Published on April 6, 2021

20 Essential Leadership Qualities Of A Great Leader

20 Essential Leadership Qualities Of A Great Leader

“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”—John Maxwell

Whether it’s leading an organization, a team, or a family, leadership all starts with being able to lead yourself successfully first. When we can lead ourselves successfully, then we can have the influence that allows us to truly lead others. It’s always an “inside job” first.

After working with thousands of CEOs, executives, athletes, entrepreneurs, and business teams, I’ve compiled here a list of the essential leadership qualities that I have seen lead to consistent success.

1. Know Your “Why”

First on this list of key leadership qualities is knowing your “why”. Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, defines a leader’s “why” as “the purpose or cause—the single driving motivation for action.” Strong leaders know the “why” that inspires their personal performance and the actions of their team. The stronger the “why,” the better the motivation and performance.

2. See Time as Your Ally

Effective leaders look at time as an ally and friend, instead of as an enemy they are constantly fighting. In my book, The Time Cleanse, I introduce the concept of “Timefulness”—being fully present in the moment improving the quality, experience, and performance with your time.

Using mindfulness techniques like Timefulness will help leaders discover more ways to enter the flow state and use their time in the most effective ways possible. Time is every leader’s most valuable asset.

3. Have Grit

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Great leaders can sustain focus, energy, and effort to reach difficult goals in the face of failures and setbacks, all while remaining optimistic.


Angela Duckworth, a noted researcher and the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, reveals that while talent and IQ are certainly success factors, what’s more, important is the sustained application of effort (perseverance and passion) over time. That takes Grit.

4. Have a Vision

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”—Jack Welch

Great leaders always have to have a crystal-clear vision. They can visualize the future in detail as well as communicate that vision with their team. When a team can see the vision of a leader clearly, they can accelerate success in every metric.

5. Be Self-Aware

Powerful leaders can self-reflect. Their personal reflection allows them to be aware of their impact on others and the organization. This constant reflection keeps them at the top of their game and keeps them from repeating mistakes.

“Leadership is the art and science of directing, motivating and inspiring individuals or groups in achieving a common goal.”—Steven Griffith

6. Don’t Take Things Personally

Day-to-day and in the heat of the battle, great leaders don’t take things personally. They have the ability to keep things in perspective and keep their eye on what’s most important in decisions and their actions. Instead of getting distracted or emotional, they get more focused on the task at hand.

7. Be Accountable

Effective leaders are 100% accountable for their actions. They also keep their team members accountable for their actions. They do what they say and say what they do. If you want respect, be 100% responsible for everything under your command.


8. Communicate Effectively

Great communication is the key to great leadership. All communication is an exchange of energy and information. Effective leaders are precise and purpose-aligned in their words, voice, tone, and body language. They know what to say and how to say it no matter what the situation.

9. Be Emotionally and Mentally Strong

Quality leaders have the ability to consistently regulate thoughts and emotions to work for them rather than against them. Emotional and mental stability is a key component of leadership. Bad news doesn’t get them too down, and good news doesn’t get them too distracted.

10. Have a Growth Mindset

True leaders are constantly looking to grow the strengths and experience of themselves and their team. They have open minds and a natural curiosity for improvement. They want to know the latest innovations and ideas that will help them improve.

They continually ask this key question: “How can we get better today?”

11. Admit Mistakes

The greatest leaders know that when you’re pushing to the next level of performance, mistakes will happen and, in fact, are part of the process. When people in an organization know they are supported if a mistake happens, they will fully engage to be the best they can be. The ability for a leader to admit mistakes shows his personal accountability and humanness.

12. Have Empathy

Great leaders have the ability and flexibility to step into other people’s shoes and feel what others are feeling. Understanding their team and the problems they are facing is key to powerfully leading them. Empathy says, “I see you and feel what you’re feeling.”

“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.”—Oprah Winfrey


13. Have Compassion for Others

Empathy may be a key to great leadership, but without compassion, it’s not complete. Compassion recognizes the suffering of others and then takes action to help. Leaders that consistently step in to help can become one of the greats. This builds true loyalty. Compassion is a superpower for leaders in today’s workplace.

14. Lead With Confidence

One of the most important keys to success in all areas of life is having the confidence to go for it—the belief that you can do it. Confidence is needed to go through both the high and lows that business and life will throw at us. It’s no different when it comes to great leadership.

Confident leadership is not about being fearless, it’s about going straight for what you desire in the face of fear and uncertainty. Great leadership is about knowing you can handle yourself in any situation, even if you don’t know it all.

15. Show Gratitude and Appreciation

Leaders that can acknowledge the big and small things their teams do are often the most successful. Research shows that showing gratitude for coworkers increases engagement, creates more positive integrations at work, and leads to better performance.[1]

16. Delegate Tasks

Delegation is crucial for maximizing productivity and overall team performance. Effective leaders know what activities provide their highest ROT (return on time) and can delegate to others the things they are more suited to do. They know who is best for getting specific things done and are motivated to delegate to them quickly and decisively.

17. Lead With Mindfulness

The more present you are, the higher your performance will be. Being present in every moment allows leaders to connect with their gifts and talents and get into the flow of productive work. It allows them to make mindful choices with their thoughts and actions, which gives their organization confidence in their leadership. When you’re 100% present, you can have 100% confidence in what you’re doing.

18. Be Self-Motivated

“The great leaders of business, industry, and finance, and the great artists, poets, musicians, and writers all became great because they developed the power of self-motivation.”—Napoleon Hill


Powerful leaders know how to motivate themselves and are self-starters. Their motivation comes from within. They know what it takes to create momentum for themselves and their teams. Nothing can stop them because nothing can take away their internal fire.

19. Have Integrity

Authentic leaders know what their personal values are and stick to them in both big and small situations. They don’t let emotions or the pressure of work sway them. That attitude then sets the tone for the entire organization. Their colleagues know that they always keep their word and act with complete integrity.

John Wooden’s definition of integrity as “Purity of Intention” says it perfectly:

“Integrity in its simplest form is purity of intention. It’s keeping a clean conscience.”

20. Be a Good Cornerman

Last on this list of essential leadership qualities is being a good cornerman. One of the greatest qualities of top leaders is the most simple: they are in your corner no matter what. Win or lose, they stand by you. Knowing your leader is in your corner gives you the supreme confidence to give your all to your team or organization.

The greatest leaders make every person they lead confident that their leaders have their back. When your leader has your back, you can put yourself out there to do things you never expected and perform at a level you didn’t know was possible.

Bottom Line

Now that you read this list of essential leadership qualities, it’s time to put them into practice! Don’t worry if you don’t get everything right every time. Be self-aware and lead yourself to be the best you can be first.


Leading yourself will allow you to mindfully lead other people, teams, and organizations to maximize their performance and results. Remember, leadership all starts with you!

More Leadership Qualities

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via


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Steven Griffith

Steven is an Executive Coach. He's been helping the world’s most successful people perfrom at their peack level.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.


From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!


The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.


But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.


Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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