15 Powerful Leadership Traits of the World’s Top Leaders

Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa – all exceptional leaders we admire and respect. We stand on their shoulders for insight. We read about their feats of courage and care. We gain inspiration from their examples.

Can we make a life changing impact the way they did? Or, did they possess some untouchable set of skills and personality reserved for a chosen few?

After reviewing a list of history’s great leaders, I’ve compiled a set of unique attributes shared by all. Here’s a list of the top leadership traits that the world’s top leaders demonstrated.

  1. Reputation: What other people think about you matters – if you want to influence them.
  2. Faithfulness ( in marriage): Devotion to leadership in the home for the good of the family. If someone can’t uphold a faithful relationships with their spouse, why should anyone else trust them?
  3. Loyal: Faithful to one’s oath, commitment, or cause.
  4. Temperate: Moderate or self-restrained. Not given to extremes in opinion or behavior.
  5. Honest: Truthful and credible.
  6. Prudent: Wise in regard to the future. Strategic and practical in thinking.
  7. Respectable: Worthy of respect or esteem.
  8. Hospitable: Welcoming others with warmth and kindness.
  9. Humble: Modest. Not proud or arrogant.
  10. Competent: Possessing skills, knowledge, or experience for a particular purpose.
  11. Courage: The ability to face danger, pain, or difficulty with minimal fear.
  12. Peaceable: The ability to promote unity and reduce strife and hostility.
  13. Self-control: Control or restraint of oneself.
  14. Tenacity: The ability to hold fast, remain persistent, and be tenacious.
  15. Friendly: Like a friend. Someone who is kind and helpful.

Some profound observations arise.

First, all of these leadership traits but three focus on character. Only three in this leadership skills list can be accomplished by someone who lacks a solid character (Prudence, Competence, and Tenacity). Prudence is the ability to think strategically to secure the ideal outcome. Competence means the ability to perform a task or skill. Tenacity speaks to drive and persistence.

Second, the twelve leadership characteristics above lack emphasis in today’s popular leadership books. Most contemporary books focus on leadership skills rather than leadership traits – especially personal character.

Third, the great leaders in our history are great for a reason. They are rare. They shine like stars in a dark sky of fallen leaders and forgotten failures. It takes a rare person to inspire greatness in others.