We encounter a number of great leaders over the course of our lives. Whether in the political, corporate or social spheres, great leaders seem to have people gravitate towards them, eager to follow their lead in terms of decisions, big or small.

What separates the good from the great? What are the defining traits of such a leader? This blog article serves to highlight the traits that exceptional leaders have in common, providing a jumpoff point for you to assume and excel in a leadership role of your own.

1. Active Curiosity

Leaders who can relate well with others are naturally curious about those around them. This natural curiosity allows them to engage people by truly listening to what they have to say and getting their perspectives. When developing empathy or understanding peers, it is key to ascertain why they think the way they think, what they consider important, and how they would approach a situation.

This allows great leaders to lead with empathy and compassion, and opens them up to new ideas; creating lasting connections with the people who work with them.

2. Self-Awareness

Great leaders have an intimate, honest knowledge of their emotional state. They are well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Having an accurate personal barometer allows leaders to identify their capabilities and limitations, deferring to a subordinate’s judgment or advice at the right time to demonstrate humility and flexibility.

Good leaders know when they are working “in the zone” and when they are overworked, empowering them to achieve their objectives to the maximum of their potential and ability.

3. Clear Communication

Great leaders have the ability to vocalise their ideas and instructions in a way that leaves no room for doubt.

Knowing what we want accomplished often seems clear in our heads, but if our explanations are met with blank expressions, there is a likely deficiency in communication.

Any deficiency of this nature should be addressed promptly, as followers tend to quickly lose faith in leaders that are unable to express themselves clearly. From the leader’s perspective, if she/ he is unable to relate their visions to the team, the end product, almost certainly, will leave much to be desired.

4. Ability to Motivate

Great leaders do not lead by telling people what they have to do. Instead, the best leaders inspire action in their followers, making them want to help and work with them.

A key part of achieving this is cultivating a desire to help others. When others sense that you are keen to help them, they in turn will be motivated to step up and help you when the time calls for it.ability to motivate   

5. Mastering The Approach

Not all people function the same way. While this may sound like a basic concept, it is often overlooked by those who ascend to leadership positions.

Elements like cultural perspectives, educational backgrounds, language barriers, personality traits, and varying pre-conditioned value systems all affect how information is processed and interpreted.

For example, some people work well under pressure while others don’t. Some respond well to tough love, while others take it personally and shut down. In order to achieve optimal effectiveness as a leader, great leaders must possess the ability to customise their approach on a person-to-person basis, designed for the specific situation at hand.  

The capacity to execute the “approach” concept will play a huge role in every leader’s ability to get the best work out of their team and other partners along the journey.

Just like the customised approach discussed in the final point above, there is no definitive guide to leadership success. However, a combination of these pointers and a willingness to work with a team will lend a great deal of credence to any individual’s claim to be a great leader.

Not in a position of leadership just yet? Fret not, here are several tips that you can take on-board as a follower that will place you in good stead to assume a position of leadership when the opportunity presents itself!


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