The Top 7 Leadership Qualities & Attributes of Great Leaders
Many leadership qualities have been identified that are important to great leaders across time.
But there are seven specific qualities of leaders that seem to stand out as being more important than the others.
The good news is that each of these leadership traits can be learned, and they must be learned by practice and repetition.
7 Leadership Qualities of Great Leaders
Here are the seven most identified attributes of great leaders and executives:
What Makes a Great Leader?
Great leaders find the balance between business foresight, performance, and character. They have vision, courage, integrity, humility and focus along with the ability to plan strategically and catalyze cooperation amongst their team.
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” – Jack Welch
Great leaders have a vision… They can see into the future.
They have a clear, exciting idea of where they are going and what they are trying to accomplish and are excellent at strategic planning.
This quality separates them from managers. Having a clear vision turns the individual into a special type of person. This quality of vision changes a “transactional manager” into a “transformational leader.”
While a manager gets the job done, great leaders tap into the emotions of their employees.
“Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend.” – Winston Churchill
One of the more important qualities of a good leader is courage. Having the quality of courage means that you are willing to take risks in the achievement of your goals with no assurance of success. Because there is no certainty in life or business, every commitment you make and every action you take entails a risk of some kind.
Among the seven leadership qualities, courage is the most identifiable outward trait.
“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
In every strategic planning session that I have conducted for large and small corporations, the first value that all the gathered executives agree upon for their company is integrity. They all agree on the importance of complete honesty in everything they do, both internally and externally.
The core of integrity is truthfulness.
Integrity requires that you always tell the truth, to all people, in every situation. Truthfulness is the foundation quality of the trust that is necessary for the success of any business.
Humility gets results. Larry Bossidy, the former CEO of Honeywell and author of the book Execution, explained why leadership characteristics, such as humility, make you a more effective leader:
“The more you can contain your ego, the more realistic you are about your problems. You learn how to listen, and admit that you don’t know all the answers. You exhibit the attitude that you can learn from anyone at any time. Your pride doesn’t get in the way of gathering the information you need to achieve the best results. It doesn’t keep you from sharing the credit that needs to be shared. Humility allows you to acknowledge your mistakes.” – Larry Bossidy
Great leaders are those who are strong and decisive but also humble.
Humility doesn’t mean that you’re weak or unsure of yourself. It means that you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened.
This is one of the rarer attributes – or traits – of good leaders because it requires containment of one’s ego.
It means that you are willing to admit you could be wrong, that you recognize you may not have all the answers. And it means that you give credit where credit is due – – which many people struggle to do.
“Strategy is not the consequence of planning, but the opposite: it’s the starting point.” – Henry Mintzberg
Great leaders are outstanding at strategic planning. It’s another one of the more important leadership strengths. They have the ability to look ahead, to anticipate with some accuracy where the industry and the markets are going.
Leaders have the ability to anticipate trends, well in advance of their competitors. They continually ask, “Based on what is happening today, where is the market going? Where is it likely to be in three months, six months, one year, and two years?” They do this through thoughtful strategic planning.
Because of increasing competitiveness, only the leaders and organizations that can accurately anticipate future markets can possibly survive. Only leaders with foresight can gain the “first mover advantage.”
“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 company and the situation. Leaders focus on results, on what must be achieved by themselves, by others, and by the company. Great leaders focus on strengths, in themselves and in others.
They focus on the strengths of the organization, on the things that the company does best in satisfying demanding customers in a competitive marketplace.
Your ability as a leader to call the shots and make sure that everyone is focused and concentrated on the most valuable use of their time is essential to the excellent performance of the enterprise.
“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
Your ability to get everyone working and pulling together is essential to your success. Leadership is the ability to get people to work for you because they want to.
The 80/20 rule applies here:
Twenty percent of your people contribute 80 percent of your results.
Your ability to select these people and then to work well with them on a daily basis is essential to the smooth functioning of the organization.
Gain the cooperation of others by making a commitment to get along well with each key person every single day. You always have a choice when it comes to a task: You can do it yourself, or you can get someone else to do it for you. Which is it going to be?
