5 Traits of Successful Leaders Leaders who exhibit these simple qualities are sure to help their organizations achieve success, stimulating their team to dig deep, find the motivation to work hard and create real value .

By Norm Merritt

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Whether you are a small business or startup, restaurateur or retailer, the difference between success and failure across industries stems from one word: leadership. Those in charge truly set the stage for success. Without the presence of a strong leader the landscape is weighed down by demotivated staff, undelivered promises and disappointed stakeholders. From my experience, the most successful leaders boast these five prominent qualities:

1. Do what you say.

Early on in my career, a senior partner advised me to never make promises to clients we couldn't deliver. While my colleague was primarily concerned with protecting the firm's reputation, I was learning a deeper lesson about my own integrity and how hard I would work to stick to my word.

Related: The 5 Times Leaders Should Say No

A true leader practices what they preach and comes through on promises with tangible delivery. Do what you say. Lead with integrity to build trust among your employees, and you'll see that others are inspired to do the same.

2. Give credit, take blame.

Author and entrepreneur Arnold Glasow once said, "a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." Being an impactful leader means having the emotional maturity to take accountability when things go wrong. On the flip side, when a leader achieves success, he or she shouldn't take the glory, but instead credit the accomplishment to the team. Once a task is complete, be sure to give colleagues the proper recognition; praising achievements inspires workers to continue raising the bar and garnering sustainable results.

3. Be the leader you want to follow.

Exemplary leaders never ask anything of their teams that they're not willing to do themselves. By its very definition, to lead means to go first and show the way. Everything an executive does should dial back to the core values of the company. Know the details -- not to micromanage -- but to develop an understanding of what you are asking folks to do. When presented with a leader's total commitment, resilience in the face of opposition, optimism and a can-do attitude, team members will be inclined to follow the lead. Inspiring from within will sculpt dedicated employees who are motivated to succeed.

Related: What Really Makes a Good Leader?

4. Head up, shoulders back.

To achieve success, a leader must be passionate about their mission. After all, how will you ever attract others to your company if you don't believe in it yourself? If a leader is drowning in self-doubt or worry, the entire team's confidence will quickly erode. Successful leaders know how to keep a cool exterior and stay level-headed, even when dealing with adversity. No matter what's going on in the background, impactful leaders remain confident, serving as both a positive example and a constant assurance for their team.

5. Encourage responsibility through accountability.

Essential elements of accountability are to ensure that roles are clearly understood, expectations are clearly set and success is defined up front and then measured. It's not what you expect but what you inspect that will get done. Be sure those to be held to account also have the authority to get it done and have a clear sense for how success will be measured. Then hold folks to account for their delivery.

Related: 7 Things That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable

Norm Merritt

President and CEO of ShopKeep

Norm Merritt is the president and CEO of ShopKeep, a point-of-sale platform for the iPad. 

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