Top Characteristics of a Leader

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and there’s no one characteristic that all successful leaders possess without fail. There are, however, a few character traits that go hand-in-hand with strong leadership. If you work on strengthening these traits in yourself, you will significantly improve your abilities as a image of the top characteristics of a leader

My 15 Top Characteristics of a Leader

Much has been written about the top characteristics of a leader. In my three decades of experience, I’ve worked with many leaders from different backgrounds.

Here are 15 top characteristics of a leader that I’ve seen over and over again in the people that truly excel.

  • Attitude: Real leaders stay positive, and their attitude never wavers in public. You never want to take a bad mood out on your employees, nor should you let them see you worry about the organization. Positivity is the best policy.
  • Purpose: You need to have an understandable vision for your future and a workable plan for how to get there.
  • Urgency: Great leaders act with a sense of urgency. Your plan for success needs to be implemented today, not tomorrow, not next week.
  • Passion: Perhaps one of the top character traits of a leader is the passion for your organization. If you believe in your mission, your team will line up right behind you.
  • Creativity: You must have a unique approach to what you do, one that hasn’t been tried before.
  • Loyalty: Protect your people, but if their commitment ever wavers, it’s time to upgrade your talent. Loyalty is a two-way street.
  • Intellectual curiosity: The best people on your team are the ones that challenge you with a unique twist on the traditional legacy ideas.   
  • Courage: If it’s important to you, then you need to be able to fight through the rejection, the objections, the noise, and the BS.
  • Honesty: Don’t be afraid to admit when you were wrong. Your people will admire you for your honesty.
  • Tact: Thinking before you speak is a learned art form. Practice it. There’s no excuse for a leader who unloads on his or her team. There’s always a polite and respectful way to deliver your message.
  • Style: It’s who you are and how you act when everything hits the fan. Remember that your team is always watching. Leading by example is essential.
  • Willingness to make mistakes: One of the top characteristics of a leader is a willingness to fall flat on your face. Consider Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and many other leaders who had tasted the pavement before they became successful.
  • Risk tolerance: Mistakes are a full-contact sport, and failure is a necessary part of growth. Dust off your jeans and re-engage.
  • Modesty: It’s always about them, not you. Never take credit for your team’s work, but do take responsibility for their collective failures. Part of leading well is managing those outcomes.
  • Celebrate success: Party when it works out and have the guts to honestly debrief when it doesn’t.


These top characteristics of a leader can all be nurtured if they don’t come naturally to you, but it helps to have an outside objective viewpoint. Fill out my contact form to schedule a complimentary discussion about building up your leadership muscle tone.


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Dave Schoenbeck

Dave Schoenbeck is a professional business and executive coach who translates complex business methods, processes, and strategies into actionable plans to dramatically improve financial results. Read more about Dave here.
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