The Character Traits That Make a Great Leader

character traits

Have you ever overheard a group of parents at a park talking about how their kid is a natural at this or a natural at that? Maybe one of the younger ones had gathered the older ones and was setting up a play for the adults. Someone said they’d probably make a great director one day, and everyone else agreed. Perhaps another was trying to convince their friend to give up their toy, and when they succeeded their mom pointed out that “my kid is going to make an amazing lawyer when they’re older!”. What they were highlighting were their natural character traits. 

When it comes to leadership in general, and within business organizations, character traits are also a huge part of the equation. 


What Are Character Traits?

Character traits are words, mostly adjectives, we use to describe people’s values and personalities. It’s basically a description of what makes them who they are. There are thousands of traits that a person can have and they include both good and bad ones equally. 

The interesting part is while most people think that your natural character traits are the only thing you have to work with, that’s not correct. While what comes naturally for you will be based on how you grew up, it’s still possible to learn (or unlearn) new ones. 

Qualities Effective Leaders Have

When it comes to management and leadership, there are definitely some key traits that most people in those positions tend to have. They’re based on how they interact with those around them and how they move through the world. Below are a few that will help you become a great leader.

  • Great communicators. Communicating sets expectations, and when your team knows exactly what you need from them they’re able to better deliver it. Being able to clearly and concisely transfer the thoughts in your head into the conversation is a basic leadership trait to have. They’re also great listeners in the sense that they know exactly when to talk, and when to not.
  • Able to stay accountable. No one wants a boss that’s going to throw them under the bus when something goes wrong. Or one that will not own up to a mistake they made. It creates distrust and resentment, and a good leader takes responsibility every single time. 
  • Confident. Inspiring others is a difficult task to accomplish, but one that’s important when you’re working as a manager. One way you can achieve that is by showcasing your confidence to your team. This doesn’t mean being authoritarian or refusing to show weaknesses, it means trusting your skills and abilities enough to guide your employees to achieve company goals.  
  • High emotional intelligence. A big part of your job as a leader will likely be dealing with other people’s emotions. Developing your emotional intelligence will do wonders when it comes to keeping your cool and not reacting negatively. Everchanging environments and stress are much easier to handle when you know how to self-regulate.
  • Team players. You know you can’t do everything alone, and you don’t want to. The best teams are not one-person setups, and in fact, the best part of working with other people is the different views and ideas everyone can bring to the table. 

Character Traits Leaders Shouldn’t Have 

On the flip side of those great characteristics, are the ones not really fit for people in leadership roles. While having these traits doesn’t mean you absolutely can’t be in management, it will probably make it more difficult to achieve and maintain.

  • Scared of change. Being scared of things changing within a company or team will likely play against you as a leader. Change is inevitable and everyone is a little scared of it. But, as someone who’s leading a group of employees, they will be looking to you to stay confident and strong while it happens. If you can’t be that guide for them then you won’t be able to build the trust you need to excel at the task.
  • No empathy. If you can’t put yourself in the other person’s shoes, then you’re going to have a hard time when it comes to others putting themselves in yours. All relationships are a two-way street, and it’s no exception in business. If you can’t empathize with your team and care about their feelings and emotions, it’s unlikely they’ll do the same for you.
  • Indecisive. We get it, being responsible for big decisions that could cause the company money or even their reputation is scary. As a leader, however, your team is relying on your ability to think on your feet and make choices as needed to scale and grow the department. If this is something you’re not comfortable with, then management might not be the best road for you. 
  • Domineering. One this is being confident, and a completely different one is being domineering. Where someone who’s confident will listen to others’ opinions and take them into account to find the best solution, a domineering manager will force their choice on everyone else – even if they know it might not be the best one.  

How to Add Character Traits to Your Resume

When recruiters go through applications, one of the things they tend to look at is the candidate’s personality traits. They should not only fit within the position, but also within the company. The main idea of submitting a resume is to prove to the hiring manager reading it that you’re the ideal person for the job. That means that adding your character traits is a great way to achieve this. 

It’s also important to tailor the traits to the specific job you’re applying for. Adding them to the Skills portion of your resume is an excellent option. For example, if you’re looking for a remote graphic designer role you might want to highlight that you’re self-sufficient, adaptable, and flexible. On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for a customer service job, some sought after skills could be punctual, high emotional intelligence, and great at conflic resolution.

Related Readings

Professional Leadership Institute (PLI) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in entrepreneurial leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional PLI resources below will be useful:

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