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Qualities of a Leader

Become the person others want to follow

Qualities of a Leader

Become the person others want to follow

If you were to list the qualities of a leader, how many could you think of? How many do you think you have? 

Renowned leadership author, John C. Maxwell has compiled a comprehensive summary in his book: The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow. Maxwell begins his book with a quote from British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery:

Leadership is the capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.

This is a telling quote, giving a clear pointer to Maxwell’s view of leadership, succinctly summed up in Amazon’s review of the book:

Qualities of a leader“Why do some people consistently inspire others to follow their lead? According to John C. Maxwell, author of 24 books and a regular speaker on the topic, it’s the “character qualities” they possess. In The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Maxwell identifies these top traits….” and then defines them in ways that readers can absorb and utilize. Each is covered in a separate chapter opening with a high-concept definition and continuing with relevant anecdotes, details on its meaning, suggestions for further reflection, and exercises for improvement.”

Maxwell has written a short but authoritative book, one which combines a readable style with commendable rigour. Each quality is introduced with a relevant quote, then followed by real examples which are used to underpin the sharp theoretical discussion. This is an excellent book and essential reading for any leader, current or aspiring.

The 21 Indispensible Qualities of a Leader
  1. Character – Be a Piece of the Rock
  2. Charisma – The First Impression Can Seal the Deal
  3. Commitment – It Seperates Doers from Dreamers
  4. Communication – Without It You Travel Alone
  5. Competence – If You Build It, They Will Come
  6. Courage – One Person with Courage is a Majority
  7. Discernment – Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries
  8. Focus – The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are
  9. Generosity – Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another
  10. Initiative – You Won’t Leave Home Without It
  11. Listening – To Connect with Their Hearts, Using Your Ears
  12. Passion – Take This Life and Love It
  13. Positive attitude – If You Believe You Can, You Can
  14. Problem-solving – You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem
  15. Relationships – If You Get Along, They’ll Go Along
  16. Responsibility – If You Won’t Carry the Ball, You Can’t Lead the Team
  17. Security – Competence Never Compensates for Insecurity
  18. Self-discipline – The Person You Lead Is You
  19. Servanthood – To Get Ahead, Put Others First
  20. Teachability – To Keep Leading, Keep Learning
  21. Vision – You Can Seize Only What You Can See

Discussing the Qualities of a Leader

What leadership qualities have we highlighted on this site? Here are some or our leadership stories, which we think complement Maxwell’s list.

  • Seeing things differently. Perhaps an unusual characteristic of leadership but take for example the story of Tom Watson Jr, and a young executive who had just lost IBM several million dollars.
  • Leading in small actions. In our article motivation in the workplace we discussed how people can re-define what they do at work. For example, the simple things that a nurse did in encouraging the best for her patients. The hospital orderly that Martin Seligman speaks about, brightening up patients’ rooms so that after an operation they wake up to inspirational and thoughtful pictures on their walls.
  • Seeing the bigger picture. The famous stone cutters story illustrates the leadership qualityof seeing the bigger picture and helping others to do so the same.
  • Valuing ideas. Our article leadership concept suggests that one of the qualities of a leader should be ensuring you place a high value on the ideas of others, and allow time to foster creativity. This story illustrates how one famous leader did just that.
  • Leading with vision. Leading with vision requires foresight, but do leaders also need to look elsewhere? Looking ahead is important but thinking about those who will follow and bringing them with you is one of the essential qualities of a leader.
  • Three things leaders have in common. In our article Quotes About Leadership Success : 3 Things Successful Leaders Have in “Common”, we looked at three thought leaders. We suggest these share common qualities, such as: relying on common sense; doing the common things uncommonly well; finding the sense before it becomes common.
  • Learn from the best. Good leaders learn from the best. Why? Because you can see further on the shoulders of giants.
  • Taking a road less travelled. Leaders need to develop skills to set out in new directions. In this article we ask: is your destination success? Perhaps, if you try taking a road less travelled. This classic poem might inspire you to reach that destination, and maybe to move from good to great.
Leading Insights

If you’re interested in developing your leadership qualities, take a look at one of our leadership e-guides. Leading Insights is packed with more leadership stories, and some leading insights into how they can be used! Insights such as:

  • Uncommon insights
  • Tipping point leadership
  • Find the glass
  • Leaders need to be cathedral thinkers
  • Would you recommend your service/organisation to your friends?
  • Putting on a performance
  • Would people pay to see your team perform?
  • Bricolage leadership
  • Resourceful leadership
  • Nudging leadership
  • Mirror leadership
  • Chameleon leadership
  • Catalyst leadership
  • Chrysalis leadership
  • Saliency, sagacity and serendipity
  • Infectious leadership
  • Infected leadership
  • Great work days
  • Defining moments
  • Conveying what you care about
  • The kind of goals leaders set matters
  • Motivating leaders
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Pat - United States

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Tony - UK

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Kenneth - United States

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