My Queue

There are no Videos in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any video to save to your queue.

There are no Articles in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any article to save to your queue.

There are no Podcasts in your queue.

Click on the Add to next to any podcast episode to save to your queue.

You're not following any authors.

Click the Follow button on any author page to keep up with the latest content from your favorite authors.


7 Character Traits Exceptional Leaders Have in Common

When the leader is respectful and honest, the team does not hesitate to follow.
7 Character Traits Exceptional Leaders Have in Common
Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images
- Contributor
Psychologist, Author, Speaker
7 min read

A Note From The Editor

Think your company has what it takes to make our Top Company Cultures list? Apply now.

Apply now ยป
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

 It’s a simple fact that some people are easier to like and get along with than others. This almost always has to do with a person’s character. Exceptional leaders are those who are open, social, friendly, communicative, humble, sensitive to others, flexible, honest and down to earth. These qualities are the exact qualities which leave the deepest and most meaningful impact on others. The type of character we build is our choice. If we make poor choices such as being dishonest, lazy, entitled, egotistical, attention-seeking or blaming we will not develop the type of character others feel compelled to follow. In every situation we have choice in how we respond. Good character is what separates the great from the average, empty words from action, and the successful from the non-successful.

1. Possess high levels of self-control.

Great leaders are emotionally intelligent, patient and calm under pressure. They see no point in overreacting or allowing their emotions to dictate their words or actions. Their ability to have poise under pressure takes them a long way. This state of serenity and quietude allows great leaders the time to meditate on their thoughts and feelings before speaking on them. They are wise to provide themselves the space and time to concentrate on which decision will work to their benefit and to the benefit of others. The ability to remain calm is undoubtedly one the most notable traits of leaders with solid character. To become great leaders ourselves, we must train ourselves to hold and express this same type of self-possession.

Related: The 11 Questions Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Ask Themselves

2. Stay clear of drama.

Drama and attention-seeking are emotional repellents. Nobody enjoys being around those who are creating drama or who seek to be recognized as more special or unique than others. Exceptional leaders, like any of us, have their fair share of personal issues to deal with in their lives, but unnecessary drama and fatalism are not areas they entertain. Effective solutions cannot develop from chaotic or immature states of mind. To develop our leadership skills, we cannot go around blaming others and making excuses for our poor decisions. We must each cultivate the humility and work ethic to take responsibility for our actions and to do what is within our power to create a positive change in our destiny. Great leaders understand that success is built upon itself over time. Holding this mindset keeps them out of the drama and focused on the bigger picture.

Related: 10 People Who Will Destroy Your Business

3. Seekers of truth.

Honesty is the foundation exceptional leadership rests upon. Everybody admires people remarkable enough in their character to seek and to live in the truth. Great leaders prefer to hear, or to tell a tough and painful truth over giving or receiving a comforting mistruth as a way to avoid conflict or misfortune. To become a seeker of the truth, we must guide our rational thought process to examine the facts of any situation we are in. When we gather facts, we are better equipped to make reasonable and resourceful decisions. Exceptional leaders possess the self-control to put their biases and prejudices aside to seek the miraculous. The truth always brings with it the extraordinary experiences we crave. To be great, we must understand that innovation exists at the very edges of our expertise and the information we have not yet discovered. For us to become seekers of truth, we must abolish living in what is familiar. True happiness and fulfillment always come from exploring what has not yet to be discovered.

Related: The Importance Of Honesty And Integrity In Business

4. Place courage over fear.

Exceptional leaders have developed mastery over their fears by training themselves not to regress under stress. They wear their emotions close to their chest, and prefer to place acts of great courage over cowering to their fears. To become fearless leaders, we must view hardships as tests which raise our basic levels of training. Fear is an adrenalized emotion. Any emotion attached to adrenalin puts a person at risk for acting or speaking too soon. To be great, we must learn to harness our impulses. Fear causes the natural narrowing of our mental focus, which if used correctly, helps us determine which elements of our situation are urgent and which we can wait to execute on. When we have the courage to stay patient and wait for our rational decision-making to kick in, we execute with more confidence.

Related: What Steve Jobs, Michael Jordan and Eleanor Roosevelt Taught Me About Fear

5. Empathy towards self and others.

Exceptional leaders are naturally empathic. Their trespasses through times of great suffering have developed their keen ability to take-in and understand another’s perception. Never mistake empathy for weakness. Empathy is the most extraordinary Superpower. It is the one emotion that fosters an authentic connection between one human being and another. Showing empathy, demonstrating our own vulnerability and foibles can only be done when we are confident enough to be exactly who we are. It takes incredible character to remain silent in lei of lashing out, and to be gracious to those who may not deserve it. People of exceptional character shine from within, are approachable, willing to listen and always contribute to raising the morale of everyone around them. To be a great leader, we must come to appreciate all people. We must offer kindness to those who surround us and discipline ourselves withhold any judgement until we’ve walked a mile in the shoes of another, for each person is fighting battles we may know nothing about.

Related: Empathy in Business Is Vital to an Entrepreneur's Success

6. Self-aware

There is nothing more attractive or empowering than a person who possess high levels of self-awareness. When a person is completely at ease within themselves, others are naturally drawn to them. It is also exactly what inspires other people to want to know themselves more deeply. Exceptional leaders never take their self-awareness for granted. They understand there are no shortcuts to success. It will require blood, sweat and tears. It is essential that we, like other influential leaders, take time to acknowledge all of our smaller wins, rather than focusing solely on our bigger failures. The best way to develop positive self-awareness is to focus on the good, the wins, and the gains we’ve made through each challenge and to also acknowledge the miraculous new directions to come from our more painful trials. To be exceptional, we must be grateful for all of it.

Related: How Leaders Can Survive the Dangers of 'Uber' Success

7. Maintain and nurture their reputation.

The most powerful way to influence others is to have a solid reputation. Great leaders understand their reputation is their most valuable asset. People are drawn to those they love and respect, and who possess flawless levels of personal integrity. Great leaders are mindful of the extreme vulnerability their reputation is consistently placed under, knowing a solid reputation takes years to build and only one poor, thoughtless or selfish moment to destroy it forever. To be exceptional in our own leadership skills, we must do all we can to keep our reputations clean and impeccable. We must manage who we are in social media because once something negative we’ve done leaks out, it will be nearly impossible to ever live it down. We must always strive to be a person who seeks respect, honesty and the type of character others feel compelled to follow.  

“Seek respect instead of attention. Respect lasts longer.” Pink 

Being Vulnerable Is the Boldest Act of Business Leadership