The Six Qualities of a Great Leader

Leadership skills are one of the most respected and admirable attributes a person can attain. By definition, a leader is someone whom people respect and choose to follow. So what’s not to admire? 

Despite common misconceptions, leadership skills are not something a person has to be born with. There are countless examples of leading heroes and villains of history rising to power despite their upbringing or natural abilities, rather than because of them -- legendary albeit unimpressive historical characters such as Joan of Arc and Moses, and even unimaginably evil people like Adolf Hitler are equally exemplary examples of this proven notion. 

As history tends to do, it proves us invariable truths, in this case, that leadership -- even on the grandest of scales -- can be learned, practiced, and mastered through hard work and a willingness to overcome obstacles obtain it. 

What Makes a Great Leader? 

Whether used for good, evil, or running a local business, exceptional leadership can be obtained by adopting a set of distinct qualities. 

Regardless of scale, a leader’s ability to utilize these leadership qualities correlates to their ability to achieve goals and determine how much (or little) their followers respect and admire them. 

The good news? Anyone can become a great leader. How? By fostering and mastering the following Six qualities:

1. Vision

Vision is perhaps the most prominent characteristic that any great leader must possess. But, that said, it is also maybe the most important. 

“Great leaders don’t only have a vision… they can see into the future.” 

A great leader doesn’t always know what their next move should be at every given moment. However, what keeps them from straying from their overall goals is their vision to accomplish said goals. Additionally, great leaders are passionate about where they are going and are often excellent strategists.

2. Courage

Courage, as the legendary Winston Churchill would tell you, “is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for, upon it, all others depend.” 

While this quote serves as a poignant flowery statement that you might see hanging in the locker rooms of football coaches in England, It’s also one that is hard to argue against. While it is an extreme anecdote to draw from, Churchill’s unrivaled courage allowed the Allies to defeat the Axis powers in WW11.

While no aspiring leaders reading this will ever be faced with such worldly consequences to prove themselves, one can draw from the inspirational courage of Winston Churchill and apply it to their journey. But most importantly, one can learn from such heroics that the quality of courage means that to succeed as a leader, you can’t be afraid to take risks. A true leader takes risks to strive for their goals -- even when such endeavors come with no assurances of success.

3. Integrity

Integrity is invaluable, if not often overlooked, characteristic of good leadership. Having integrity means being honest with those you lead. As anyone following their lead will tell you, being able to trust those in leadership is vital. Without trust between leader and follower, it’s a slippery slope towards a more akin to tyranny than outstanding leadership dynamic.

4. Strategic Planning

Great leaders with great vision cannot achieve their goals without a strategy. Consequently, the great leaders of history are also often considered to be the greatest strategists in history. Having a strong sense of strategic planning allows those in charge to look ahead, anticipate obstacles, and act steps ahead of where they and their followers currently are. 

5. Focus

“Successful people maintain a positive focus in life no matter what is going on around them. They stay focused on their past successes rather than their past failures and on the next action steps they need to take to get them closer to fulfilling their goals rather than all the other distractions that life presents to them. – Jack Canfield

Leaders constantly direct the needs of their mission and those who follow them. Leaders focus on outcomes, namely, what must be accomplished by themselves and those that follow them.

Great leaders focus on strengths in themselves and others and then utilize said strengths to achieve their goals.

Your ability as a leader to call the shots and make sure that everyone is focused and concentrated on the most valuable use of their time is essential to the excellent performance of the enterprise.

6. Cooperation 

“If your imagination leads you to understand how quickly people grant your requests when those requests appeal to their self-interest, you can have practically anything you go after.” – Napoleon Hill

The ability to rely on and promote cooperation is a leadership quality that cannot be understated. Without the ability to work well with others, or more importantly, get them to work well together, a leader is only leading themselves. A leader's ability to get everyone on the same page and work as a unit is one of the essential qualities of a leader. A great leader transcends this notion and can get people to work together, not because they have to, but because they want to.

Great leaders are not born. They are made. Whether leading a great nation into a world war or leading a congregation in worship on a Sunday morning, leadership skills are something anyone can strive to obtain. But most importantly, becoming a great leader is achievable by anyone whose willing to promote, master, and utilize the qualitative characteristics that allow them to do so.