Four Characteristics of Effective Leaders

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” – Teddy Roosevelt


What is the key to being an effective leader? You will be hard pressed to narrow a list down to one particular asset. What if you could narrow it down to four? That would give you as an aspiring leader tangible areas to develop than can propel your leadership forward. The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, studied 105 successful executives and noted these four common characteristics.

  1. They took ownership of mistakes rather than blaming others.
  2. They could get along with a wide variety of people.
  3. They had strong interpersonal relationship skills, including sensitivity and tactfulness.
  4. They were calm and confident as opposed to moody and volatile.

John Maxwell states that unsuccessful executives “tend to be too tough, abusive, sarcastic, aloof, or unpredictable. Their worst fault is being insensitive to others.” Do not be thrown off by the word “executive” here. These are men and women who have emerged into high levels of leadership and the lessons apply to all who desire to maximize their influence.

I would add a fifth item to the list for those who desire to be “spiritual leaders.”

  1. They place a high priority on their personal spiritual development which results in passion for their work and compassion for people inside and outside of their organization (or congregation).

This is a good checklist from which you can self-evaluate. Of these five characteristics, where is your strength? Where are you falling short? What action(s) do you need to take to progress in the weakest area?

To revisit a quote I shared recently: “Successful leaders tend to be hard on themselves while unsuccessful people tend to be hard on others.” Evaluate yourself and commit to grow so that you can maximize your leadership!

Adapted from Chapter Seven of Developing the Leader Within You by John Maxwell.