Defining Leadership

Leadership Qualities – the Defining Qualities of Effective Leadership


Leadership qualities are qualities that characterize effective leadership. What are these qualities?

Let me lay it out clearly.

For starters, effective leaders are . . .

1. Humble

2. Decisive

3. Selfless and self sacrificing

4. Empathetic

5. Disciplined

6. Good communicators (they communicate the agenda clearly and effectively)

7. Fair and unprejudiced

Effective leaders . . .

8. Maximize the potential of their people by empowering them

9. Surround themselves with people smarter than they are

10. Do not care who takes the credit

11. Admit that they are infallible and admit mistakes when they make them

12. Have a burning desire to make a difference . . . a positive difference

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, I can go on and on.

But no matter how long the list of leadership qualities is, I can tell you honestly that without three of these leadership qualities you will inevitably fail as a leader.

What are these four uncompromising qualities of effective leadership?

1. Surround yourself with people smarter than you

2. Acknowledge mistakes when you make them. Take corrective actions, learn from them, and move on

3. Maximize the potential of your people and

4. Be selfless. Serve your people and your organization. Abhor personal gain.

The desire for personal gain will colour your judgment and will ultimately lead you to the path of failure.

To illustrate, consider what happened recently in the company where I work.

As I write this, I work for a global beverage company with roots in the UK. I am in one of the offices in West Africa. My company’s cocoa based beverage drink has about 50% share of the country’s total cocoa based beverage market. Clearly, it was a big operation.

Some two years back, my company’s CEO and the finance director were fired. Why?

Over statement of company accounts.

The company wasn’t doing well. Instead of telling his bosses so, the CEO . . . with the collaboration of the finance director . . . tempered with the accounts to make the company look good and thus, retain his position as CEO. This situation went on for about three successive years before external auditors contracted by the parent company in the Uk detected the fraud.

That incident resulted in a loss to the company of over $116 million U.S. dollars. And shareholders have been told they should not expect dividends for the next two years.

The CEO was a young talented fellow who had been CEO of the company for over 10 years. He was well respected in the community, even winning the position of “The Most Respected CEO” in my country twice.

So, what went wrong? What took him down?

1. The desire for greater prominence, greater fame, and personal gain.

2. Arrogance. He refused to admit he was wrong and wind down production to match demand and market opportunities (He had a vision to make the company a billion dollar company by year 2010. He called this . . . project marathon).

When the market wasn’t growing as fast as production was growing, he refused to slow down production. The factories kept on producing at break-neck speed and the company kept on acquiring more warehouses to store what was produced that the market could not accommodate)

3. He surrounded himself with ‘yes men’ – directors who were at his mercy . . . directors who stood by and watched while the life investment of shareholders went down the drain

Make no mistake about it.

No matter how good you currently are, no matter how intelligent you may be, no matter how many awards you have won, you will fail eventually if you are not a selfless leader.

Remember all the leadership qualities discussed above. But whatever you do, do not forget the four most important leadership qualities.

You can be a great leader. Effective leadership is within your reach. It starts by understanding leadership qualities you need essential for effective leadership.

The good news is . . . these attributes can be learned. And . . . this is your big chance.

About The Author

Samson Itoje is a leadership expert in Lagos Nigeria Africa. He provides free advice at


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