You Don't Have to Be a CEO to Develop Leadership Qualities These 10 traits will prove indispensable, no matter where you fall in the hierarchy.

By David Hassell

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Whether you are the CEO of a large and prosperous company or an employee whom others depend on, the qualities of true leadership are identical.

Leadership is often confused with authority, but a leader can be anyone at the company -- even an entry-level employee. You can see the impact these key employees have on the productivity, effectiveness and morale of their colleagues and sometimes even their managers.

Cultivate these 10 leadership qualities in yourself and look for them in others. Not only will they help determine the overall success of your business. They can also allow you discover those with the potential to eventually ascend to more influential positions within your organization:

Related: 7 Characteristics of Exceptional Business Professionals

1. Transparency.

When issues remain unknown, they can fester into serious problems. Sharing openly increases trust and invites others to follow your example.

Sharing something you did that didn't produce the desired results encourages employees to be transparent with their own missed opportunities and mistakes. Then others can step in with the necessary assistance, support and resources.

2. Willingness to learn.

Front-line employees are one of the greatest sources of information at a manager's disposal. They have firsthand knowledge of the impact that high-level decisions have on customers and other front-line employees.

Asking questions on a regular basis allows for uncovering great employee ideas and insights that might otherwise go unnoticed.

3. Sense of humor.

First, I'll share this anecdote that I adapted from something I read:

Boss: "Knock, knock."

Employee: "Who's there?"

Boss: "Micromanager."

Employee: "Micro-"

Boss: "OK, now you say "micromanager who?' "

You don't have to be everyone's best friend but you also don't have to make the workplace drab and boring. Having a sense of humor will make you more approachable and it can help guide others through difficult or disappointing situations.

4. Creativity.

Problem solving is one of the highest forms of creativity for everyone at a company. So don't just think outside the box, design a better one.When managers create a space where employees feel heard and appreciated, the great ideas can flow beautifully from concept to execution.

5. Intuition.

The logical mind is an amazing tool but it isn't the only one. In today's data-driven world, take a step back to contextualize the numbers. Employees and managers all need to weigh evidence before making a decision and then trust their intuitions. Once a decision is made, stand by it so that others will feel confident about your leadership.

Related: 5 Secrets Every Good Boss in the Modern Workplace Knows

6. Ability to let go.

Few things are more frustrating to employees than working for someone who is constantly micromanaging them. And managers who are too afraid to delegate never really get anything done.

Letting go can free up time to complete more high-leverage tasks and allow people to grow into their roles. It sends the message that you trust others to perform in their own zones of genius.

7. Adaptability.

Perhaps you think you have created the perfect plan and outline for your next project. Inevitably, something will come along and force you to change your course of action. You need to fearlessly adapt to change and encourage others to be nimble enough to roll with the punches.

8. Humility.

Admit your mistakes when you make them and try to be understanding of others in a difficult position. When you are a humble leader, employees will feel like they can go to you with their issues and challenges. This also gives you the opportunity to guide them to eventually work more autonomously.

9. Encouraging.

As a leader, it is far better to inspire people to push against their own boundaries than to have them shut down under demands and threats.

Provide guidance without being arrogant and aggressive. Leaders don't just tell people what to do. They enroll others in the mission and work together to create well-defined objectives that are aligned with the greater company goals.

10. Effective communication.

Communication is the single most important leadership quality and everything mentioned above depends on it.

Everyone at the company must feel safe to share triumphs, ideas and challenges, in person or via digital means. And managers must clearly articulate goals and expectations and check in regularly to keep employees from falling off the track.

Perhaps you have several of these qualities but feel like you struggle with others. Take some time to focus on who you are as a leader (even if you're not technically in charge ) and you may see that others at your company are gaining insight from your example.

Related: How to Communicate With Your First Employee

David Hassell

CEO and Founder of 15Five

David Hassell is the founder and CEO of 15Five, a leading employee engagement solution that helps create high performing teams by combining pulse surveys, weekly check-ins, peer recognition, and people analytics all in one platform. 

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