Leadership Qualities

My favourite list - and others

There is no one definitive list of leadership qualities. You really have to choose the one you like best.

What I do here is give you my favourite list - and some links to a few others. That way you can get the general picture of the commonly agreed qualities, or leadership attributes, that effective leaders have, or require.

First though, what is a quality and how does it differ from a skill? A quality describes you as a person, whereas a skill describes something that you have learned to be able to do.

Lets take a driving example. Drivers have to learn to control the car, to direct it to where they wish to go, adjust its speed and handle traffic. These are skills.

But good drivers also need some qualities such as being attentive, careful, respectful of other road users. These qualities can be improved and developed but they still describe the person, rather than any skills or techniques that the person has learned to be able to do.

Nevertheless, in any lists of skills and qualities of leaders, you will still find considerable duplication and crossover!

What I like about leadership qualities is their aspirational, almost noble, essence. Just thinking about them can bring out the best in people.

In looking at these lists, just ask yourself "To what extent do I have these qualities and how can I bring them out more in my dealings with others, to be a better leader?" Qualities tend to be developed through self-reflection and experience.

So, here is my favourite list. I think it covers all the major areas and has a good balance. And when I look at the leaders I admire, they have many - even all to some degree - of these qualities.

David Hakala's Top Ten Leadership Qualities

  1. Clear vision - passionately held, communicated to others, at the centre of the leader's priorities and activities.
  2. Integrity - acting outwardly in a manner consistent with their inner values.
  3. Dedication - giving what time is needed to achieve the vision, setting the example.
  4. Magnaminity - giving others the credit where they deserve it and taking responsibility for failures.
  5. Humility - recognising that the leader is not a better person than their followers.
  6. Openness - being prepared to listen to new ideas, even if they challenge their own view.
  7. Creativity - thinking differently, developing new ideas, encouraging new ideas in others.
  8. Fairness - treating everyone consistently and justly, not jumping to conclusions before hearing the facts.
  9. Assertiveness - stating what one wants clearly, without aggression, while also respecting others' views.
  10. Sense of humour - to relieve tension, diffuse hostility and to engage followers.

There are plenty of other lists of leadership qualities, such as:

  • The UK National Health Service (NHS).

I'll be adding links to more lists here, in time.


Hakala, D. (2008), "The Top 10 Leadership Qualities". www.HRworld.com, 19/3/2008.

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