16 Essential Characteristics of Leadership (With Definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Leadership involves managing and directing a group that's working within a supervisory system. To successfully complete this work, leaders employ a number of skills, such as strong communication, creative thinking and the ability to motivate and inspire team members. Understanding what the essential characteristics of leadership are may help you focus on developing important qualities. In this article, we define what leadership characteristics are and outline 16 different skills you can develop to succeed in a position of leadership.

What are the characteristics of leadership?

Characteristics of leadership are the behaviours and attributes that leaders use to influence, inspire and guide others. Great leaders usually have several key characteristics in common, regardless of how many people they're responsible for. They use these attributes to empower and motivate employees to succeed.

Successful leaders are frequently strong, versatile professionals capable of guiding both individuals and the company as a whole. A great leader possesses long-term vision and knows how to translate their concepts into real-world accomplishments. These attributes are something you can learn and develop if you want to become a good leader.


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16 characteristics of leadership

These are 16 characteristics of leadership that can help you succeed:

1. Communication

Communication is the verbal and written ability to share information with others in a way that's clear, concise and easy to understand. This skill is essential for leaders because they use it to articulate their vision and inspire others to achieve it. Leaders also use communication skills to build relationships, resolve conflicts and make decisions.

Furthermore, effective leaders know how to listen to others and understand their needs. This allows them to provide the necessary support and resources to help employees reach their potential.

Related: 10 Examples for Leaders to Give Feedback on Communication Skills

2. Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking is the ability to comprehend the overall aim and make long-term plans. Leaders use this skill to set objectives, make decisions and solve problems. This is a critical characteristic of leadership because it allows them to have an overview of what's necessary to accomplish and how to make decisions that can directly benefit the company in the future. Also, leaders who are good at strategic thinking usually know how to delegate tasks and utilise resources efficiently.

3. Creativity

Creativity means considering things from a different perspective and thinking of new and innovative ideas. Leaders use creativity to solve problems, make new strategies and find ways to improve the company. This quality is important for leaders because it can help them keep the company competitive and find creative ways to motivate employees, boost morale and improve productivity.

Related: Creative Skills in the Workplace

4. Integrity

Integrity means being honest and ethical in all aspects. Leaders with integrity are reliable, trustworthy and consistent. They uphold their values and beliefs even when it's difficult to do so. Furthermore, these leaders are usually transparent, meaning they have nothing to hide. Team members and colleagues usually like and respect leaders with integrity because they know they can trust them. This is essential to maintaining work relationships and fostering a positive work environment.

5. Passion

Passion means having a strong desire or enthusiasm for something. Leaders who are passionate about their work are usually more engaged and motivated. They're also more likely to be creative and strategic in their thinking. Also, leaders who are passionate about their work can encourage others to feel the same way. This is essential for motivating employees and creating an inspiring work culture.

6. Confidence

Being confident means having faith in oneself and one's abilities. Leaders who are confident tend to be more assertive and decisive. They're also less likely to second-guess themselves or doubt their decisions. Confidence is frequently a sign of strength and competence because it shows that the leader feels secure in their abilities. This characteristic is important for leaders because it can help them gain the trust of their employees and build a positive relationship with them.

7. Accountable

Being accountable means taking responsibility for one's actions and decisions. Leaders who are accountable admit their mistakes and learn from them. They also accept responsibility for the failures of others when it's someone who was working under their guidance.

Accountability also enables leaders to inspire trust and respect because they're not afraid to accept their responsibilities. It also helps them encourage employees to take accountability for their own actions.

8. Sympathetic

Sympathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Sympathetic leaders can see things from the perspective of the employees to better understand their needs and concerns. This is important for leaders because it allows them to connect with their employees on a more personal level. This helps them relate to their employees and build stronger relationships with them, leading to a better work environment where they actively listen to and support others.

Related: 50 Positive Traits to Demonstrate in the Workplace

9. Motivated

A motivated leader is someone who's willing to learn and grow while also working towards the goals of the company. They're not afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary. Leaders who are highly motivated tend to be more persistent and have a higher level of energy. They're also usually more enthusiastic and passionate about their work. Being motivated can help them support the company's progress while striving for their own professional development and success.

10. Innovation

While similar, innovation is different from creativity because it's not only about generating new ideas, but also implementing them in a way that's effective and efficient. Innovative leaders are visionary thinkers who continuously look for new ways to improve the company. They're not afraid to take risks and experiment with new ideas. They use innovation to solve complex issues and create new opportunities. This is an important characteristic of leadership because it helps them realise their goals.

11. Humility

Being humble means being modest and thinking of others. Humble leaders are usually also more approachable and sensible. They're able to see things from different perspectives and are open to feedback, meaning they listen to others and value their opinions. Humility helps leaders relate to others and gain the trust and respect of employees. This ultimately benefits the company because it creates a constructive atmosphere and allows for better communication.

12. Delegation

The ability to delegate entails assigning tasks to others and trusting them to complete the task. Leaders who delegate well are usually also good at time management and they know how to prioritise their work. They understand that it's not feasible for them to do everything themselves.

Delegating can help leaders develop their employees by giving them more responsibility on the basis of their strengths or weaknesses and allowing them to grow in their roles. It also helps to improve efficiency and productivity because it reduces the workload of the leader and frees up their time to focus on other tasks.

13. Loyalty

Loyalty means being faithful and devoted to someone or something. In relation to leadership, it means staying dedicated to the company and its employees. Leaders who are loyal put the interests of their company and its employees first and are committed to its success. They're also usually more reliable and trustworthy. Loyal leaders can find satisfaction in their work and they're less likely to leave the company. This helps to create stability and continuity within the organisation.

14. Resilience

Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to difficult situations. Resilient leaders can handle the stress and pressures of the job well. They're also adaptable and resourceful, meaning they're able to find new ways to overcome challenges. This helps leaders stay calm, sensible and practical in difficult or chaotic situations. It also enables them to find solutions quickly and efficiently.

Related: How to Improve Leadership Skills: Guideline and Tips

15. Authenticity

Authenticity means being genuine, honest and true to yourself. Leaders who are authentic are usually more reliable and trustworthy because they're transparent with their intentions. They're also usually more confident and assertive because they know who they are and what they want.

This helps them gain the respect of their employees and build trust within the organisation. When employees trust and respect their leaders, they're also more likely to feel motivated and engaged with their work.

16. Vision

Having a vision means having a clear and defined goal. Leaders with vision are usually more strategic and they have a better understanding of how they want the company to progress. They're also usually more passionate and committed to their work because they can understand the long-term goals of the organisation.

This is different from strategic thinking because it's not just about thinking long-term, but also about having a clear and defined goal that you're working towards. Having a vision helps them stay focused on what's important and supports them when inspiring employees to work towards a common goal.

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