What Are the Qualities of a Good Leader?

Updated November 3, 2010

What are the qualities of a good leader?

There are two diametrically opposite views about the qualities of good leadership. One view is:’ a leader is born with inborn qualities of leadership’ and the other is ‘a leader is born out of an ordinary man’ In other words, an ordinary human being grows and gets molded into a leader. The latter view is more plausible, because, though a child may inherit some of the leadership qualities of his parents through genes, the background in which the child is brought up and other interpersonal, social and economic factors actually mould him into a leader. Therefore a man develops his leadership qualities by virtue of his education, his family background and due to various social, political and economic factors that he is exposed to in his day today life.

The qualities of a good leadership may vary from person to person according to the background in which he was brought up and molded. Likewise, the leadership qualities of a political leader or a business magnet or a religious leader or a sportsman e.g. cricket captain, may vary since their area of operation and expertise is entirely different from one another.

However, there are some common qualities of a good leadership which remain the hall mark of most of the leaders. Generally a good leadership is a combination of many qualities like charisma, extra ordinary intellectual skills in oratory, writing, decision making, besides being strategic, tactful, steadfast, resourceful, sincere, committed, knowledgeable and above all with a fine memory, sense of wit and humor and a bundle of common sense. A good leader is a fine administrator and also known for his time management. History is replete with classic examples to illustrate all the above mentioned leadership qualities

1) Charisma:

Charisma is an abstract and a powerful personal quality of a leader that attracts and impresses other people. Political and religious leaders are endowed with this quality. For example, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indhira Gandhi were said to be charismatic leaders since they were able to attract more and more people wherever they went. In the US, Abraham Lincoln was said to be a charismatic leader. Gautama Buddha was a charismatic religious leader who attracted more and more people towards Buddhism. In fact this charisma played a vital role not only in attracting more people but also hypnotized them to tow their political and religious line.

2) Intellectual qualities:

i) Extra-ordinary skills of Oratory and Writing:

Good leaders, in particular, the political and religious leaders have been extraordinary orators. They not only attract the people through their speech but also able to convince them to tow their political and religious will. A good leader is also extempore capable of speaking on any topic on a given situation. Former US President Abraham Lincoln was a great orator and his Gettysburg speech during the civil war was a classical example of his oratory skills and it has become part of the American literature. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’ was one of the famous quotes from the master pieces of his speech. Mrs.Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India was an extempore Similarly, some good leaders have been excellent writers too. For example, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a famous writer in English, whose works won the Nobel Prize for literature. In India, there are umpteen numbers of writers besides being successful and good political leaders. Nehru was a great writer, whose works like the Discovery of India and the Glimpses of World History were great trend setters in historical writing.

ii)Decision making power:

Good leaders have been good decision makers too. For example former US President Abraham Lincoln was great in decision making. When US were facing a political crisis during the period of civil war, it was Lincoln’s master stroke to declare for the emancipation of slavery. But for the extraordinary talent and decision making powers of Winston Churchill as the Prime Minister of England during the period of the Second World War, England could not have averted a war time crisis. It was the extra ordinary decision making power of F.D.Roosevelt, the former U.S President that helped US to blow away the crisis of Great Depression of 1930s.and paved the way for a series of reforms and reconstruction.

While taking vital decisions in crisis situations good leaders have always been strategic, and tactful; remained steadfast and committed. with an iron will. When Lincoln took the strategic and tactical decision in favor of emancipation of slavery in the wake of fierce opposition from the white people, he had to remain sincere, steadfast and committed with an iron will in favor of his decision and in the end lost his life to bullets.


Resourcefulness is one of the characteristic qualities of a good leader. Coupled with his talent and fund of common sense, a good leader always takes timely decisions in a given situation besides tackling any tricky situation.

iv)Sense of humor and wit:

Good leaders do not bother about any tricky situation they may face. Their sense of humor and wit bail them out from such tricky situations. Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi were known for their sense of humor. They also used this characteristic quality to enliven the proceedings besides cheering up their followers.

v)Knowledgeable with a fine memory:

Good leaders, whether they have a formal education or not, always remained knowledgeable with their voracious reading habit, besides hearing patiently what others say. Above all they have a fine sense of memory with a capacity to recall any event that happened several years ago. With a faithful memory, good leaders are able to keep a faithful following. A classic example of faithful memory of a good leader is Napoleon Bonaparte, the French leader. He was such a great organizer of human resources only with his tremendous memory. It may be astonishing to note that he could recall the names of every one of his thousands of soldiers. personally and could hobnob with them at ease just like an ordinary soldier.

3)Time Management skills:

Good leaders are also notable for their time management skills. Mahatma Gandhi was a classic example. He was almost an addict in keeping times; always wearing a timepiece around his waist, he was so prompt and punctual in attending his multifarious political activities.

4) Administrative Skills:

Good leaders are fine administrators too. Being so prompt and punctual, they remain quite efficient in the administration of an organization, whether they are political leaders or religious leaders. Jawaharlal Nehru was a fine administrator as the Prime Minister of India as many as 17 long years between 1947 and 1964.with unflinching devotion to duty.By virtue of his administrative skills he carried forward his country from an underdeveloped status to that of a developing country.

Gautama Buddha or Mahavira were great administrators of their respective monasteries.

5) Honesty and Integrity:

Good leaders are flawless in their character,known for their honesty and integrity.Honesty in turn evokes honesty from their followers. Mahatma Gandhi was the classic example of a honest political leader besides being a man of integrity. He always spoke the truth and never gave up that policy until his death.

6) Idealistic:

Good leaders remain idealistic in their vision and in a way far advanced to their age. Despite being a leader and having a mass following, they remain somewhat isolated by virtue of their idealistic and advanced thinking.Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi were the classic examples for such personality.

7)Ability to lead from the front:

It is the natural ability and talent of the good leaders to lead from the front and avert many crisis situations.For example, in cricket many cricket captains like Ricky Ponting,Kapil Dev,M.S.Dhoni always lead from the front with their exemplary skills in the game of cricket and avert crisis situation when their cricket teams need them most.Similarly,in the political front great leaders always lead from the front and change the destiny of their nations.

8)Unselfish to the core:

Good leaders are more concerned about others and always remained unselfish.They never think about their own welfare or well being but fight for the causes and well being of others who need them most.Mahatma Gandhi was the classic example;he never thought of his own well being and always strived hard to achieve freedom for India.He did not hold any post when India became Independant and remained selfless to the core.Nelson Mandela is another exemplary leader whose selfless service to the cause of African National Congress is praiseworthy.Being unselfish good leaders remain simple,humble and unassuming.They even hate luxurious or ostentatious way of living.They set an example for others by their way of living.Mahatma Gandhi remained a half naked fakir just because a common man in a remote village did not have a shirt to wear.His food was also very simple and he remained a teetotaller.

9)Driving force and Inspirational:

Endowed with a number of fine qualities, through their exemplary behaviour, good leaders set an example for others,remain a driving force;inspire their followers towards a specific goal and lead them for a safe journey,whether it be an organisation or a political or religious movement.

We should follow such leaders and even try to emulate them.That is the only way of thanking and paying tribute to such great leaders.