10 Must-Have Leadership Traits: What World Leaders Have Said About Leadership

Must-have Leadership Traits

10 must-have leadership traits

Leadership is a trait known to many, learnt by some and perfected by few.

There are leaders and managers and supervisors and bosses, among others, who take up the responsibilities of getting things done through others, rather than by others. Many attempt, some learn and a few succeed. Leadership is a trait that is not passed on or inherited, it has to be earned, and on a daily basis.

The concept of leadership has been the basis for much research and a good amount of literature has been published about the same, highlighting and describing the dos and don’ts, traits of good leaders, characteristics of the best leaders, things that make good leaders and the things that make leaders good. In a world where every third person is a self-proclaimed expert on business and leadership, it is important to learn from the very best.

1. “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” : M.K. Gandhi

There was a time when the strongest person from a group, clan or kingdom used to be their leader. In the present predominantly democratic society, a leader is selected by the people from the people and for the people. It is important for a leader to be ‘concordant’ and ‘approachable’ in order to facilitate an environment of growth and intellect. If an employee cannot approach the leader of the organization, he cannot put forth his demands, suggestions or ideas, thereby, hampering his creative genius and rendering him unsatisfied. A leader that can get along with his followers, listen and appreciate to their ideas and take care of their needs is the leader of the future.

2. “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I’.” : Peter F. Drucker

The most effective leaders in the world seldom use the word ‘I’, they say ‘we’. The best leaders always think in terms of a team and believe in ‘team work’. It is the job of every leader to make the team function and the ones that understand that start thinking along the same lines and are effective. These leaders accept the challenges and work towards making their team efficient; the leader faces the song but gives credit to the team. This creates trust in the team and enables the leader to get the task done.

3. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” : Steve Jobs

Leadership and “innovation” have an intrinsic relationship. As the focus of both leadership and innovation is to bring about a better future, the relationship is inevitable. Innovation also means going out of the normal route to reach desired goals. A leader who is innovative and produces better results is respected and looked upon. Without innovation, a leader is a mere manager of a given situation.

In a research conducted in 2008 (McKinsey research), it was found that more than 70% of the senior executives believed that innovation was going to be one of the three main drivers for growth in the following three years for their companies.

4. “Don’t manage – lead change before you have to.” : Jack Welch

Managing is not easy, but it is not the high-end of leading an organization. Managing a crisis is important, but if the leader has the ‘foresight’ to see the situation coming, he can easily make decisions beforehand that can avert the crisis and lead to innovative development. Foresight has the power and potential of transforming the business industry and it is important that a leader possess foresight if the organizations is to grow. In absence of foresight, the opportunity of getting to the finishing line first and establishing market supremacy is lost. For example, Rupert Murdoch’s foresight helped him to create market monopoly when it came to disseminating news and he went on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the world and his company ‘News Corporation’, the second largest media conglomerate in the world.

5. “I don’t look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1-foot bars that I can step over.” Warren Buffet

It is important for a leader to “be realistic”. Having momentum is necessary but not knowing when to stop can lead to a disaster. A leader should always know the limitations of the team he is leading and try to accomplish feats that are possible and within reach. Seven successful small feats are anytime better than one big feat, which may or may not be successful. World Com Inc., Enron Corp. and Bethlehem Steel are great examples of industry giants who failed to realize when to stop and ended up devastated and bankrupt.

6. “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you do not make”. : Donald J. Trump

One of the main responsibilities of a good leader is to ‘make intelligent choices’ and exercise restraint while making investments. The global market keeps offering luring opportunities for investments and a leader should know when to invest and when to say ‘no’. While investments can be highly profitable, they can also be expensive and unprofitable leading to crunch situations.

7. You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” : Richard Branson

‘Learning from your mistakes’ is a general must-do for everyone, more so for the leaders. Everyone makes mistakes but the ones who learn from their mistakes move past them and become better with every fall. One who learns from an earlier mistake will never commit it again and reduce the chances of failure in the future.

8. “I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strangely, I am ungrateful to these teachers” : Kahlil Gibran

Learning doesn’t have to be limited to one’s own mistakes and good examples set by others, one can also “learn from the mistakes committed by others” and bad examples set by them. In a competitive market, it is very important to keep a track of one’s rivals, how they perform, what they do and the outcome of their actions. One doesn’t necessarily have to follow their footsteps and do whatever turned out to be good for them, but when it comes to mistakes they make, one has to note them down on the ‘things to avoid’ notice board.

9. “As a leader, I am tough on myself and I raise the standard for everybody; however, I am very caring because I want people to excel at what they are doing so that they can aspire to be me in the future.” : Indra Nooyi

A leader should be a “role-model” for the followers. This can be possible only if the leader sets high standards that need hard-work to be matched. This not only makes the leader respectable among his followers but also motivates the followers to work harder towards achieving higher standards of work.

10. “I start with the premise that the function of a leader is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” : Ralph Nader

One of the best characteristics of a modern leader is that he creates leaders from his followers. “Creating leaders” is not easy and it takes a long time to identify potential in the team member and nurturing it in a positive direction. Assigning tasks and duties to the team member and putting some of them in charge of particular tasks makes them self-reliant and develops their leadership qualities. So, by the time the top level leaders of an organization, such as, CEOs and Directors, retire, they leave behind a legacy and new leaders.


Patrick Alain is the founder of the business communication warehouse LeaderPhrase.com, which is one of the top business, communication, and Leadership strategy source worldwide. Patrick Alain is internationally known for his contribution on some of the best-selling video games around the world.


Patrick Alain

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