What It Takes to Be a Leader: The 17 Top Character Traits

By Eleanor Rose| August 1, 2017

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Note to millennials: Leaders are not always born that way. They often become that way by developing character along the way.

Here are 17 qualities it takes to be a leader. Feel free to add to this list!

1. Align your career and life’s purpose.

Love what you do. Every leader seems to have this in common. They never feel they are “working” because they love what they do. They have a clear purpose and pursue it with passion.

What it Takes to Be a Leader Stephen Hawking Quote

2. Inspiration.

Think bigger. Create a vision of where you’ll be in 5 years or 20 years that will keep you going when the going gets tough.

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.
Warren Bennis

3. Patience, Persistence.

Take small steps to get to your long-term goal. Keep going when everyone else stops.

Energy and persistence conquer all things. Benjamin Franklin

4. Be open-minded.

Be ready to shift course if needed, while always keeping your eye on the big picture, your vision and purpose.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
Jimmy Dean

5. Confidence.

Believe in yourself and others will too. We don’t mean arrogant and be a bragger. Confidence is sometimes quiet.

What it Takes to Be a Leader Blake Lively Quote

6. Curiosity.

Never lose your sense of wonder. Curiosity leads to new ideas.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
Albert Einstein

7. Focus.

Avoid distractions and stay on course to your goals. Intern someplace that moves your career forward.

What it Takes to Be a Leader Venus Williams Quote

8. Honesty, Authenticity.

Be yourself. Develop your own voice. People respect and trust leaders who believe in something and speak honestly.

Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity.
Coco Chanel

9. Drive.

Work harder than everyone else.

What is success? I think it is a mixture of having a flair for the thing that you are doing; knowing that it is not enough, that you have got to have hard work and a certain sense of purpose.
Margaret Thatcher

10. Creativity.

When it doesn’t go the way you planned, find another way. Let go of an idea if it isn’t working and move on. There is always another way!

What it Takes to be a Leader Bill-Moyers-Quote

11. Be decisive.

No one looks up to someone who is wishy-washy.

If you call yourself a leader, then you have to be decisive. If you’re decisive, then you have the chance to be a leader. These are two sides to the same coin.
Narendra Modi

12. Support and empower others.

Being generous to others will pay you back 100 fold.

Confidence and empowerment are cousins in my opinion. Empowerment comes from within and typically it’s stemmed and fostered by self-assurance. To feel empowered is to feel free and that’s when people do their best work. You can’t fake confidence or empowerment.
Amy Jo Martin

13. Be positive.

Willie Nelson Quote on leadership

14. Never make decisions out of fear.

If doing something different isn’t just a teeny but scary, it won’t move you forward. Enjoy feeling a little scared. It feels the same as excitement!

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Nelson Mandela

15. Responsibility.

If you make a mistake, own it. Then, take the next step to make it right. Never blame anyone else. Ask yourself what you learned from it and use that to empower you next time.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
Abraham Lincoln

16. Gratitude.

Stop and be thankful for even the smallest things.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Melody Beattie

17. Give it everything you’ve got. And then some!

What qualities do you admire in leaders at school, work or in your family and friends?

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