Great Leadership Qualities: Traits or Values?

leadership qualities

Which Leadership Qualities Define Greatness?

Wouldn’t it be nice if the qualities of extraordinary leadership could be compiled into a list? At first the idea seems simple. There are obvious traits and behaviors that spring to mind. However, as leaders, our mission is multifaceted. Defining such a list quickly reveals itself to be impossible, and here’s why.

Greatness does not follow from a list of characteristics, but from a system of enlightened values. Harder to learn and not well suited to lists, the values of brilliant leadership are best conveyed through the quoted wisdom of history’s most renowned influencers.

The quotes below contain the combined wisdom of some of the most noted leaders in history. Each sentiment conveys the core beliefs and values of its author, and represents a profound lesson of their momentous life. Only by studying their values can we understand their genius. Only by mirroring their values can we aspire to greatness.

There are no shortcuts to great leadership. But there are guides on this road. Find them here.


Smart Leaders Know Their Place and Role


Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. –John C. Maxwell

A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd. –Max Lucado

Too many leaders value their popularity, protecting it at all cost, degrading their credibility. –Noel DeJesus

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. –Peter Drucker

Accountants are in the past, managers are in the present, and leaders are in the future. –Paul Orfalea


A Wise Leader Knows How to Treat Others


To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.-Eleanor Roosevelt

A ruler should be slow to punish and swift to reward. -Ovid

Our expectation in ourselves must be higher than our expectation in others.-Victor Manuel Rivera

Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. –Tom Peters


Inspiring Action is One of the Key Leadership Qualities


Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. -Chinese proverb

Leaders are people who believe so passionately that they can seduce other people into sharing their dream.
Warren G. Bennis

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

Seth Godin

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William A. Ward


Not All Innovators are Leaders, but All Great Leaders are Innovators


Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.
-Reed Markham

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. –Steve Jobs


A Foundational Leadership Trait is Passion for Learning


Leaders should be a questioning machine, rather than an answering machine. -Saji Ijiyemi

Leadership begins by asking how you can make things better. -Jeffrey Fry

The best leaders are the best note takers, best askers and best learners. They are shameless thieves. -Tom Peters


Enlightened Leaders Cultivate Greatness in Others


The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.

John Buchan

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves. -L.D. Marquet

The great leaders are like the best conductors. They reach beyond the notes to the magic in the players. -Blaine Lee


The Greatest Leaders Create More Leaders


Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
-G. S. Patton Jr.

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers. –Ralph Nader

The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.
Walter Lippmann


Want to read the rest of the quotes? Get the book.

(Available on Amazon in all digital formats and paperback.)

Leadership Quotes shelf pullPurchase Leadership Quotes on Amazon


Want to know what inspires Us? Check out our Amazon store for a list of Essential Paperbacks, eBooks, and Audiobooks.

Amazon Store 400x200

Comments are closed