5 Qualities Every Great Leader Possesses (Plus 1 They Should)

What makes a great leader? Is it an MBA or the title of President of the United States? Is a great leader born with certain personality traits? Do they develop certain skills that anyone could learn?

Do I have what it takes to be a great leader? Do you?

If you look back through history, you will find that great leaders do not all share the same set of skills or personality traits. You may find a lot who were talented speakers. Others possessed spectacular minds. Some were unexpected leaders like Harriet Tubman who shocked the world with their bold actions.

Being a great leader is not about skills or personality traits. While your skills and personality traits will impact how you lead, great leadership is much more than that.

Being a great leader is about heart. If you study the great leaders throughout history, you will find that they shared five qualities. These five qualities are not the only qualities of a great leader. However, they are five qualities that every great leader possessed.

Quality #1 – Great Leaders Care Deeply About a Group of People

Behind every movement, every cause, and every vision is a group of people who need help. Great leaders don’t see a cause – they see a child dying of a preventable disease or an abused woman who needs compassion and help to break free from an abuser and begin a new life.

Great leaders don’t see employees. They see individuals who have dreams, goals, families to support, and a desire to be valued. They see people who deep down want to make a difference in the world and who want to matter.

Great leaders see people not as what they are, but as who they can become. Then great leaders make it their vision to see those people transformed.

Quality #2 – Great Leaders Are Deeply Passionate About Justice

Great leaders possess a strong sense of right and wrong. They believe that injustice must never be tolerated. More often than not, it is this deep-seated sense of justice that spurs them to their initial actions.

They have a vision for what their world could be as opposed to what it is. It is the closing of this gap that motivates them.

Quality #3 – Great Leaders Confront Fear and Take Risks

It is impossible to be a great leader without fear and risk. If it were possible, anyone could do it. It’s easy to see great leaders as fearless men and women filled with a supernatural courage. But this is not at all accurate.

It’s not the lack of fear that makes a leader great. It’s acting in spite of the fear that makes them great. Risk will always involve fear and it is the presence of fear that paralyzes so many of us. Only those who acknowledge the fear and still choose to act can hope for greatness.

Quality #4 – Great Leaders Don’t Need A Title

Too often, we buy into the lie that to be a great leader requires a position of influence. We think being a great leader requires the title of CEO, vice president, pastor, team leader, etc. What we fail to remember is that people who hold those positions were great leaders before getting them.

Great leaders believe they can make a difference without a title. They don’t see titles as prerequisites for leadership. They understand that people don’t follow titles – people follow passionate leaders who believe in them and inspire them to greatness.

Quality #5 – Great Leaders Recognize Their Dependence on Others

It’s easy to look at a great leader and perceive them as above the movement and people they led. However, great leaders doesn’t view themselves in the same light. Instead, they think of themselves as a component of the movement. Great leaders recognize that they are fully dependent on others to see out their vision.

Consequently, great leaders inspire others to greatness. Martin Luther King inspired a generation. Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt inspired nations to greatness. A movement has to be greater than the leader if it hopes to survive since leaders come and go.

Bonus Quality – Great Leaders Are People of Character

Originally, I wasn’t going to add this one in. Not all great leaders have been people of character. You can have all of the above and not have character. When that happens, evil generally results. Let me give you an example: Adolf Hitler. Hitler was an evil man. However, he was also a great leader. Hitler possessed all of the above qualities but they were born out of a heart that desired evil.

If attaching the word “great” to Hitler makes you uncomfortable, I’m thankful. It should. It should also make it clear to you that there is a vast difference between great leadership and Great Leadership.

True greatness is more than just the ability to get people to buy into your vision. True greatness is about leading people into a vision born out of character and integrity. It is ultimately your character that determines whether you will be a great leader or a Great Leader.

That’s also why many of those whom we consider great leaders were people of faith. Their faith instilled in them the character which directed the above qualities.

Share Your Thoughts

What do you think it takes to be a great leader? Who do you think of when you hear the term “Great Leader”? Are there Great Leaders in your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  • http://www.mlmnetworkmarketingleadtips.com/ Liz McGowen

    I think great leaders stick to their message. They find one thing and aren’t afraid to keep saying it over, and over, until finally others start saying it, too. From the perspective of the great leader, I wonder whether it would seem frustrating to continue with that message before it becomes something others latch onto. Perhaps scary — what if they’ve got it wrong?

    The sticking-to-it takes guts.

  • http://travisrobertson.com Travis Robertson

    Great point, Liz! Sticking to a message is critical. It can definitely be frightening to feel like you’re beating a single drum and hoping that people don’t begin to tune you out.

    The question of whether it’s the right message is huge. Sometimes, the right message takes longer to take hold than the people carrying the message allow for. I wonder how many people quit just before the tipping point and never get to see their message take off like a wildfire.

    Like you said: guts.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Travis, 

    I’m so glad that you added the bonus quality! Good move on your part!There are many leaders that haven’t formed having great character qualities, and it’s definitely a prerequisite. I’d also go as far as to say that it’s for this very reason many leaders fall horribly; they simply don’t possess a good standing character. In order for anyone to become a leader I also think that influence plays a huge role as well. Influence and character goes hand in hand in my book, they both can either be portrayed as being positive or negative; and depending on which a person produces tells of the kind of leader they will be or become. 

    I absolutely loved this post, Travis! I’m currently working on a piece for tomorrow’s post on my site and would love it if I could trackback to this post. I actually was doing research this morning trying to find examples of why greatness is only obtained by those who are leaders. I came across your post. I knew it was going to be awesome, but I had no idea it was going to be exactly what I was looking for to prove a point I’m making. Thanks for sharing this informative and very accurate article! Very well done!  

    • http://travisrobertson.com Travis Robertson

      Thanks, Deeone! Quote/link away – I’d be honored. :)

  • Vijay

    great leader never talk negative

  • Ugochi Chidinma Ebuka

    unfortunately, i have a great boss with a huge zero character!