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10 Characteristics of Good Leadership – an Expanded and Revised Version

When I first wrote about the characteristics of good leadership almost 6 years ago. At the time I had been a leader for well over 20 years and had studied the field o leadership academically. My blog was fairly new but growing.

These were designed to be informative, but honestly, even more, they served as a checklist reminder of sorts for my own attempts at good leadership.

Since then my blog influence has grown, I’ve moved from a church planter to a church revitalizer, and I’ve learned so much more. Still, when I look over these characteristics, I stand behind then. I’ve tweaked them a bit for readability purposes. (Every time I read my writings again I see something which could be improved.)

Here are 10 characteristics of good leadership:

1. Recognizes the value in other people, so continually invests in others – Good leaders see a large part of their role as developing people and new leaders. Leadership development takes place in an organization as leaders begin to share their experiences, both positive and negative, with others.

2. Shares information – There is a tendency of some leaders to hold information, because information is power. A good leader uses this to the team’s advantage knowing the more information the team has collectively the stronger the team.

3. Has above average character – There are no perfect people, but for a leader to be considered good, in my opinion, they must have a character which is unquestioned within the organization. Their integrity and transparency is paramount. Leadership always draws criticism, so a leader may not be able to get everyone to believe in him or her, but the people who know the leader best should trust the leader’s character most.

4. Uses their influence for the good of others – Good leaders are as interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives as they are in creating a healthy profit margin or accomplishing a strategy. In fact, people-building is a large part of the strategy. This doesn’t mean that balance sheets and income statements aren’t important, in fact they are important for the success of an organization (even non-profits – even churches), but a good leader doesn’t separate a desire for helping others from the desire for financial health. And, good leaders find ways to leverage financial health to strengthen the well-being of others.

5. Skillful, competent and professional– Good leaders are talented or knowledgeable about their field and can be depended on for their follow through. You don’t question whether a good leader is going to be able to complete a task. They may not be the smartest in the room, but if they don’t know how to do something, they will find someone who does and they aren’t afraid to ask or empower others. They will ensure a job they have committed to do is done the best it can be done. This also means they don’t commit to more than they can reasonably accomplish. They know the power of “No!”

6. Not afraid for others to succeed (even greater than their own success) – Good leaders realize some followers will outgrow the leader’s ability to develop them any further. Good leaders, however, aren’t threatened by another’s success. They are willing to celebrate as those around them succeed — even help them get there.

7. Serve others expecting nothing in return – Good leaders have a heart of service. They truly love and value people and want to help others for the good of the one being helped, not necessarily for personal gain.

8. Continue to learn – Good leaders are always learning and implementing those learnings into the betterment of the organization. That could be through reading, conferences, web-based learnings, or through other leaders, but also through people who report to the leader.

9. Accessible, approachable, and accountable to others – Good leaders don’t isolate themselves from people regardless of the amount of responsibility or power he or she attains. Good leaders willingly seek the input of other people into their professional and personal lives. They desire to know people, not just be known by people.

10. Visionary – thinks beyond today – Good leaders are always thinking “What’s next?” It is a common question asked by good leaders, knowing someone must continually challenge the boundaries and encourage change. They spur growth and strategic thinking so the organization can remain healthy, vibrant and sustainable.

These are in no particular order. You may say some are more important than others but as soon as I prioritize them we can start to marginalized the higher numbers. They are all important in my opinion. 

What would you add to my list?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Ed Decker says:

    continued…..Be prepared from the start. Years ago, I was operating as an OEM for a number of computer hardware companies. Because I was the highest earning outside sales representative, I was invited to the annual in-house Sales and Marketing conference at a great resort.

    The VP of marketing introduced me during the awards program as the top seller, he said, Here is Ed Decker, who made it here because if a giant “Bluebird sale.”

    I stood up, thanked him and the company for a great product and then told the audience there was no such thing as a Bluebird sale. I said that great sales come from hard work and diligence, having a contract in my hand ready to go the first day. And because I knew my product and the customer’s needs, I knew when to close and not talk my way past a ‘Ready to close” signal.

    Grooming and Dress. Dress for the level you want to be, not what and where you are. [That’s is pretty hard to define in today’s business world.]

    Role Playing. I would always conduct myself in all higher-level communications, phone calls, [now emails and texts] meetings and conversations as though I was being evaluated (by each Contact) for my boss’ job. (Because he was getting that well deserved promotion I helped him earn).

    Business Meetings a gold mine of opportunities. My best successes were business meetings. Always be prepared with Plan A and Plan B. Walk in as the best-prepared person in the room. Never go into a meeting unprepared.

    Expect to be called into an important meeting on a minutes’ notice and have your actions laid out in expectation. Never stand there with your mouth open and nothing to say.

