17 Vital Characteristics of a Good Leader

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A look into the most important leadership qualities and characteristics of a good leader.

Most important characteristics of a good leader

If you have been following me on Think About Such Things, or have seen my Leadership Page you will know I have a high value for good healthy leadership.

So, today I want to share what I feel are vital leadership qualities and characteristics that make for good leadership.

I do want to say if you are on a journey of developing your leadership skills. Please, don’t be overwhelmed by this list. I know seeing 17 characteristics can seem unreachable, but that’s not how you should look at this list.

Let it be something you learn from, create goals towards, and bring accountability into.

If you are in some form of church or ministry leadership. Then I would encourage you to take a step further and invite God into your development and growth in leadership.

What are Leadership Qualities?

You may be asking what are leadership qualities? And the simplest answer is that they are a distinctive attribute or characteristic an individual posses or learns that helps them lead others and themselves.

Some are natural-born leaders and naturally gravitate toward leadership qualities. This doesn’t mean they are a good leader or a bad leader, but they have enough of those characteristics that people follow them. I believe leadership is a gift and we can either use it to help or to harm.

Leadership meeting

I do believe others can grow in leadership qualities and abilities. They may have to work hard then the natural leader and the truth is they might not be as successful as the natural-born leader. I’ve seen this with team members who were peers and those under me.

The truth is leadership is HARD. And good leadership demands sacrifice. It’s not for everyone, and that’s ok.

To me personally, the definition of a good leader is someone who uses their gifts, character, and time to lead people to some form of betterment.

Now, let’s take a look at some leadership characteristics that are vital to grow in.

Characteristics of a Good Leader

The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty.

– Zig Ziglar

Below you find a list of all 17 characteristics of a good leader. They are not in any type of order or system. I give a brief definition of the leadership quality then give you some thoughts and/or other resources you can glean from on the topic.

If you would like to jump to a certain characteristic you can click the link provided. Otherwise, just scroll down to see them all.

Leadership Quality List

  1. Integrity
  2. Transparency
  3. Passion
  4. Vision or Futuristic
  5. Courage or Boldness
  6. Humility
  7. Empathy
  8. Execution
  9. Self-Discipline
  10. Teachable
  11. Accountability
  12. Empowering
  13. Patient
  14. Communication
  15. Resilient
  16. Hopeful
  17. Love

Integrity

in·teg·ri·ty noun – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

Integrity is the backbone of good leadership. Without it, you will lose trust from those around you and your sphere of influence will become nothing. I love what Zig Ziglar says about integrity:

It is true that integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without integrity, you will never be one. – Zig Ziglar

This is one we see a lot in the news when a leader falls morally. It shakes us up and questions our desire to follow them.

When you are an integrous leader you become a person who is safe and worthy of trust.

Transparency

trans·par·en·cy noun – the condition of being transparent.

Transparency is not about TMI (too much information). Being a transparent leader means you are real and piggybacks on integrity.

You don’t hide behind a facade.

In this day in age with social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. It’s easy to make people think we have it all together…it’s all perfect, shiny and new.

The thing is those kinds of leaders will never bring growth and true transformation to those they lead.

Transparency is also being open to those around you. Sharing things and not hiding or holding back out of fear or control.

Forbes has a great article on powerful things that happen when a leader is transparent.

Passion

pas·sion noun – strong and barely controllable emotion.

Passion is the fire in you that keeps you going towards your goals. When it comes to leadership it’s vital in a lot of ways. You lose passion and everything just becomes a meaningless task.

The problem with passion is that many people think that’s all you need. That passion is enough.

And the truth is passion is NOT enough. There are a lot of passionate people in the world, but their passion for something doesn’t go anywhere.

Randy Grieser, author of The Ordinary Leader makes a great point about passion.

Having passion as a leader is one thing; inspiring passion in your employees is another thing altogether.  Employees will not automatically be passionate about the work they do.  Perhaps for a short time they will, but if you are aiming for long term engagement and excitement, you should be intentional about providing inspiration.  Leaders inspire employees to be passionate by expressing genuine enthusiasm and articulating why the organisation does what it does –why and how the organisation makes a difference.” – Randy Grieser

We will look at other leadership qualities and characteristics that work synergistically with passion to achieve amazing results in yourself and those who are under you.

Vision or Futuristic

Futuristic – To have the ability to see the future or what can be (dreamer). (for more on futurtistic check out StrengthFinders.)

Having a vision or being futuristic is much like passion. A powerful leadership quality but it won’t be productive on its own.

Being futuristic gives you guidance where you and your team want to go.

It the light at the end of the tunnel.

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

This quality brings passion, inspiration, and hope to those who are under you. Without it, you are scattered, unsure, and unfocused. A good leader sees and dreams of what is ahead.

Like I mentioned above this quality is like passion. It needs other qualities to become fruitful. I have known many dreamers who have wonderful ideas but never see them come to pass. Hence why they are called dreamers. It never manifests into reality.

