6 Traits of a Great Leader

Name three great leaders.

Who did you list?

Did you go the route of the singled-named leaders, like Churchill, Elizabeth, Lincoln, etc? Or chose people from more current times--Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos--or maybe you took a more humble route and choose a parent or a teacher.

Chances are you didn’t think to list yourself….right? On one hand, it might be modesty that stops many of us from considering ourselves on the list of great leaders. A lack of circumstances, maybe, or just a lack of confidence to take that jump into a new position. Lifehacker has a secret for you, though: you could be a leader and not even know it. Here are some common traits of great leaders--and they may be more common than expected:


Great leaders know to listen to their employees and their constituency, and know how to take and give counsel. If people seek you out for your opinions and advice, it means that your knowledge and experience are valued.


Maintaining composure is key to instilling confidence in others, enabling them to perform better and think clearly.  Maintaining a positive outlook helps to keep situations moving toward a useful outcome.

Open Mind

Great leaders know how and when to take criticism, and how to use it to their advantage. Whether it’s used to leverage a situation or simply perform better, an open mind = efficiency.


Basically, great leaders don’t have time to beat around the bush. The flip side of that open mind means sharing their opinions with others who might not be so open.


Great leaders take ownership. They find their passion and, if lucky, are able to see it turn into something tangible valued by others as well--and if not, then it’s back to the drawing board. It’s just like they say in Spiderman comics: with great power comes great responsibility.


Despite personal abilities, smarts, or any other attributes, great leaders treat everyone the same. Fairness is a byproduct of that innate respect for others; everyone is entitled to their views according to their abilities, and great leaders know that there’s not much more you can ask of someone beyond 100%. Which is why Steve Jobs focused on hiring the top 10% (according to his philosophy).


While the exact definition of a great leader might vary in specifics from person to person, these six traits create a solid foundation of a person who can inspire people to follow. It’s said that the traits that we admire most in others are traits that we ourselves have; which of these do you see in yourself?