Thoughts on Leadership: 10 Characteristics of Successful Leaders

People often ask me to share the secret to successful leadership. What's the one magical thing that drives people to positions that demand responsibility and respect?  This question assumes that such a single secret exists, that one key will open the door. But that is simply not the case. The truth is that the recipe for true leadership contains a complex blend of characteristics that shift in importance through time and changing circumstances.   This is not an easy answer, but no one ever said leadership is easy.   Here are 10 characteristics – in no particular order of importance – which I believe every leader must understand, adopt and live by:

  1. The ability to listen  
  2. The ability to acknowledge challenges and change to overcome them  
  3. The ability to form one-on-one relationships  
  4. The ability to surround yourself with like-minded people; not to be mistaken for “yes” men  
  5. The ability to know yourself  
  6. A refusal to let others dictate how you do certain things  
  7. The ability to communicate  
  8. Extraordinary optimism and confidence  
  9. A passion for what you do  
  10. Strong patience and dedication on the road to results

Successful leaders continually work to refine and strengthen these characteristics, which will stand the test of time and help them weather the inevitable storms of business life. Ultimately, the best and most successful leaders never give up. They stay intensely focused on the goal and lead their team toward it.

The good news is that all of these leadership characteristics can be learned. The bad news is it’s not easy to do. After all, you can't build a strong house in a day. It takes attention to foundation, load-bearing walls, and a carefully crafted roof – and this takes time. Cultivating these strong personal characteristics is the key to success in business and leadership.   There's no one silver bullet, but it can be done. Where there is a will, there will be a way.