    This may sound odd, but get there early and take a control seat, being sure you have what I call a power position where you can see everyone and there are no distractions behind you.

    Body Language. And Eye Contact. Read signals and react positively. Defer to others except when the lead person defers to you, then be decisive and manage with a deferment to that leader. Listen more than talk. When you talk do it with a strong assuring manner.

    Strong eye contact is probably the single most important part of verbal communications, especially in today’s world of iPhones and twittering, where people have begun to lose communication skills.

    Never lose your temper. Never speak harshly to anyone, from the President of the company to the cleaning people. Never back-bite, never gossip, never curse, never tell or listen to lewd comments or jokes, sexist or racist remarks.

    Be an Affirmer. Go out of your way to be kind to all. Be a complimenter. Not a fawner but a sincere liker of people. Use actual names when you greet people.

    Be a Lifter-Upper. As a Boss yourself, be a champion of your people. You show loyalty to them, you will get loyalty back. Credit them for good work. Cover their mistakes if they make one moving forward. An employee who makes a mistake and then hides it from you, covering up is a dangerous employee to have. Fire them immediately. Second chances rarely work and you will finds yourself taking a fall down that road.

    Be a man of your word. If you say it, do it.

    As a Christian in the business world.

    Do not wear your Christianity on your chest. Carry it in your heart. Live it in your life. You are not there to change their faith. You are there to be living yours.

    Pray each day before you enter your workplace, for the company the business, the people and ask that you be Hi hand extended that day.

    Laugh a lot, smile, Get your secretary or fellow worker a cup of coffee when you go to the break room to get your own. Have a servant heart in the mundane things of life with others.

    Don’t let negativity mess with you, at work, at home or in the community. Take a bag lunch once or twice a week and stay away from those two martini executive lunches.

  • Ed Decker says:

    Poor me. As a kid, scrambling for survival, I grew up running a trap line, hawking Coca Cola and ice cream cones, slinging hash in a hash house, working as a Dugan’s bakery boy, carrying groceries for elderly ladies in the city and anything else I could do to earn money for me and my family from the time I was 10. By the time I was in high school, I had a full time job where I put in 60 hours a week as well as excelled in school.

    When I went to college, it was at an inexpensive land grant school and I worked there at four part time jobs to pay my way. I finally had to drop out because of family needs.


    I lived within a non-compromising self-enforced work ethic. By the time I was 30 years old, I was a corporate executive, handling much of a 65 million dollar P & L, with 1800 people under my management. Here’s how got there and how I made it work.

    Always make every decision based on what is best for the company, not what is best for you.

    Your first job is to always make your boss look good. Absolute Loyalty! If you can’t give it, get out.

    Your good stuff- Give you boss the credit. His bad stuff – Take the blame and fix it. I found that when this kind of a boss gets promoted, you will get his job if you have the other factors working.

    First in and last out. I always was at my desk before anyone else came in and still there when the rest left. Work by job or assignment/deadline. Think in terms of completion and not in hours. Be a steady, trusted employee. Volunteer for that messy assignment.

    Always be ready to take decisive action. Do you have the documents in order to close that big sale on the first visit?

  • Alex says:

    Excellent post Ron.
    #3 is paramount. Character in leadership is a MUST. People follow leaders who they can model. Truth is, 1 Tim 3 gives us a pretty tight list of character-istics we need as Christian leaders.

    Furthermore, I'm a firm believer that a good leader is a good follower, much like a good teacher is a good learner. Leaders teach, and teachers lead. or something like that… lol

    Thanks again for a great post Ron,

  • Ron,

    Great blog. Thank you.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Tami. Hope you are well! Hope @StickyJesus is gaining even more momentum!

  • Tami Heim says:

    Great list Ron! I can see why it is one of you most viewed. Thanks for speaking truth into our lives!

  • timmossholder says:

    Solid list that I'll be sharing AND saving for personal reference! If I had to pick the TOP 3 from this list, I'd go with #3, 7 & 9, which particularly focus on the "being" of the leader. What we know and what we can do are important, but remain substantially less critical to who we "are" as leaders.

  • Tim Milburn says:

    Wait? I didn't see "has a position of power and authority" in the list? Perhaps that's because this list is accessible to anyone and everyone who desires to be a leader no matter where they're at in their organization or community. Thanks for taking the time to expand on each of these influential characteristics. It's nice to know you don't have to be the CEO to be a leader (although all CEOs will benefit from a list like this).

  • MarketSmarts says:

    Excellent post. I've had the privilege of working w/ some great leaders and I've seen these qualities at work in their lives.

  • Solid list. Involvement is crucial. leaders gain credibility by being involved in the process.

  • revtrev says:

    What you call "good leaders" I understand as fathers. There's such a dearth of them in the church I'm so blessed to find ones like you who fit the title.