16 Traits You Need to Be a Great Leader

Traits of great leaders
Rob Lewine / Getty Images

What qualities do you need to be a great leader? Do certain personality characteristics help people become better leaders? According to the trait theory of leadership, people who posses certain innate traits tend to be better leaders.

Researchers including Stogdill and later Mann have found that particular traits are linked to whether a person emerges as a leader across a variety of situations. Critics point out, however, that not every person who becomes a leader possesses these traits and not every person who displays these traits becomes a leader.

Still, many different researchers agree that possessing certain traits does make it more likely that a person can potentially become a great leader. So what traits exactly are linked to strong leadership?

Some of the traits most commonly associated with great leadership include:

1. Intelligence and Action-Oriented Judgment

Great leaders and smart and make choices that move the group forward.

2. Eagerness to Accept Responsibility

Strong leaders take on responsibility and don't pass the blame on to others. They stand by their success and take ownership of their mistakes.

3. Task Competence

A great leader is skilled and capable. Members of the group are able to look to the leader for an example of how things should be done.

4. Understanding Followers and Their Needs

Effective leaders pay attention to group members and genuinely care about helping them succeed. They want each person in the group to succeed and play a role in moving the entire group forward.

5. People Skills

Excellent interpersonal skills are essential for leading effectively. Great leaders know how to interact well with other leaders as well as with team members.

6. Need for Achievement

Strong leaders have a need to succeed and help the group achieve their goals. They genuinely care about the success of the group and are committed to helping the group reach these milestones.

7. Capacity to Motivate People

A great leader knows how to inspire others and motivate them to do their best.

8. Courage and Resolution

The best leaders are brave and committed to the goals of the group. They do not hide from challenges.

9. Perseverance

Strong leaders stick with it, even when things get difficult or the group faces significant obstacles.

10. Trustworthiness

Group members need to be able to depend upon and trust the person leading them.

11. Decisiveness

A great leader is capable of making a decision and is confident in his or her choices.

12. Self-Confidence

Many of the best leaders are extremely self-assured. Because they are confident in themselves, followers often begin to share this self-belief.

13. Assertiveness

A great leader is able to be direct and assertive without coming off as overly pushy or aggressive.

14. Adaptability and Flexibility

Effective leaders don't get stuck in a rut. They are able to think outside of the box and adapt quickly to changing situations.

15. Emotional Stability

In addition to being dependable overall, strong leaders are able to control their emotions and avoid overreactions.

16. Creativity

Perhaps most importantly, great leaders not only possess their own creativity, they are also able to foster creativity among members of the group.

Final Thoughts

While these traits are often linked to effective leadership, it is important to note that few leaders possess all of these traits. Generally, a strong leader will have many of these qualities, but aspects of the situation also play an important role in determining if people are able to lead well. In many cases, it is the interaction between these traits and the situation that determines leadership quality.

"Researchers have concluded that successful leadership is the result of the interaction between the traits of the leader and the situation itself (i.e., the contingency approach to leadership)," John W. Fleenor suggests in the Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. "They have realized that the interaction between the leader and the situation is key to understanding leadership, along with the specification of important trait and situational variables."

Sources:

Fleenor, J. W. Trait approach to leadership. Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. SAGE Publications; 2006.

Gardner. J. W. On leadership. New York: Free Press; 1999.

Continue Reading