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Do You Have It? The Top 10 Leadership Qualities YOU Can Cultivate

It’s a fact that much is known and written about the qualities of what makes a good leader. It’s also very easy to see leadership in practice, on the field of protection or play, in the office, in our institutions, organizations and at home; every day we see what works and what doesn’t work. Oftentimes, though, we just move from experience to experience, not recording what we have learned. It’s time to pause and revisit what makes a good leader.

I took the time recently to reflect and found what I consider to be recognizable qualities all good leaders demonstrate – hallmarked by their own distinctive style. These are qualities you can cultivate, first by becoming aware of them and then by putting them into practice. This is your first step towards leadership excellence.

Here we go. Listed below are the ‘top 10” leadership qualities based on observing good leaders; ones I have had the pleasure to know or serve:

  • Be Ethical  This embodies integrity, honesty, authenticity and doing what’s right without thinking twice. The golden rule … “Do unto others…” is the same for business. Period. No more explanation needed.


  • Know yourself; know others   Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” stated in this ancient book, repeatedly, that in knowing yourself you will know your enemy. The same principle applies here in leading those who are on your side. What motivates you, pleases you, etc… is the same for those you lead when working together effectively for a common goal. Further, if you really know your style – your interaction strengths and weaknesses – then you will better know how your followers relate to you.


  • A drive to “do better”   The one differentiating quality, and the most consistent one I have seen in leaders, is their compulsion to improve a situation – to make it better than it was when they found it. This can be a double edged sword, though, when it becomes too critical of an eye, so watch for that fine balance.


  • Creative living   Living on the intuitive, intelligent edge is their “norm” and it’s obvious in how they live. A creative personal life – a creative work life. Typical isn’t what’s called for when you lead; so go for it. Create the unusual, the “next, new something” in your upcoming project or new employee coming on board. Whatever new opportunity arises, make it a fresh approach.


  • A need to “be better” personally  You have to want to grow and develop, both personally and professionally. Never stop expanding, so you can focus on everyone else. It’s not about you in the long run. True humility is true personal growth.


  • History  Leadership has peeked out in different ways all during your life, either when you were the Girl or Boy Scout achiever or that reluctant kid who went to the board to solve the one math problem no one else could. You were hooked. You were/are a leader. Look for those snippets or shouts during your life where you wanted to be and acted like leader. They are there. Reinforce that feeling and pattern.


  • A need for ‘speed’ – and the stamina to make it happen   Again, Sun Tzu devoted an entire chapter on ‘energy’. Having what it takes to get to the end OR, more importantly, to stimulate those around you to begin! This is both physical and mental energy that is needed, so take care of yourself.


  • A natural sense of balance  Practical, yet edgy. If you are too far out there, it’s not doable. Too practical, no one wants it. Safe but not too safe. Risk management is a major skill, but having the sense of what’s risky is required. Being serious but being able to feel the fun, the excitement -  enough to make it contagious. Don’t forget your work-life balance.


  • Toughness; mental, physical, soulful   Do you have the emotional intelligence to be mentally and personally tough? Do you have the ability to know the difference between who you are, what you can do and what’s actually happening that you have no control over?


  • Vision and more importantly, belief   If you combine most of the above, to house all these great qualities you have to be able to see and create what most others don’t. Vision. It’s more than a buzz word. It really means something. Vision is a way to find what isn’t there. Belief is what makes it so; what makes it happen. You must believe your vision is something you can implement. Then go implement it.


That’s leadership.


Question: What should be added to this list? Do you have any case studies you’d like to share on these or other qualities?

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