• Antony Alex Irungu

12 Attributes of a Great Leader

What comes to mind when the likes of Barack Obama (44th President of the USA), the late Nelson Mandela (former President of South Africa, and the late Bob Collymore (former CEO of Safaricom) are mentioned? They are famous because they exemplify great leadership.

To be a great leader is not accidental. You must continuously work on your character which is the foundation of your moral compass, principles, ethics, values, and beliefs.

Humility: This is defined as a modest or low view of one's own importance. Being humble means giving credits to others, owning up to your own mistakes, accepting constructive criticism, and always helping others (Hyman, 2018).

Visionary: A great leader imagines and plans for the future by creating and sharing a vision with others and leading them in the right direction by turning the vision into reality (Indeed, 2020).

Empathy: This is the ability to understand, experience, and share the feelings of another person. Simply put, you put yourself in the shoes of the other person (Martinuzzi, 2020). According to Daniel Goleman, its one of the elements of emotional intelligence and should not be confused with sympathy; feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else's misfortune.

Compassion: A compassionate leader is concerned about the sufferings and misfortunes of others. Leads from both the head and heart by inspiring others through encouragement and empowerment (Warrell, 2017).

Accountability: Great leaders don’t make excuses but accept responsibility for personal and group failures (Zenger, 2015). To them, leadership is about being responsible and not power.

Honesty: Being truthful and straightforward. Honesty is the best policy and is the foundation upon which trust and great relationships are built on (Mary, 2019).

Enthusiasm: Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval. Sincere enthusiasm is contagious and can be seen and felt (Fries, 2018).

Integrity: Having strong morals, values, and ethical principles. Leaders with integrity are honest, trustworthy, and reliable (Tracy, 2016).

Authenticity: Being real (yourself) with your words and actions matching your beliefs and values. An authentic leader is legitimate, self-aware, transparent, consistent, focuses on long-term results, and is an active listener (Partridge, 2016).

Communication: Great leaders clearly and eloquently articulate their ideas using simple methods and affirm them with action (Center for Creative Leadership, 2020). They are great listeners too.

Confidence: People admire and trust courageous leaders (Lipman, 2017).

Playfulness: Great leaders are light-hearted and full of fun. They are pleasant to interact with and don’t mind goofing or kidding around (Stillman, 2020).


Center for Creative Leadership. (2020). Why Communication Is So Important for Leaders. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Center for Creative Leadership:

Fries, K. (2018, February 8). 8 Essential Qualities That Define Great Leadership. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

Goleman, D. (2012). Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. New York, NY, USA: Random House Publishing Group.

Hyman, J. (2018, October 31). Why Humble Leaders Make The Best Leaders. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

Indeed. (2020, February 14). 14 Traits of Visionary Leaders. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Indeed:,of%20people%20in%20that%20direction.

Lipman, V. (2017, May 9). Why Confidence Is Always A Leader's Best Friend. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

M. J. (2019, September 12). Leadership Tips: Honesty As A Policy. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

Martinuzzi, B. (2020, January 1). What's Empathy Got to Do With It? Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Mind Tools:

Partridge, A. (2016, March 18). The 7 Best Traits All Authentic Leaders Have in Common. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Inc Magazine:

Stillman, J. (2020). How to Become a Leader: Be Playful. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Inc Magazine:

Tracy, B. (2016, December 7). The Importance Of Honesty And Integrity In Business. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Entepreneur:

Warrell, M. (2017, May 20). Compassionate Leadership: A Mindful Call To Lead From Both Head And Hear. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

Zenger, J. (2015, July 16). Taking Responsibility Is The Highest Mark Of Great Leaders. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from Forbes Magazine:

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