Leadership traits are qualities or characteristics of a leader.
We’ve all seen leaders with ineffective leadership traits and many of us have seen certain traits that have made some leaders great.
What are these traits?
In this article, we discuss 15 key leadership traits of good leaders.
Also, make sure to check out: 15 Leadership Qualities Every Leader Should Embrace
Table of Contents
A leader should be committed to their team and to the goal and purpose they are pursuing.
They should be committed to their team to help them grow to reach their full potential and to guide the team to accomplish what they’ve set out to do as a team.
They also should be committed to their purpose and goals to make them happen. They don’t quickly change commitments or priorities or quit just because it gets tough.
They are committed and focused on getting it done.
How committed are you?
- How committed are you to your team? How committed are you to your goals and purpose?
- If you aren’t committed, why not? What is holding you back? What can you do to make your commitment stronger?
Sometimes it’s just deciding to be committed.
If you find yourself unable to be committed to the goal or purpose, you may need to find a new position where you can be committed.
A good leader is self-motivated. They do not have to have someone else encourage or entice them to do their job.
They don’t rely on external motivators to make things happen.
Their motivation comes from within. They are driven to make things happen. They want to get better. They want to reach their purpose.
They have that desire within them that moves them forward, regardless of the extrinsic motivations their company may offer.
How is your self-motivation?
- What motivates you? What drives you forward?
- If you find that it’s the external rewards that motivate you, your success as a leader and in your career will be limited.
- If you aren’t self-motivated, why not? Are you not passionate about your work? Do you not feel challenged? Do you feel lacking in autonomy or growth opportunities? Is your work area toxic?
Examine yourself and then take action to fix it.
As a leader, you need to be proactive instead of reactive.
Reactive leaders wait till events happen then respond. They don’t prep or plan, they just react.
When that happens, however, you must face whatever it is on its terms. You have to spend time putting out fires and figuring out what to do instead of working to prevent it or being ready if it does happen.
You can’t anticipate everything, but you can work toward preparing for possible outcomes. Plan ahead.
Examine potential pitfalls or issues and work to prevent them or have the plan to use if they do.
How proactive are you?
- Do you find yourself mostly reacting to events after they happen? Or do you anticipate and plan ahead for potential outcomes?
- Do you generally find yourself prepared or surprised?
Empathy is different than sympathy.
Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone.
Empathy is putting yourself in that person’s shoes and trying to view the situation or issue from their viewpoint. It’s trying to understand why they are feeling the way they are feeling.
Good leaders have great empathy. This helps them relate to their team better, understand and deal with situations better, and solve problems more effectively.
They are able to build strong relationships because they can see the situation from their team’s viewpoint.
How is your empathy?
- When you face a situation with other people, do you only see your viewpoint, or do you take the time to see others’ viewpoint?
- Do you take the time to see the situation from their view and look to see why they may be feeling the way they are feeling?
If you are able to do this well, it will help you go far with your team. They will feel more heard by you, and you may see the situation differently and change your approach because of it, which builds stronger trust and relationships with your team.
Good leaders are confident.
They don’t make decisions or act to try to make up for a lack of confidence or security.
They don’t need acclamation from others (though it can be nice to have), because they have it from within.
Even when they face a situation they don’t know, they have the confidence in themselves that it can be figured out and that, even if they make a mistake, it’s not a lowering of themselves as a person but just part of the process.
How is your confidence?
- Where is your confidence level?
- Do you feel like you must do certain actions to be “seen” to build your confidence?
- Do you make mistakes or feedback personally, where you see it as attacking or diminishing you as a person?
If so, work on that. Be aware of yourself when you feel that way.
Develop a growth mindset. It will take time, the more you recognize when you act based on insecurity or the wrong mindset and work to improve it, the better you will get.
(Learn more about having a growth mindset here.)
Leaders should be purposeful.
When they act or make a decision, there should be a purpose behind it. As much as possible, everything they do should be helping them move toward their purpose and their goals.
Are you purposeful?
- Are you purposeful in your actions and decisions?
- Is there an overall purpose and reason or goal that guides your decisions and actions? Or do you make the choice “on the fly”?
If you are making them on the fly, you aren’t being effective.
Make sure to see the big picture and let that guide your actions and your decisions.
Good leaders are persistent.
They understand that growth and progress are processes. There will be easy times, hard times, and times of failure.
However, they don’t let the hard times and failures stop them. They keep moving forward. They are persistent.
How is your persistence?
- When things get hard, do you give up? When there are failures and mistakes, do you throw your hands up and walk away?
- Or do you persist through those hard times? Do you see mistakes and failures as part of the process and learn from them and keep moving forward?
If you quit too fast and too often when difficulties come and failure happens, you will not get very far as a leader.Good leaders are persistent. Click To Tweet
Good leaders are flexible.
They aren’t stuck on doing it their way and only their way. They aren’t stuck with a certain path that they aren’t willing to flex as situations change.
If someone else presents a new idea that’s better than theirs, they go for it. If others offer suggestions that make things better, they add them.
If the situation changes and it negatively affects their plan, they are willing and able to adjust and flex as needed to make things work.
How flexible are you?
- Are you willing to listen to others and their input? Are you so set on doing it one way (or your way) that you don’t adjust as situations change?
- Or are you all about innovation and change? Do you flex as new ideas come and as situations change?
The more flexible you are, the better leader you will be.
