12 Most Respected Qualities of a Leader

12 Most Respected Qualities of a Leader

“What qualities in a Leader will make someone follow that Leader?”

Research conducted by Team Technology in the UK asked this very question to about 4000 people.  The first nine qualities below were indicated by the respondents as being important for them in order to follow someone as a Leader.  The last three are also indispensable for effective and sustainable Leadership.

The key to effective and sustainable leadership is for the leaders to enjoy the trust of the people they lead.  I believe the qualities of a leader below go a long way to foster this trust.

1. Honesty

Honesty is more than just telling the truth, although telling the truth is a critical part of being a leader.  Honesty is acting in fairness and being straightforward in your conduct.  This builds trust in the people you lead because what they see is what they get.  There are no blind spots and the leaders’ actions are based on the truth.

2. Confidence

Leaders must demonstrate a consciousness of their powers and abilities.  If people are to put their trust in the leader, it is important that the leader appears confident in their abilities.

3. Knowledgeable

To be knowledgeable, leaders must have a large range of information and knowledge at their disposal.  This means they read widely and communicate this knowledge effectively to the people they lead.  It is much easier for people to trust someone who seems to be up to date with current affairs.

4. Intelligence

Intelligence is the ability to learn, understand, and deal with new information, as well as the ability to apply knowledge and think abstractly.  Leaders who display intelligence are better able to communicate vision and to make better decisions as the situation demands.  People trust leaders who display intelligence, because they are more likely to make the correct decision in a given situation.

5. Listener

Leaders deal with people.  People want to be reassured that when they speak or offer an opinion, the leader hears that with thoughtful attention and is giving it genuine consideration.

6. Fairness

Fairness does not mean the leader makes sure everyone gets an equal opportunity.  It is not always possible when making difficult decisions to give everyone an equal opportunity.  Fairness is acting free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.  People trust leaders who act from this definition of fairness.

7. Vision

Vision is probably one of the most important qualities a leader must have.  Vision gives direction and builds cohesion amongst the people being led.  Without vision, it is not possible to lead effectively.  People trust a leader who can communicate to them exactly where they are going and how it will look when they get there.

8. People oriented

Good leaders understand that they deal primarily with people.  Leadership can therefore be nothing but people orientated.  Leadership that does not put people first is not sustainable.  People will much rather follow someone who values them as human beings.

9. Compassion

Sustainable leadership is people orientated; therefore compassion is a vital component of sustainable leadership.  Compassion understands that people are human and that they need to feel emotionally safe with the people leading them.  Compassion enables the leader to nurture the people being led.

10. Servant-hood

Leaders are the servants of the people they lead.  The role of a leader is to serve the people they lead and to make sure that the needs of the people are taken care of first.  The benchmark of servant-hood is for the leader to ask: “Do those being led grow as persons?”

11. Integrity

Integrity is aligning what you say in public and what you do in private.  It is an adherence to a code or moral values that the leader not only communicates but also displays in everyday life.  Having integrity reinforces trust with the people you lead.

12. Humility

The humble leader assumes that they do not have all the answers and they listen to people’s opinions and explanations.  Humble leaders look for the opportunities to learn and make others feel valued.


As you lead, remember these qualities.  Successful leadership depends on it.


Stephan De Villiers


Stephan De Villiers is Director at a Human Capital Management Company. His experience spans across various business disciplines, including Training, Project Management, Human Resource Management and Finance. He is part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network, South African Chapter, where he is a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. He has a passion for people & leadership development and has been publishing The Leadership Connexion blog for close to two years. He regularly writes on Personal, Professional and Social Leadership and believes that the highest form of living is using what you have been blessed with, to add value to other people’s lives

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Most leaders fail already. Are there really leaders who have these qualities? Please name names.

Bhrigu Prashar
Bhrigu Prashar

1 and 10 make 2 through 9 possible. almost magically!

PaulBiedermann moderator

We could use a lot more of #12 in the world. More humility, less hubris. Leaders would benefit too!

Great post and welcome to 12 Most, Stephan!


Very good, very true. #1 serves as the 'trunk' line, in my opinion.


These are the "most" essential qualities! All are good, yet I think humility is often overlooked as being an important leadership quality. However, we know the times when the quiet confidence of someone delivers much more than the noisy people at the front. Essential reading here, Stephan! Thanks!


Hi Stephen! I am happy to read your post... These are all the perfect qualities of a good leader.. And you are so right bout the honesty, that is the key of all. Thank you for sharing this.


This is a great post! Stephan you really summed it up. I would only add that I think a great leader reflects qualities of his/her followers. Well done!

PegFitzpatrick moderator

Wow Stephan - this is a fabulous post.

Straightforward, easy to follow and loved your thoughts. This is so true: "Fairness is acting free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism." People do like to be treated fairly.




Stephan, good list. Servant-hood stands out for me. To truly have a servant heart all the other traits in your list must be present to some degree.


Great list, all are important. Without #1 all others are lost. Thanks for the list!


I'm a big fan of all of these traits, Stephan. Integrity is my favorite, and you see me write about Integrity multiple times on my own blog. Being a good Listener and a people person...along with a strong dose of humility...can cover for a lot of other shortcomings, too.


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