8 Best Qualities of a Great Leader

best qualities of a leader

Over the years, great leaders have helped shape world history as heads of states, religious leaders, freedom fighters, business owners and even family heads. These great leaders (dedicated to a higher calling) have had to push themselves to perform at higher than average levels, and in so doing, have for centuries inspired humanity in many different ways.

There are common traits that constitute greatness in leaders irrespective of the cause, where they live, and the culture that shapes them. In studying a wide range of leaders, I have noticed that true leadership boils down to drive (the drive to serve), combined with a solid character … especially in leaders who have left lasting legacies.

Whether a president, priest, pastor, CEO, community activist, teacher, parent, entrepreneur, etc, leadership is about rallying people around a cause and effectively executing the plan that has been put in place for success.

Here are 8 best qualities of a great leader:
  • 1. Great leaders empathize, not criticize, while at the same time they remain keen on providing solid feedback to team members. This is at the core of positive reinforcement. “A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better,” Jim Rohn.
  • 2. Great Leaders inspire others to want to be better and do better. They go on to create a positive and productive atmosphere that others excel in. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” John Maxwell.
  • 3. Great leaders respect and value individuality. Such leaders recognize that individuals who make up teams are uniquely gifted and should play different roles in turning the wheels of success. Knowing how to capitalize on individual strengths to produce results is a key component of productive leadership. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves,” Lao Tzu.
  • 4. Great leaders focus on building and developing themselves. By self-developing, they are able to nurture excellence, productivity, and loyalty in team members. These great leaders do not command, they motivate and inspire; hence leading by example. “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others,” Jack Welch.
  • 5. Great leaders commit to the team, focusing on results that lead to progress in the organization, company or community. For such leaders, the good of the team always comes before personal aspirations. “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes,” Peter Drucker.
  • 6. Great leaders possess character and a strong backbone. They often display an uncanny mixture of humility and resolve… humble as to be relate-able and approachable, strong enough to make sure the work gets done and goals are reached. “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent,” Douglas MacArthur.
  • 7. True leaders are big on recognition, unafraid to credit team members and partners for successful results. Such leaders are first to praise and acknowledge deserving high achievers on the team. “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit,” John Maxwell.
  • 8. Great leaders are positive role models. These individuals cherish the trust bestowed upon them, preserving it as best as they can. Great leaders respect and honor those who work with them, understanding that leadership is about service, not power. “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” Benjamin Disraeli.

The leaders who have truly made a mark in our minds are those who in different ways have inspired communities and individuals to become better and move forward. By rejecting mediocrity, great leaders have propelled themselves and others to greatness.

The question I beg to ask in closing is, Are great leaders born or are they made? Please leave a comment.

Lema is on Twitter: @LemaNsah ; her website:

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