Courage

Cour·age noun – the ability to do something that frightens one.

Leadership comes with its challenges and one of those challenges is fear.

Now, fear can manifest itself in numerous ways and not everyone is fearful of the same thing. Here are some common fears most people face in leadership.

  • Fear of Failure
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of the Unkown
  • Fear of Being Replaced
  • Fear of being Criticized
  • Fear of Letting Go
  • Fear of Responsibility
  • Fear of Making Decisions
  • Fear of Communicating or Confronting

Those are a lot of fears! And they are real and active in a lot of leaders. But there is a solution and that’s COURAGE.

Quote on Being Brave by Melissa Tumino. Important for leaders

When facing things that are difficult in life or leadership we need to find courage.

For some that will be talking out the issue with a mentor or friend, spending some alone time to process and for others, they will find their strength in prayer and the Bible. And for some, it will be all of the above.

The key to overcoming leadership fears:

  1. Realize there is a fear there
  2. Wrestle with that fear (talk it out and find the root)
  3. Be accountable to someone about the fear/issue
  4. Face the fear with courage
  5. Win at Leadership

Humility

hu·​mil·​i·​ty noun freedom from pride or arrogance the quality or state of being humble

One of the biggest turn-offs is being around a leader who arrogant or prideful.

We all don’t like people who are like that, but the reality it’s easy to become that person when we have success. It slowly creeps in as our view of ourselves becomes bloated.

Honestly, we must learn to safeguard ourselves from ourselves. I remember getting a position where it would be easy for me to become arrogant if things were to go successful.

So, I went to my best friend and said to her, “If somehow all this goes to my head and I become cocky or arrogant. I give you full permission to kick me off my high horse.”

She, of course, had no problem saying yes to that. Ha!

We have to be aware that this can happen to us. That we need to position ourselves in a way that we stay humble.

This can look like having people in your life who can share the truth with you. It’s being self-aware, taking criticism when it comes, and reminding yourself where you came from. It’s also good to look at those above you.

Here is a short video that shares more on the importance of humility in leadership.

Empathy

em·​pa·​thy noun – the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner

A lot of leaders have a tendency to get laser focus on the task or goal ahead. Steamrolling anything that gets in the way including people and teammates.

While getting the task done is important, we shouldn’t sacrifice people for it. Because at the end of the day…what we do is about or for people.

Empathy is an important characteristic of good leadership. When those under your leadership know you care and are aware of what they are feeling and going through you have just won a gold star. It helps with connections, trust, and loyalty

Execution

ex·​e·​cu·​tion noun – the act or mode or result of performance

This is one of those leadership qualities that is synergistic with both passion and being futuristic. This is the thing that gets you from Point A (where you are) to Point B (the dream).

You can be the nicest of leaders, even charismatic, huge dreamer, but without execution, you will go nowhere. And sooner or later those around you will see that and move on.

I love these two quotes:

“Ideas are yesterday, execution is today and excellence will see you into tomorrow.” – Julian Hall

Good Leadership Qualities Quote: "Leaders have three fundamental responsibilities: They craft a vision, they build alignment, and they champion execution."

Self-Discipline

self-dis·​ci·​pline noun the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.

Self-Discipline or as some like to call it Self-Mastery is something so powerful and vital in a leader’s life. It’s a personal inward quality that effects and gains outward results. Everyone has a measure of it and only a few master it.

But you can grow in it if you desire! It does take work but the reward is phenomenal. And it’s not just for personal growth and success. When a leader has self- discipline it will show in their work and in their team.

Remember a team follows actions, not words!

And amazing enough self-discipline is extremely inspiring. Hearing about people who achieve things because they stuck with it or did it daily causes us to want to do the same.

Teachable

teach·​able noun – capable of being taught

To be teachable you must be humble and you must desire growth. And it can be taken two ways and both should be applied in your life if you want to be a good leader.

The first way is when you do something wrong you are willing to acknowledge it and learn from it. If someone brings criticism whether it’s constructive or not you try to take it as a learning lesson. This takes a lot of humility, but it’s beneficial since you will grow tremendously.

The second way to take being teachable is to be in a constant place of always learning and growing. You are devouring books, podcasts, courses or whatever resources you can find.

I love the simple quote one of my leaders would always say to me….

“leaders are readers.”

There is a lot of truth in that. Leaders must be teachable and always learning.

Accountability

ac·​count·​able noun – subject to giving an account

Accountability can be taken in two ways like being teachable.

This is the most common understanding of leadership accountability.

“The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.” Thus, if a leader takes accountability for something (for example, a big project), it means they’re taking full ownership of it. They’re holding themselves accountable for its success or failure.Read more here…

The second is keeping accountable to an individual or a group. This is someone you can share your struggles and your weaknesses with. They help you stay accountable and improve your weak areas.

Empowering

em·​pow·​er noun – to give official authority or legal power to

I think every leader says they empower others, but they get that confused with delegating and micromanaging.