A Few Thoughts on Leadership Qualities
Most of the time, leaders think about good leadership qualities and how to apply them on a daily basis.
They also know that they must lead by example to truly earn the will of their followers.
The most important contribution you can make to your company is to be a leader, accept responsibility for results, and dare to go forward.
BONUS: 3 Extra Leadership Traits to Accelerate Your Career
Bonus Tip 1 – Great Leaders Are Future Oriented 100% of the Time
The predominant quality of great leaders is that they think about the future most of the time.
They think about where they are going rather than where they have been. They maintain a positive attitude and think about the opportunities of tomorrow rather than focusing on the problems of the past.
Only about 10% of people have this quality of future-orientation. This small percentage includes all the movers, shakers, entrepreneurs, business builders, top salespeople, artists, musicians, and creators of all kinds.
To think like a leader, you must practice “idealization” in each area of your life.
To get the most out of the use of idealization, you should begin by imagining that you have no limitations at all on what you can be, do or have.
Imagine for a moment that you have all the time and money that you need. You have all the education and knowledge.
You have all the talent and experience. You have all the friends and contacts. You are a “no-limit” person who can do anything that you really put your mind to.
If you were the very best professional business person that you could possibly be, what additional knowledge, skills, and leadership qualities would you have developed to a high level?
When you begin the practice of idealization, you can then extend this exercise to your family, your finances and your physical health.
If your family life was ideal in every way, what sort of lifestyle would you be living?
If your financial situation were ideal, how much money would you have in the bank, and how much would you be earning from your investments each month and each year?
If your levels of physical health and fitness were ideal, how would you be different from today?
When you begin to develop leadership qualities, you begin to engage in what is called “long-term thinking.”
Bonus Tip 2 – Keep A Positive Attitude
Top people maintain a positive attitude and are long-term thinkers. Average thinkers think only about the present, and about immediate gratification.
But great leaders think about where they want to be in five and ten years, and what they have to do each hour of each day to make their desired futures a reality.
Great leaders inspire other people, their friends, customer, associates and even their children because they are inspired themselves.
They are excited about the possibility of creating an exciting future for themselves.
They get up every morning and they see every effort they make as part of a great plan to accomplish something wonderful with their lives and push forward with a positive attitude.
Leaders are optimistic.
They see opportunities and possibilities in everything that happens, positive or negative.
They look for the good in every situation and in every person. They seek the valuable lessons contained in every problem or setback. They never experience “failures;” instead, write them off as “learning experiences.”
Most of all, great leaders have a sense of meaning and purpose in each area of their lives.
They have clear, written goals and plans they work on every day. Leaders are clear about where they are going and what they will have to do to get there.
Their behavior is purposeful and goal-directed. As a result, they accomplish five and ten times as much as the average person who operates from day to day with little concern about the future.
Bonus Tip 3 – Take Responsibility
One of the most important leadership qualities is the acceptance of personal responsibility.
Leaders never complain, never explain. Instead of making excuses, they make progress.
Whenever they have a setback or difficulty, they repeat to themselves, “I am responsible! I am responsible! I am responsible!”
Great leaders see themselves as victors over circumstances rather than victims of circumstances.
They don’t criticize or blame others when something goes wrong. Instead, they focus on the solution, on what can be done.
Leaders are intensely action-oriented. They are constantly in motion. They try something, and then something else, and then something else again. They never give up.
Finally, leaders have integrity. They tell the truth at all times. They live in truth with themselves, and they live in truth with others.
The acceptance of leadership is a great responsibility.
It is both scary and exhilarating. Once you decide to become a leader in your life, you cast off the shackles of fear and dependency that hold most people back and pursue life with a positive attitude. With your own hands, you design your own future. You set yourself fully on the path to becoming everything you are capable of becoming.
If you want to learn the specific habits shared by the most successful people on the planet click the button below to download my free e-book, The Power of Habit.
7 Leadership Qualities of Great Leaders (Infographic)
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Featured Image: Elon Musk under a creative commons license The Summit 2013 – Picture by Dan Taylor / Heisenberg Media – www.heisenbergmedia.com
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.