Six characteristics of great leaders

What differentiates leaders and great leaders? My belief is that there are six stand-out characteristics that all great leaders share.

A woodland sceneToday’s post sets out those six core characteristics. Embed these in who you are and how you are so that your leadership grows and develops.


As a leader, you must deliver a compelling vision, one which others are happy to follow. It needs to go way beyond what tomorrow will bring. It needs to identify future possibilities and potential. Most importantly, it needs to be a vision you and your followers can act on – now!

Deep Conviction

When your team engages with you, they need to see the passion, enthusiasm, and energy that comes from deep conviction. The conviction that comes from your certainty and strength of purpose, and your belief in the vision. They should be warmed and animated by the glow that emanates from you when you speak about the vision and the actions needed to achieve it.


This is not about posturing and vociferous assertions. It is about that calm, quiet self-assurance that comes from deep within a leader who understands their team and its capabilities. It is the confidence that empowers staff through real responsibility and authority to act. It is the confidence of the leader who does not need the limelight and is happy for others to receive the accolades and attention. It is the confidence that demonstrates trust in others, based on a belief that they can achieve what is necessary.


This is not just about physical courage, though that may occasionally be needed. It is moral courage that is more deeply required. The courage to speak up or stand alone when required. The courage to say NO, when it would be easier to say YES. The courage to do the right thing, which might make you unpopular. The courage to own your mistakes and to take corrective action. Most of all, it is the courage to act, now and decisively, while being flexible and responsive to feedback.


This seems an old-fashioned notion, especially in a world when many leaders and managers use dishonesty routinely to achieve their ends. For me, integrity is built on core values, strongly held and demonstrated on a daily basis. Featuring here would be self-reliance, self-control, a strong sense of social justice, honesty, an understanding of right and wrong, and a willingness to speak out and stand alone, even though that might be truly uncomfortable.


I believe in common decency – politeness, courtesy, and respect for others. I practice my beliefs daily in my life, not just at work. I have done this for decades and I am known by many for it. How you exercise your humanity differentiates you.  How you treat others with fairness and respect, whether near or far, will mark you out. The acid test of great leaders, I believe, is how well they demonstrate their humanity with those less well placed than themselves. As President Truman once remarked, “How you treat those who can’t talk back.”

In my view, pursuing each of these characteristics, growing better on a daily basis, will move you inexorably towards greater leadership quality. Remember – leadership fundamentally begins from within! This focus on your internal qualities will not only make you a better leader but also a better person.

I’d be delighted to know what you think and how you are progressing?

[Tweet “The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there. – James Buchanan”]

I am always happy to listen and ready to help. Please reach out to me if you feel I might be of assistance. I love engaging in meaningful dialogue, and I’d appreciate your connection.

Thank you for reading.

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