True empowerment is sharing your power. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. It takes a lot of internal strength and security to give others a piece of your power, influence, and popularity.

Empowering is one of the important qualities in leadership

If you can develop this leadership quality then you will have a team, company, or ministry that will go the distance. You will have followers under you, but you will be raising them up to be leaders.

I have more on this my post on How to be an Empowering Christian Leader.

Communication

com·​mu·​ni·​ca·​tion noun – a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech)

Good communication skills are important no matter what your role and position are. It’s reflected in how you lead and the relationships you have.

But what does good leadership communication look like?

  1. It’s clear
  2. It’s detailed
  3. It’s kind
  4. It’s honest
  5. It listens

When you have all those5 things going on in your communication…you will win many!

Listening is a powerful skill. Good communicators are also good listeners. When you listen well, you gain a clear understanding of another’s perspective and knowledge. Listening fosters trust, respect, and openness.– Center for Creative Leadership

Patience

pa·tience noun – the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Having personal patience for your struggles or issues is good for your leadership, but patience with other people is vital. It’s a skill that is important for leadership and for life in general.

Here are 3 reasons how patience is a good leadership quality to develop:

  • Creates a safe place for your team to share and work
  • Creates a positive atmosphere that when things go wrong
  • Improves productivity as people aren’t rushed or punished

Now, that might sound like nothing is going to get done because everyone will use you like a doormat. But that’s now patience is supposed to be used. I love what John Kotter says in his book, A Sense of Urgency.

The right attitude might be called “urgent patience.” That might sound like a self-contradictory term. It’s not. It means acting each day with a sense of urgency but having a realistic view of time. It means recognizing that five years may be needed to attain important and ambitious goals, and yet coming to work each day committed to finding every opportunity to make progress toward those goals. “Urgent patience” captures in two words a feeling and set of actions that are never seen with a false sense of urgency.

Resilient

re·​sil·​ient noun – capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture. Tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Every time I think of resilience I think of the famous speech from Rocky Balboa…

If you have a minute what the video it’s inspiring what Rocky says. If you don’t have time to watch it or are somewhere you can’t this is part of what he says…

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” – Rocky Balboa

The greatest leaders of our history were great because of resilience. They took all the rejection, all the NO’s, all the heat, and all the punches AND still kept getting back up and moving forward.

Truly what Rocky said is true….that’s how winning is done!

Hopeful

hope·​ful adjective – having qualities which inspire hope

Being hopeful is an important leadership quality and one that many don’t think of. When a leader loses hope everything will crumble.

You need hope for yourself and you need hope for them (those you lead). It’s the thing that motivates you to believe there is light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark and hard things get.

Hope looks past the past, looks beyond today’s hardships and sees tomorrow as a bright new day.

Leadership Hope Quote - by Libby Gill

It inspires, brings life, and purpose to those you lead. In an entrepreneur.com article hope is mentioned as one of the most powerful leadership tools.

Love

Agape (Ancient Greek ἀγάπη, agapē) is a Greco-Christian term referring to love, “the highest form of love, charity” and “the love of God for man and of man for God”.

You have probably noticed that the definition above is not a normal American dictionary definition. I actually used one of the ancient Greek terms for love that’s found in the Bible.

I did this because a lot of times we have a different understanding of what love is or should be. And I want to make it clear for this subject when dealing with leadership.

A leader should have a genuine love for what they do and who they lead. Not the kind of love that’s all about “feelings.” But the kind of unconditional love that is about giving and not taking.

If you want good leadership…this is a characteristic you can not pass by.

Love is going to be the fuel and purpose that keeps getting you up in the morning. It goes beyond just goals and tasks. It’s the thing that those you lead will experience and will be loyal to you and your cause for life.

Good Leadership Qualities List – Free PDF

As someone who has led teams, I thought this might be useful for meetings, retreats or team building activities. This is a complete PDF of the good leadership qualities listed with just the definitions.

You can use this in a number of ways.

  • Have your team break up into groups and choose a characteristic and share how it helps as a leader and what happens when a leader lacks that quality.
  • Use it as a reference for your next meeting or teaching.
  • Hand out to your team and ask them to choose one that is the most important to them and have them share why.
Free PDF - Leadership Qualities list

Just click the picture above of this or click this link to get your free PDF List of Characteristics of A Good Leader.

*If you are looking for more team building activities check out these 6 Quick Team Building Games.


I hope you have enjoyed this article on good leadership characteristics. Feel free to leave me a comment below and here are a couple more articles you might be interested in!

Important reminders to leaders
More on characteristics of a good leader - Empowerment

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One Comment

  1. Zoe Campos says:

    The part where you mentioned that we should always check and safeguard from our own selves really made me think about how it can be the reason for any politician’s downfall. I’ve noticed that every candidate for congress has their own good backgrounds, but I don’t think a lot of them are aware of how they can act once elected. I hope that the next batch of this country’s leaders possess all the qualities you have mentioned in order to lead us to a better future.