Have you ever worked for a leader you didn’t respect? Okay, maybe you have worked for a leader who disappointed you. We all have worked for a leader who didn’t live up to our expectations.

I recently had lunch with several leaders I have mentored for a couple of years. After we finished catching up on their current activities, the conversation shifted to challenges with their leaders.

One individual was very frustrated because their leader lacked consistency and follow-through. For example, depending on who the last person was the leader spoke with, they would shift their decision.

Another leader was concerned their leader lacked integrity. While they enjoyed working with the leader, they noticed their leader had not always been truthful over the last couple of months. In addition, other team members had called out the leader for not telling the truth about several decisions they had made.

The third leader sat very quietly while the other leaders shared their concerns. So when the conversation started to wane, I asked the leader what was on their mind. After a moment of silence, they shared how everyone walked on eggshells around their leader. Why? Because the leader’s mood would determine how they would respond. If the leader was in a bad mood, their response would be harsh. 

After I allowed each of them to share, I redirected the conversation to a positive attribute of their leader. Why? Because I didn’t want them to leave focused on the negative qualities of their leaders.

Over the next several minutes, they shared several positive attributes they observed in their leaders, including visionary, strategic, personable, and funny. Then, as we walked to our cars, I gave them a homework assignment.

So what was their homework? First, they were to write down ten attributes they thought a great leader would possess. Next, they were asked to survey several individuals they work with and ask them about their leadership attributes. The goal was to help them learn how others see them.

Over the next several weeks, each leader shared the results of their homework. Interestingly, they all had the same five attributes in their top ten. So what were those attributes?

  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Courage

Of course, there are many more attributes great leaders possess.

“The essential attributes of a great leader are a positive attitude, humility, and gratitude.”

– Debasish Mridha

Leadership is a privilege, not a right. Therefore, leaders should lead by example and model what they expect from the individuals they lead. 

Do you possess the essential attributes of a great leader?


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    Dr. Kim Moore

    About the author

    I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.