Top 5 Traits of a Great Leader

Last week I had the opportunity to visit with a board member of one of my clients. This gentleman was very wise in his leadership philosophy, so it was just a joy speaking with him and learning from him. As our conversation came to a close, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask him one last question:

“What are the top five traits of a great leader?”

Without hesitation, Forrest gave me his answer.

1. Personal Character

“If a person cheats on his/her spouse, then the chances are that they’re gonna cheat on me. Personal character is who we are. We don’t just have it in some areas of our life but not in others.”

Note that Forrest chose to say “personal” character, not just character. It doesn’t get any clearer or simpler than that!

2. Optimism

I want happy people around me. Pessimists spend too much time being negative, and pessimistic people get sick a lot.”

I like this trait, and I enjoyed hearing Forrest talk about it. Seems so basic but true-to-life, wouldn’t you agree?

3. Personal Drive

“Leaders with a drive expect more out of themselves than they do of others.”

I think we often underestimate the importance of personal drive. The drive of a leader is what sets the standard for the team. If you have a low-performing team, check out the leader’s drive. Chances are it will be low as well.

4. The ability to respect and learn from those around them

If a man joins a team and thinks that all the people in the room are idiots, then that means he’s an idiot.”

This is probably my favorite because it’s coming from a seasoned leader who’s still learning. Many leaders think they arrive in a leadership position because they know it all. This foolishness is what makes many leaders weak.

5. Spiritual Being

A belief in a higher being gives us a stable foundation on which to stand.”

Forrest went on to say that it’s not about going to church every Sunday. It’s about believing and living out what we believe so others benefit from just being in our circle.

I didn’t know I was going to speak with Forrest that day; it was an unexpected call that I was blessed to have. He was an encouragement to me about the work I was doing inside of his company, and I was thankful for his openness in sharing his leadership insights.

One more thing about Forrest: He’s 76 years old. He’s had many years to narrow down and identify his top five leadership traits, yet consider how timeless they are!

As you go through your day, remember that you never know who might cross your path. With each encounter you have, know that either you are there to impact another person, or that person is there to impact you. Whichever it might be, don’t let the opportunity pass you by!


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