Great Leaders: 17 Qualities That Set Them Apart

Too often, great leaders are those once in a lifetime happenings. Leaders will emerge anywhere there is a group – workplaces, organisations, teams, friendship and social circles, communities, families – anywhere. You won’t find many of the qualities that make a great leader on a resume or a job description – which is a shame – because they’re the ones that make the difference. Here are some qualities that make unforgettable and influential leaders.

  1. They genuinely care about the success of the others.

    Great leaders will do whatever they can to keep the path to success wide open for everyone – and not just by giving well suited bottoms a comfy place to land when the midnight oil is burning on – night after night after night. In workplaces they’ll challenge and develop employees and offer opportunities for intellectual and professional growth.

  2. They say ‘Yes, and …’ instead of ‘Yes, but …’.

    Before moving on to change, advise or tweak, they acknowledge the work behind the idea and the contribution it makes to the ones that come after it.

  3. They are open to new ideas – and not just their own.

    Being able to say ‘no’ is important but if it’s used too quickly or too often it will stifle creativity. The best ideas come from the nuttiest ones. Great leaders support ideas and concepts and allow them to be expanded to their full potential. That doesn’t mean they jump on every pony that comes along – some things were never meant to fly – but they acknowledge the thought, effort and value behind an idea, even if the value is what track not to travel down.

  4. They are emotionally open – in a professional way.

    They get excited and are quick to let on when they’re disappointed in themselves. They’ll celebrate everyone’s wins and will empathise when things don’t go to plan. At times they’ll become cranky or frustrated. And then they’ll apologise. Professionalism with humanity. A heroic combo.

  5. They appreciate others – and others feel appreciated.

    Great leaders are very quick to give positive feedback. Because of the way they lead, employees feel like they work with not for a boss, so will have more of an investment in the outcome. People work harder when they know what they is being noticed.

  6. They don’t steal credit.

    They give credit openly, publicly and wholeheartedly. We learnt not to steal as toddlers because it was the quickest way to be tumbled. Nothing’s changed. People aren’t stupid and those who steal credit for someone else’s work will find it’s the quickest way to have a target plastered on their back. 

  7. They are humble.

    When things are going bad, they’ll blame themselves. When things are going well, they’ll applaud the efforts of those around them. Leaders who have solid self-insight, are more self-critical, humble and whose opinion of their leadership quality are more inline – and not grander – than the opinions of those they are with, are more engaging and engender more commitment, according to new research. The overwhelming bulk of leaders in highly successful companies, including Fortune 500 companies, have this one particular trait. 

  8. They are never abusive.

    Leaders who are abusive throw an entire team into conflict. Productivity is reduced as the focus is shifted from coping with the conflict and away from performance. 

  9. Intelligence with integrity.

    Intelligence is important but it isn’t enough on its own. There are plenty of intelligent leaders who have made bad decisions. A lack of integrity will blind wisdom and will too often lead to decisions that fail to consider all possible implications. When a decision is made by a leader of high integrity, even if the decision is an unpopular one, it will be respected all the same and will generally engender the least fallout. Generally.

  10. They are likeable.

    People won’t follow people they don’t like. Leaders with good character will inspire others towards optimal performance. Leaders can be as educated and impressive as they think you are but if people don’t like them, their influence will wither. People will do as much as they need to, and nothing more.

  11. The instill trust.

    Leaders who lead through fear will get the mimimum. Leaders who connect with those around them and genuinely care will inspire peak performance. People will want to do their best and work their hardest for somebody they like. For someone they fear, the goal becomes staying out of trouble.

  12. They aren’t afraid to say the tough stuff.

    Great leaders know that constructive criticism is never ‘constructive’. It’s just criticism. (How did those two words ever find each other anyway?). Putting the word ‘constructive’ in front of criticism doesn’t make it so. That doesn’t mean they only ever talk glossy. Not at all. If something needs addressing, they’ll do it but they’ll do it with grace. They’ll sandwich it between strengths, reassure, and offer constructive advice.

  13. They inspire, educate, motivate. 

    Inspiration. Education. Motivation. A great leader will always provide at least two of these – not necessarily the same two – to everyone around them.

  14. They get their hands dirty.

    They’ve been there. Done that. Haven’t stopped yet. They never feel so self-important as to be above the grunt work. As a result, people will put in the work that’s necessary. They lead a culture where entitlement isn’t tolerated and hard work is valued and appreciated.

  15. They won’t tolerate ‘white-anting’.

    Organisations and groups are brought to their knees by rumour-mongering and smack talk that happens behind backs. Great leaders create a culture that squeezes this out. Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t always be people with forks in their tongues. What it means is that they run against the tide of the organisation.

  16. They see opportunity in the uncertainty and the problems.

    Crisis brings opportunity if there is a leader ready to learn, change and flex around it. Major changes don’t generally happen when things are going well.

  17. They keep improving.

    Even at the pinnacle of their career they will continue to grow. They will seek out new directions, read and listen. The will continue to grow and expand themselves, both personally and professionally.

Aside form being sharp, quick and intelligent, great leaders are emotionally intelligent and have a profound capacity to inspire and connect with those around them. Great leaders aren’t easily defined, but when you’re in the company of one, you know it.

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Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
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Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
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There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
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Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
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To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
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When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
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When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #neuronurtured #anxiety #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #motherhoodcommunity #parenti
When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
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 #mindfulparenting #neuronurtured #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #braindevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #childdevelopment #parentingtip #adolescence #positiveparentingtips #anxietyawareness #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #parentingadvice #anxiety #parentingtips #motherhoodcommunity #anxietysupport #mentalhealth #heyawesome #heysigmund #heywarrior
When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
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What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
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#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

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