Leadership: The 8 Qualities Test

Qualities of a Leader

No matter what you read on the subject of leadership, the question of what qualities a leader should have usually comes up. 

Regardless of source, it seems there’s a consensus that makes most everyone’s cut.

So, here are eight key qualities – in alphabetical order – that good leaders should possess (or develop), and utilize:

  • Attitude
  • Character
  • Charisma
  • Competence
  • Humor
  • Listening
  • Sociability
  • Vision

AttitudeAttitude is always a choice.  You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your reaction and your outlook.  And because you control your attitude, you can change your attitude.  One of the things an old boss told me (I think he was talking about my bad attitude) was,

 “You know, I can always tell when one of my managers has a bad attitude . . . I can see it in their people.”

Attitude is contagious; whatever yours is, sooner or later it’ll infect your people.  What does your team’s performance and morale say about your personal attitude?

CharacterCharacter has been defined as the moment-by-moment choices of right and wrong; it’s who we really are when no one else is watching.  When our character is trusted by others, following becomes natural.

“Character is critical also because if people buy into the messenger they’re more likely to buy into the message.

Consistency and transparency are two key elements of character that allow people to “buy in”.  What does your character say about who you REALLY are?

CharismaCharisma, rather than simply being an internal magnetism that draws others, is a reflection of the leader’s interest in others.

“It is the ability to make others feel better about themselves.”

Charisma contains perspective, enjoyment, humility, and self-confidence.  It is generated by demonstrating to other people that we care for them, that who they are, and what they do and say is important to us.

One of Bill Clinton’s most formidable skills was the ability to talk to someone, even in the midst of a thousand people, and make them feel as if they were the only other person in the room.

It is “other-directed”, not self-directed.  What is your “Charisma Quotient”?

CompetenceCompetence is the leader’s demonstrated expertise in handling his/her job demands.  If the leader can smoothly manage the people in their charge, the various tasks and stresses inherent to the job, and their complete 360 degree relationships, the people will see that.  If the leader can convincingly say “Follow me!”, and people want to go along because of the leader’s example, that leader possesses perhaps the key quality among these eight.

People want to, they need to, and they’ll only, follow demonstrated expertise.

HumorHumor, in this context, is not about being entertaining, or witty, or a performer.  Humor means seeing the lighter side of situations, to laugh at ourselves (especially our mistakes or weaknesses), to share a joke – as either teller or hearer – and not be a wet blanket around others.

A sense of humor helps the leader cope with mistakes, tolerate unpleasant people, accept surprises of every kind, and still smile and be encouraging amidst terrible circumstances.  How about you?  Are you ever an object of or a participant in the fun?

ListeningListening is perhaps the hardest and most important communications skill.  The best way to do this is to focus on the person first, the message second.  Therefore, listening should be done first with the eyes and emotions, and last with the ears.

“More followers are drawn by ear than by mouth, because a good listener is more treasured by most people than a great speaker.”

The key to good listening is to remember that it is about the other person first, which is why it’s hard for so many managers, and why it’s necessary for a good leader.  If your people had to take a test, what would they say?  Are you a good listener?

SocialabilitySociability is simply good people skills: the ability to get along smoothly and comfortably with other people.  Because it’s not necessary for the leader to be an extrovert, these are skills that are learned, practiced, and sometimes faked, until developed.

Answer these questions:

  • How to tell whether your “sociability skills” are up to par?
  • Are your people comfortable when you’re around (or is the tension like having a cobra in a basket when you’re in their presence)?
  • Can you hold a conversation without talking down, or lecturing, or correcting?
  • Do you have the ability to be “in charge” without that fact overwhelming all?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then your “sociability rating” is well above average.

Vision, the last quality, is the ability to see possibilities before they become obvious; problems before they become crises; connections before they become tangible; opportunities before they occur to others; and direction while the compass needle is still gyrating.

One aspect of Vision is focus, and recalls an old Chinese proverb,

“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”


Focus contains two elements: internal and external.  Internal focus is the leader seeing what he/she must do to become better, more effective personally.

External focus is similar, but outer-directed:

  • What is the market saying?
  • What are the customers telling us?
  • Where are we strong?
  • Where does the team need to improve?

Most good managers know about external focus, and realize that to ignore what’s “really” happening out there is to proceed at their own peril.  But internal focus – for the leader – is just as necessary, and much less common.

There are many qualities that would help us to be good leaders. Author and speaker John Maxwell lists 21.  Other writers have different lists, but these eight, by various names and descriptions, seem to be as close to a consensus as I can find.

However, what’s more important is where you stand.

Scott Crandall
 is Principal of Trinity-Lincoln Consulting
He specializes in Leadership, Coaching, Training and Project Consulting
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Skype: scrandall31 | (864) 787-1087

Image Sources: leadingict.wikispaces.com

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Gil Gerretsen on July 29, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Well, when I Listen carefully, most people say I’m definitely a Sociable Character with lots of Charisma and Attitude who has become quite Competent at my craft with a big Vision for where we are headed. They like my weird sense of Humor too. I guess that list confirms that I’m a good leader.

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  3. Wayne Kehl on December 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I just read this again on a lazy Sunday morning. I love these 8 qualities and I wish that during my tenure as a manager and executive, I had been able to master and maintain them consistently at all times. The future generations of leaders would do well to practice as many of these as possible on a daily basis. Merry Christmas to one and all!!

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