Close Menu

    May 03, 2022    |   Camille Labrie

What Qualities Make a Good Leader?

what makes a good leader

2 minute read

Written by Justin Deonarine, I/O Psychologist

The qualities that make great leaders are often hard to identify. When asked to define the qualities needed for an effective leader, many organizations produce traits that are vague. We often hear terms such as “charisma”, “integrity”, “passion” and “courage”, but these often mean different things to different people.

It isn’t surprising that organizations struggle to identify what makes a great leader though, as it’s a complex role. However, given the importance and need of leadership, organizations often try to find and fit candidates to subjective models that capture these unclear descriptions. The belief that the best future leaders are those who “align” with these vague frameworks can be a costly mistake.

Effective identification of leadership potential begins with understanding the objective traits and skills that a leader will need within the organization. While many of these qualities may differ from company to company, there are common traits that many successful leaders share across different environments.

Our research with the Work Personality Index brings some clarity and objectivity to these characteristics. Across organizations, the style of leaders based on their results on twenty-one personality traits are highlighted below:



Focus on setting and working towards tough goals, but not at the expense of collaboration.
Analytical Thinking
Synthesize information from multiple sources, and then work with others to put this information into action.
Attention to Detail
Align others with the strategic objectives of the organization, not the tactical activities.
Concern for Others
Build supportive and trusting relationships with others.
Make many decisions independently, but involve others in ones that are complex.
Meet their obligations, but can shift priorities as needed.
Embrace a challenging schedule.
Are quick to adapt, but recognize the importance of some structure in how work is completed.
Identify and act on opportunities.
Implement practical solutions.
Set a broad direction for others, but give them the freedom to complete their work.
Balance multiple demands and responsibilities.
Enjoy building new relationships.
Overcome obstacles and are not stopped by setbacks.
Pursue buy-in and get people on board.
Set broad plans, but willingly adapt the plan as new information arises.
Challenge the status quo and are willing to bend the rules.
Are diplomatic and controlled, but still authentic and personable.
Social Confidence
Are self-assured and comfortable in social situations.
Stress Tolerance
Show resilience when facing difficult situations.
Encourage cooperation and team-spirit, but understand the value in approaching some tasks independently.


Organizations can better develop their best future leaders by treating candidates as individuals and seeking to understand their unique strengths and challenges. Personality traits as measured by the Work Personality Index  can highlight what those may be.

Succession Planning Playbook Succession Planning Playbook Cover

Want to improve how you identify and develop high potentials? We’ve compiled a one-stop resource that includes both our own experience and high-impact research from the field. In this report, we explore:

  • The benefits of succession planning
  • What organizations are currently doing (and why it’s not working)
  • How you can implement or improve your succession program
  • How to identify and develop high potentials

View the Playbook