The Traits of Good Leaders

After years of observation, I realized there are specific behaviors that are common to all the great leaders I have had the privilege to be associated with.

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Listen to understand, not reply. Leaders listen because it allows for understanding. When people feel they have been heard and understood, they feel respected and in turn will respect you.

Ask questions.

Leaders ask questions to gather information. It is a sign of interest, not stupidity. People want to feel needed and valued. When you show interest in others, others will respect you.

Look people in the eyes.

When you are speaking or listening, look at the other person. Don’t look at your phone or let your eyes wander. Focus on the other person so they know your attention is on them.

Treat people with respect regardless of title.  

Everyone deserves respect, whether it is the CEO, the receptionist or the janitor. Leaders lead for all.


You don’t have to be serious all the time. Smiling reminds people you are human and showing emotion can make people feel comfortable and help to further develop a deeper connection.

Keep your word.

In most cases, people won’t open up to those they don’t trust. Trust is best created by earning it with correct actions, thinking, and decisioning.

Get personal.

Think dialogue not monologue. Here’s the thing – the more personal and engaging the conversation is the more effective it will be.

Get specific.

CLARITY!!!!!!! Specificity is better than ambiguity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is today. Make your words count.

Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways.

The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also adept at transferring ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal.

Replace ego with empathy.

When candor is communicated with empathy & caring and not the prideful arrogance of an over inflated ego, good things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade propped-up by a very fragile ego.

Quit waiting for the perfect circumstance.

Forget about finding the ‘perfect’ conditions. Learn to differentiate between the pain of growing and the pain of suffering. Be like MacGyver, use what’s at your disposal (you’ll be surprised at how many resources you DO have) and make the best of the situation.

Operational execution.

This is one of personal importance to me. Often times I see people talk about ideas and identify the problems, but nothing gets accomplished. True leaders take it a step further and implement a plan, hold people and themselves accountable and achieve results. Not only does the execution grow the business, but it engenders people’s trust. Debate. Decide. DO!

When you speak, know what you’re talking about.

Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals who cannot add value to a situation or topic. Always be polished, poised and prepared.

It is also simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. Do not confuse this with being a great talker. There is a difference.

The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the world of academia. From our earliest days in the classroom we are trained to focus on enunciation, vocabulary, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax and the like. In other words, we are taught to focus on ourselves.

It’s the subtle elements of communication rarely taught in the classroom (the elements that focus on others), which leaders thrive at. Effective communication is an essential component of professional success whether it is at the interpersonal, inter-group, intra-group, organizational, or external level.

A brilliant communicator possesses a heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness. The best communicators are great listeners and astute in their observations. They are skilled at reading a person/group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, values and concerns of those being communicated with. Not only do they read their environment well, but they possess the ability to adapt their messaging to the environment without missing a beat.

Remember, everyone has the opportunity to behave like a leader no matter what their circumstances.