What are 7 Leadership Traits?

7 Traits of Leadership

I was stunned the first time someone told me I was a leader in my organization. I was surprised because I did not hold any kind of official title of management on the org chart. This person, who was actually our divisional head, told me leaders are far more than just titles. They went on to explain why I had leadership qualities and was great for the organization. And while I would like to think I possess some of the following qualities, I do not have them all. Not in abundance anyway.

The 7 essential leadership qualities are vision, emotional intelligence, flexibility, integrity, clarity in communication, decisiveness, and empowerment. Great leaders possess a unique set of traits that inspire, motivate, and empower those around them. Whether you’re leading a team in the workplace, a community project, or any other endeavor, cultivating these leadership traits can make a significant difference in your ability to achieve your goals.

Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail to describe why each is important and work together.


Good leadership begins with knowing which direction the organization is trying to go and how to help lead others there. In his book “Start with the Why” author Simon Sinek explains that great leaders inspire action by promoting vision. Letting others know why we are moving in a certain direction. Great leaders are able to inspire the team by connecting tasks to organizational mission and vision. This helps people not feel like their roles are meaningless, but rather what they do matters in helping to achieve organizational success.

When I was a trainer, I led our agency in the training of new software everyone was going to be using. Many of the employees groused and complained they had to learn something new. “We’ve always used the other software! Why do we have to change?” It’s a valid question. So I began each class with explaining why the change was necessary. That the software creator was no longer in business, no longer supported the software and how we had to bring our practices up to 21st century standards. Although the employees did not love having to change, they at least understood and realized it was necessary. A poor leader would have told them to quit complaining and follow orders, but that’s not how to win people’s trust or create holistic buy-in from a group. Including them in the reason the choices were made, made all the difference in their understanding of the project.

Emotional Intelligence

In numerous articles, we write about the importance of emotional intelligence, and how the National Institute of Health lead a survey which found EI is the single greatest predictor of organizational success, even more so than IQ. Being able to connect to others emotionally, and control and understand your own emotions is a profound and powerful tool to have in your toolbox.

So, in plain words, empathy and emotional intelligence are cornerstones of effective leadership. Leaders who possess emotional intelligence can understand and connect with their team members on a deeper level. By recognizing and responding to the emotions of others, leaders can build trust, strengthen relationships, and create a supportive work environment. Empathetic leaders listen actively, provide constructive feedback, and offer help when needed, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.


Change happens often and rapidly. In fact, the only thing that never changes is the fact that things always change. The ability to embrace change and navigate uncertainty is essential for guiding teams through challenges. As mentioned above, people as a general rule, do not care for change despite its ever-present nature. A leader who is able to be an example of calm during times of change will have a tremendous impact in organizational success.


Trust is a foundation of effective leadership, and trust is built through accountability and integrity. Great leaders take ownership of their decisions and actions, both successes and failures. They hold themselves and their team members accountable for their responsibilities, creating an environment of reliability and transparency. Consistently demonstrating integrity and ethical behavior fosters respect and loyalty among team members. The trick is, it takes time. Earning trust is a slow process and one in which a good leader must be consistent.

Clarity in Communication

Leaders who can articulate thoughts, provide clear directions and expectations, and listen actively are well on their way to being great communicators. Being able to anticipate possible points of miscommunication, and addressing them in a clear and concise manner is also a talent of a great communicator. Clear communication prevents misunderstandings, resolves conflicts, and ensures that everyone is on the same page. Whether delivering a motivating speech or addressing a concern, strong communication skills are essential for building trust and cohesion within a team.

I hope you are starting to see how all of these skills synergize. If a leader has a great vision, and has empathy for their team, and has earned trust through integrity, and is able to explain a vision to those around them; then they are in a remarkable position to lead a team to great things.


Have you ever arrived at a 4-way stop with several vehicles about the same time and everyone just sits there waiting for someone to move first? This is a maddening situation, especially if you’re from the Southern US where everyone wants to be polite. But this indecisiveness is not doing anyone any favors. Everyone just sits there staring at each other, and traffic is just backing up. Then as soon as one person finally goes, everyone else falls in line.

In business, sports, military, and relationships passivity is death. It really is that dangerous. In their groundbreaking book “Extreme Ownership” authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, both retired Navy Seals explain the importance of decisiveness both in business and on the battlefield. Their recipe for taking action is simple and effective.

  1. Stay calm
  2. Look around (survey the scene. You do not have to have a perfect understanding of the landscape, it just has to be ‘good enough’ to make a reasonable decision).
  3. Make a call

And if you make the wrong call, it’s fine. Use it to learn from it. Because winners learn from their failures (check out our article on How to Handle Failure). Losers explain away and justify their failures.


Effective leaders understand the value of empowering their team members and delegating tasks appropriately. Micromanagement can stifle creativity and hinder productivity. Leaders who delegate effectively demonstrate trust in their team’s abilities, allowing individuals to showcase their skills and take ownership of their work. This trait not only improves team morale but also enables leaders to focus on strategic initiatives.

Moreover, good leaders look for other individuals to build up and encourage them to lead as well. And when the time is necessary, be willing to follow.

There are dozens of other traits which make up great leaders. But the key is that becoming an exceptional leader requires continuous growth and development in these key traits. While each leader may emphasize certain traits over others, a balanced combination of vision, empathy, adaptability, accountability, communication, decisiveness, and empowerment lays the groundwork for successful leadership. By nurturing these qualities, you can inspire your team, foster a positive work environment, and guide your organization towards achievement and prosperity.

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

Erik Murrah

Author, nerd, chess player, artist, business owner, runner, mediocre philosopher, outdoorsman. Creator of the Arise Tribe.

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