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Moving from Good to Great: The Characteristics of a Leader

  • May 30, 2016
Charactersitics of a leader

Characteristics of a leader

The characteristics of a leader contribute to their success or demise.  If you were to take these characteristics of a good leader and classify them, they would fall into one of three areas.  According to research by Al Gini and Ronald M. Green, the three critical characteristics of leadership are character, stewardship, and experience.

There is no particular recipe for leadership success or failure.  While some industries may demand a specific skill set or place significance on individual elements of leadership, it is not the same across the board.  The skills necessary to be a successful leader in the healthcare field will be different from those necessary for education or construction.  Ultimately, the characteristics of a leader capable of achieving success are fluid or always changing.

If you were to freeze the clock at a given moment, analyzing a small industry, you might be able to find traits that current leaders possess.  Moving ahead to a different era you may see similar results with slight deviations.

Why do characteristics of a good leader change?

Leadership skills capable of generating great results allowing a company to move from good to great occurs because of changes in the industry.

Three major areas that force change is:

  1. Technology

Even industries that are thought to be boring, slow, and dull can benefit from innovative ideas.  Innovation forces leaders to rethink their systems and processes.  These technological shifts force leaders who were previously successful in situations that they may find uncomfortable and challenging.  Conversely, these predicaments are opportunities for new leaders to emerge that possess a different skill set.

  1. Customer Demands

All businesses have customers they are trying to serve.  Those companies who fail to listen to their customer needs can lose business.  As a leader, it is imperative to not only listen to the messages from your clients but also respond.  Leaders who find themselves unable to make changes as necessary will surely find themselves searching for other opportunities outside their existing company.

  1. The Next Generation

The next generation also encourages leaders to consider their strengths and weaknesses.  Your characteristics and approaches that allowed you to connect with workers in the past may no longer be well received.  The next generation will make you examine your style and adapt in new ways.

The Journey of the Hero

As followers, we tend to see leaders as idols, somebody to put on a pedestal.  Leaders are individuals we model ourselves after in hopes of reaching that same accomplishment level.  We want to dream of being the next great idol, serving as role model for others.  This is the result of pushing ourselves and others to achieve great feats.

Keep in mind that no great leader assumes that role overnight.  The characteristics of a leader that put us in the limelight are the same ones that others are analyzing and dissecting.  People admire leaders just as much as they analyze and deconstruct their abilities.

Joseph Campell, an anthropologist, studying the influence of the hero’s quest suggests that groups, no matter their place in history has pursued the notion of the hero.  According to this perspective, it is okay to evaluate the characteristics of a leader and substitute their place in exchange for the hero.

The search for what comprise the characteristics of a leader is necessary.  For example, there are 176,496 book results about leadership appearing on Amazon alone.

Additional research shows:

18 Characteristics of a Good Leader Charactersitics of a leader Characteristics of a good LeaderCharacteristics of a good Leader

Emotional Stability

This aspect is critical to controlling the attitude around the workplace.  A leader who visibly display emotional swings can act as a catalyst for confusion, paranoia, and frustration of workers making leadership a challenging endeavor. Characteristics of a good Leader


A good leader will not only push themselves to reach high standards but encourage and motivate their followers for better results.


It is important to gather information, analyze the data, and make a decision.  You will not always have all the information or the most recent data for that matter.  You need to listen to your gut instinct, make a decision, and stick by it long enough to see if it works.  Upon reevaluation of the problem considering making amendments to the plan.


Followers want to pursue a path and direction that does not appear risky, dangerous, or treacherous.  Even if this path is bound to encounter challenges and hurdles, followers need reassurance.  One of the manners that leaders can offer this reassurance is through assertiveness.


A leader’s intuition stems from their knowledge and or experience.  A leader who has a background in a situation will find it easier to acquire trust and confidence in those they lead.


Any chance a follower will support an individual who appears wishy-washy or unsure of themselves.  Why you may think the answer is no, you are correct to some extent.  Followers may follower a leader for a brief period if the person is new to problem or predicament.  However, this patience is not unending.  A leader must gain the confidence of their peers by taking intentional or deliberate actions.

High Standards

A leader who allows themselves or others to drift will eventually discover deteriorating performance over time.  The key to establishing high standards is through consistency over time.  A leader who continually reminds their team of organizational goals is more apt to find success in the long run.

Tough Minded

Competition along with internal and external forces shape corporate operations.  Leaders to need to be tough-minded to overcome obstacles.  When challenges arise, leaders cannot get down on themselves or the team.  Instead, a person in this position must encourage and motivate others so that they proceed taking one step at a time.


Confidence is a fundamental component to anyone in a leadership role.  If you ask an individual what is leadership?  You will find that the person must be confident and not only believe in their abilities but the skills and attributes of team members.


Displaying energy and enthusiasm is not an easy chore for many people especially those who are introverts.  It is possible to succeed without visual demonstrations of energy toward solving a problem.  Possessing power allows you to follow the organizational mission with less resistance.  It helps you get up in the morning with excitement and preparedness to tackle the problems of the day.


Leaders who retaliate and fail to maintain their composure soon learn there is no one to lead.  The maturity of a leader accompanies many of these other leadership skills.

Team Oriented

While there is no I in the team, there is also no I in leadership.  The premise of leadership rests on the notion that individuals are ready to follow, help, and contribute to your vision.  Leaders who listen and respect their team will be able to achieve greater results that had they done things and taken actions on their own.


One of the characteristics of a leader is the ability to connect with those they lead on an emotional level.  This emotional connection is empathy.  Faking empathy will not endure you to others.  Individuals can see right through a person who is fake and is not an authentic leader.


Leadership in managing others occurs from the capacity to transfer authority.  Delegation contributes to leadership in some ways.  First, delegation allows leaders to focus on other tasks that team leaders may not be ready to accept or lack the necessary skills.  Second, delegation allows members of the team to gain confidence and develop their leadership abilities.  Delegation is a double-edged sword that can help the leader and other contributors when done well.


A leader without good communication is a mime trapped in a box.  Leadership begins with the ability to identify and communicate their mission and vision.  This connection extends to conversing with organizational members to set and achieve daily goals and objectives.  It is necessary for holding members accountable for their progress.  Although a good leader may not have to be statesmen, they need to form their message in a manner that is well received.


Is a leader capable of serving in this role without having any commitment?  A leader can be a substitute who may support the overall organizational values.  At a division level, they are still able to be functional without remaining committed or possessing a full understanding of these standards.  However, if a leader is in a long term permanent position they must find conviction and commit to the team and goals that lay ahead.

Positive Attitude

Why is that some work environments are more enjoyable than others?  One of the ways to establish a great working environment is through proper staffing.  Staffing starts with assembling a team with a leader who has a great can-do attitude that is capable of motivating their team.  Often followers resemble others inside the organization because they mesh well together and share many similar traits.


Leaders who take the time to understand the internal motivators of their team members are more likely to achieve great results.  This occurs because leaders can tap into these intrinsic motivators and help their followers connect the dots between performance drivers and achievement.

This list of characteristics of a good leader will help guide you in your personal development.


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