Leadership: What Are The Essential Traits?

Leadership: What Are The Essential Traits?

August 20, 2015
3 min read

shutterstock_294702734 Ask 15 different people what are the top leadership traits essential for any leader and you will get 15 different answers. Do a quick Google search on leadership traits or leadership essentials and you will find a wealth of information and relevant research on the subject. With so much information on what makes a successful leader, what should you focus on to improve your ability to lead more effectively and to help develop and hire your next leaders?

When searching “Top Ten Leadership Essentials” some of the most common characteristics of a great leader include integrity, honesty, good communication, inspirational and more. According to the recent report, Ready-now Leaders the Global Leadership Forecast 2014-2015 by DDI in a survey of over 13,000 leaders, these traits are some key elements to today’s successful leaders, but it’s also important to evaluate potential for leadership as well.

In a fast-growth company like ANNUITAS, these traits or characteristics have been essential in creating a positive corporate culture. They help in ‘getting the job done’ and still meeting our own internal needs (employees come first), and company performance goals—not just satisfying client demands. Look for these leadership traits in potential new hires and insist on them from existing employees.

When interviewing make sure to do research on the person, ask them to explain in detail how they have handled certain situations in the past, and how they might approach a new challenge. Take the necessary time to talk with their professional and personal references. Don’t stop at only the references the candidate gives you, but also ask those references if they could offer an additional person you could talk with to broaden your understanding of the individual and complete the picture.

When probing the background of potential candidates, find out how they have lead themselves and others in different scenarios. Did they:


  • Show others they were trustworthy by clearly communicating their vision and helping followers connect with the vision?
  • Become transparent with their motives by explaining to followers their intent and rationale for their decision or requested action?
  • Outline how everyone would be affected by the decision?
  • Explain what resources would be made available to help them achieve what was requested?


  • Show others they cared by being a great listener, using positively worded and encouraging communication – publically and privately.
  • Show sensitivity for a person’s personal issues that might be affecting their ability to reach company and individual goals?
  • Explain what they would be willing to do to assist the other person in overcoming their challenges? Perhaps directing them to a more appropriate resource.


  • Show others they provided stability by clearly communicating their vision and leading without excessive negative drama—only enthusiastic passion?
  • Have a track record of ‘coming through’ for others? Only experience can give an accurate track record here.
  • Willingly answer employee questions or respond to push back without being defensive?


  • Transfer hope to others by providing direction, not just raising issues and concerns?
  • Ask for the ‘faith’ of followers –and demonstrate that they believed in the vision (and themselves) by their own actions and words?
  • Give clear guidance by ‘showing’ what needed to be done by demonstrating the desired behavior themselves?
  • Coach others versus ‘dictating’ in their style of leadership and management?

Doing a thorough job of fact-checking and reference calling to determine leadership ability will pay off. Attempting to get by with just a superficial interview and just checking if a person was formerly employed at another company will cost you in more ways than one. Leadership is investing in your people, do the work up front to find the best talent and identify the ones with potential for leadership and build a stronger organization. In a recent Forbes article, Three Fundamental Leadership Traits That Support Enduring Organizations, it states that the right leaders not only help build a better organization, but they support continued success. That’s what we should hire for and strive for- continued success.

This article originally appeared on the ANNUITAS blog.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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