Common Characteristics Of Great Leaders

William Montgomery Cerf

A recent study from career site Zippia showed that only 10% of people are natural leaders, with 20% showing some signs of leadership that could be developed with further attention and training. What qualities does this elite group have in common, though? And what areas should one focus on if they hope to move into a leadership position within their own organization? William Montgomery Cerf shares about some of the common characteristics of great leaders. 


The #1 skill among great leaders is self-development. Good leaders are lifelong learners. They exhibit enough self-awareness to know their own strengths as well as their own weaknesses, and they have the right level of initiative and humility to pursue training for self-improvement. 


It’s no coincidence that some of government and business’s most successful leaders are considered by some to be mavericks. Good leaders are constantly generating new ideas and pursuing smarter and more efficient, sustainable, and profitable ways of doing business.  

Delegation and Team Development 

Effective leaders don’t try to take on everything themselves. Instead, they delegate certain tasks to other members of their team so that no one person gets too overwhelmed. As such, the leader is able to devote their time, attention, and skills to higher level tasks and working on the “big picture.” Delegation also allows direct reports to begin cultivating their own leadership qualities, leading to a more sustainable business model overall. 

Ethical Practice and Civic-Mindedness 

A good leader is also a good role model for others. Team members are more likely to trust a leader who behaves ethically in all situations, so there is never any question about the leader’s intentions or integrity. Developing civic-mindedness, such as volunteering or creating a community philanthropic program, also helps a leader (and their team) maintain perspective as they pursue their business goals.  


A leader who has great ideas but no ability to communicate them will not get far. The best leaders are wonderful speakers and writers, able to quickly, succinctly, and effectively put their thoughts into words in a way that both educates and inspires. They are also comfortable communicating with a wide variety of people, with enough social acumen to adjust their communication style according to different circumstances.  


Good leaders can tackle any challenge head on without shrinking back in the face of adversity or fear. This can mean dealing with a difficult problem without procrastination or anxiety, having a tough conversation with a colleague, and being willing to take (calculated!) risks in order to drive one’s organization forward. 

William Montgomery Cerf


The world we live in is constantly changing, and good leaders need to be ready to change right along with it. Great leaders exhibit agility of mind and spirit, showing that they are capable of pivoting on the fly when new circumstances or challenges arise.  

Strategic Thinking and Acting 

The best leaders are always thinking several steps ahead, strategizing the best way forward to keep their organization thriving, and taking all current benchmarks and potential outcomes into account. Not only are they thinking ahead, but they are also acting strategically – meaning they are wiling to be the changemakers instigating forward momentum, not just brainstorming about it!  

Final Thoughts 

Great leaders are hard to come by, with natural leaders making up only 10% of the population. The best have certain characteristics in common, namely self-development, innovation, delegation, team development, ethical practice, civic-mindedness, communication, courage, agility, and strategic thinking and acting. 

By William Montgomery Cerf

Official blog of Monty Cerf

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