 character traits that we always look for when we are searching for exceptional leaders as we’re sure you’ll want to have them in your business. Here they are:

  • Vision – great leaders have a clear, striking picture of where to go, what success looks like and how it can be achieved. More importantly, though they communicate and share that vision in such a way that others immediately want to support it and act upon it and be a part of it.
  • Team builders – the success of great leaders is no accident and they know that no man is an island. They surround themselves with smart, talented people. Great leaders know that they can’t build a business single-handed so they focus on what they do best and play to the strengths of their team.
  • Confidence – great leaders not only have confidence in themselves and their vision but also in other people too. They convey this confidence in the language they use and this instils confidence in their team, inspiring dedication, trust and hard work.
  • Passion– passion and enthusiasm is a key character trait of great leaders. They are able to build extraordinarily successful teams because they know how to light the “fire in the bellies” of the people they work with. They make people around them feel passionate about the company and connected to their vision. Great leaders are enthusiastic about getting the job done and never procrastinate. They don’t just tell others what to do but lead by example, communicate their desire for the end result, take pride in accomplishments and learn from failure. Other people follow them because their passion and enthusiasm is contagious.
  • Discipline – great leaders are not only disciplined themselves but they instil discipline and accountability in their organisation. Discipline is evident from the language they use, they are more likely to be found saying “we plan to….”, “we’re doing…..”, “we’ve achieved…..”, instead of saying “we hope to…”, “I expect….” and “maybe…..”. They empower their organisations whilst establishing clear parameters through plans, structures and processes.
  • Integrity – people with integrity tend to be “what you see is what you get”. People trust leaders with integrity because they are consistent in their actions, values, principles and expectations even when it might be beneficial to veer from moral or ethical principles. Leaders with integrity are honest in their dealings, have predictable reactions, are approachable and are unlikely to have emotional outbursts.
  • Dedication – not only will great leaders spend whatever time or energy is necessary to accomplish goals but they will remain dedicated to the vision that they believe in, even in the most arduous times. They inspire the same dedication in their team because they lead by example.
  • Magnanimity– Magnanimity is used rarely these days to describe people but great leaders have the virtue of being noble and generous.The greatest leader of our time, Nelson Mandela, describes it perfectly in the following quote, “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
  • Fairness– a great leader will never make judgements without first checking all the facts. They avoid making judgements based on incomplete or subjective evidence. They deal with everyone consistently and justly. They are rewarded with loyalty and dedication because their people always feel that they are treated fairly.
  • Empathy– this is critical to great leadership. Those who have the ability to sense and respond to the feelings of others are set apart from their peers. Great leaders use empathy to form strong relationships, detect early warning signs and recognise opportunities for influence. Their empathy shows that they care about others, which breeds loyalty.

These ten traits are not inherent personality factors; they are traits that can be cultivated over time. A little bit of insight into what traits may need to be developed can turn an average leader into an exceptional one.

Click here to read how we can help you find these character traits in your next executive appointment.

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