It’s important to be self-aware as a leader (and as a person in general).
Being self-aware means that you are aware of how you are feeling, your emotions, etc., and you know how it can affect you.
For example, if I don’t get enough sleep, when the early-mid afternoon rolls around, I sometimes start to feel it. When I start to feel it, I find that I start being more grumpy and more negative as a person.
By recognizing it, I can then work against it.
Good leaders recognize their states and their emotions so they can manage them or use them to their benefit.
How self-aware are you?
- Do you recognize when you are tired or hungry or when you are reacting negatively because of that?
- Do you notice when you start getting angry or upset?
When you recognize it, you can work to manage it. If you don’t recognize it, you could end up saying or doing things you might regret.
Courage is an important trait for a leader.
They are willing to stand up and speak up for what is right, even when others don’t.
They are willing to take calculated risks knowing that they are likely to have some failures in some of those risks.
They make tough decisions, even when it’s hard.
Weak leaders don’t. They stick with the group’s thinking because they don’t want to stand out or look silly. They are likely to delay decisions out of fear of being wrong.
They avoid innovation and ideas and taking risks because then they might make a mistake, which would make them look bad.
How is your courage?
- Are you courageous or fearful?
- Do you sink back and let others decide or stick with the group’s thinking, or do you stand up and speak out? Are you willing to take risks, or do you fear making mistakes? Are you decisive, or do you delay decisions out of fear?
Work on being a leader of courage.Great leaders make tough decisions, even when it’s hard. Click To Tweet
Passionate can have multiple meanings – in this case, I mean you should have passion for the work you are doing and/or the purpose you are pursuing.
Passionate leaders drive toward their purpose with passion. They are motivated and there is an urgency and intensity about it. They want to make it happen.
Impassionate leaders don’t. They have a “mission”, but in reality, they don’t care. There’s a lack of motivation because of the lack of passion.
How is your passion?
- Are you passionate about your purpose and what you are doing?
- Or are you just going through the motions?
Granted, you won’t “feel” passion in everything you do. Some days won’t be easy. But you should have some form of passion or drive toward what you are doing or your purpose or your team.
If you don’t, you are going to have a hard time being effective. If you don’t, see if there is something about it you can be passionate about.
If you can’t, then it may be time to move to something else that you can be passionate about.
(This isn’t the “follow your passions and you will be successful” pitch, but you do want to have some drive, some passion, in what you do.)
Good leaders are great learners.
They learn from mistakes and failures, from feedback, from watching others, from books, articles, podcasts, conferences, etc.
They are all about learning and growing. They know if they stop learning, they will be hurting their effectiveness, short-term and especially long-term.
How is your learning?
- Are you a learner?
- Do you want and ask for feedback from others so you can get better? Do you take the time to learn from your mistakes and failures?
- Do you read books or watch videos or go to conferences or listen to podcasts or take courses or have some other method for continuous learning?
If you aren’t learning, you will fall behind, and your effectiveness will be severely limited over time.
Good leaders are focused on their purpose and goals.
They focus and prioritize their actions and decisions based on their purpose and goals.
If an opportunity or activity pops up that doesn’t match their goals, then they pass on it.
They decide the work of their team and themselves based on their goals. Almost everything they do revolves around this.
How purpose-driven are you?
- Are you purpose and goal-oriented? Is that your focus and your drive?
- Do you prioritize based on your purpose and goals?
- Or do you jump around in your directions or decide more “aimlessly”?
Make sure you know your goals, and that your team knows your goals, and prioritize as much of your work as you can around those goals.
- Also Read: The Definite Guide to Goal Setting
A good leader is self-disciplined. They are able to get things done without someone else making them do it.
They make sure they are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there and are doing what they should be doing.
They don’t waste time on “easy” tasks to avoid the harder ones.
Weak leaders and weak employees are the opposite. They waste a lot of time before starting tasks (if they ever do). They are often unprepared and may require an external person to get them to do what they need to do.
How is your discipline?
- Are you self-disciplined? Are you able to get yourself doing what you need to be doing when you need to be doing it?
- Or do you end up wasting a lot of time?
- Do you often find yourself unprepared?
If this leadership trait is a struggle for you, start to work on it. Find ways to help motivate yourself to be disciplined.
Set yourself up for success by removing distractions and making it easy to start your tasks.
Improving your discipline can improve your output and productivity dramatically.
Good leaders are humble. They aren’t arrogant. They don’t think too highly of themselves.
They know they don’t know everything. They are good listeners. They focus on others and not just on themselves.
They give credit away instead of trying to make the light shine on them.
Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, called humility one of the top qualities of Level 5 leaders.
How is your humility?
- Do you think you know more than everyone? Do you ignore others’ input because you think you know better? Do you see yourself as better than others or focus mostly on yourself?
- Or do you focus on others and not just yourself? Do you see everyone as equals and listen to others’ thoughts and opinions? Do you realize that others may even have better ideas than you?
If you are a person of arrogance, not only will it push good people away, but it will keep you from getting the best ideas and input, which will limit your success.
Final Thoughts on 15 Leadership Traits Successful Leaders Have in Common
How well did you match up on these leadership traits?
If you have some work to do, that’s okay. Recognizing it is the first step to growth.
See where you need to grow, and take action. Over time, you will become a better and great leader.
Now to you: What leadership trait stuck out the most to you? Did we miss any?
Let us know in the comments below.
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