What do some of the world’s greatest leaders have in common? They transformed the world after discovering their own purpose.

Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are classic examples. They led more by example than design and inspired large populations in India and South Africa by staying committed to their values in the face of intimidating opposition.

The famous American general, Douglas MacArthur, once said: “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

Leadership qualities of effective leaders

Let’s explore the leadership qualities of effective leaders:

  1. Integrity

“When you are able to maintain your own highest standards of integrity—regardless of what others may do—you are destined for greatness,” the American author Napoleon Hill had said.

One of the most important leadership qualities is integrity. A leader with integrity is conscientious. He or she is consistent in actions, values, principles, expectations, and results.

We have read about incorruptible policemen and bureaucrats who face the consequences of being righteous and sincere. Choosing the correct path and standing by the truth—irrespective of the temptations and distractions one is often faced with—is the hallmark of leadership with integrity.

  1. Vision

“A leader has the vision and conviction that a dream can be achieved. He inspires the power and energy to get it done,” said fashion designer Ralph Lauren.

Visionary leaders have the knack of being able to look into the future. They communicate this vision to people and motivate them to act passionately and purposefully towards a common goal.

One of India’s greatest business visionaries was the former chairman of the Tata group, J.R.D. Tata. Under his leadership, the Tata group diversified into a conglomerate with interests in aviation, transport, and software.

  1. Resilience

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it,” said author and activist Helen Keller, who overcame tremendous challenges in her own life to succeed in her endeavors.

Resilience is the ability to withstand turbulence in the internal and external environment. The true test of a leader is when they have to take their nation, organization, or movement ahead during difficult times.

Our history books are filled with stories of leaders in every field who faced tremendous challenges, but braved the odds and achieved their goals.

  1. Emotional Intelligence

Think about the boss you admired the most, the one you felt comfortable talking to about your queries and concerns. You will remember that your boss was receptive and delivered on her promise of addressing your issues. Discussions with the boss were generally productive and you felt supported in the organization. Your boss likely had a high EQ or emotional quotient.

Emotionally intelligent leaders foster a collaborative work culture. They take a levelheaded approach to handling conflicts in the workplace. They create safe and harmonious environments where people feel comfortable and can truly thrive.

  1. Courage

Martin Luther King was an inspirational figure who led the fight against racial discrimination.

Courageous leaders can take on seemingly insurmountable challenges. They are unafraid of failure, and back this fearlessness with sharp strategic planning. Consider entrepreneur Elon Musk. Criticism, failures, and setbacks don’t seem to stop him from dreaming and working hard to achieve those dreams. Recently, his company SpaceX became the first private company to send humans into orbit.

  1. Compassion

Great leaders are compassionate. They have a unique ability to understand other people’s perspectives.

The Dalai Lama’s advice to modern leaders is to be mindful, selfless, and compassionate. He goes on to refer to the three styles of compassionate leadership in the Buddhist tradition:  the trailblazer, who leads from the front and sets an example; the ferryman, who “accompanies those in his care and shapes the ups and downs of the crossing”; and the shepherd, who “sees every one of his flock into safety before himself”. The central concern for all these three styles is the welfare of those who are being led.

  1. Humility

Humility is not a weakness. In fact, it is one of the most vital virtues of leadership. It means staying grounded and self-aware and acknowledging and rectifying one’s mistakes.

It is proven that humble leaders are better listeners and inspirers. Many people who come across billionaire investor Warren Buffet are struck by the humility with which he goes about his life and work.

  1. Communication

The ability to communicate honestly is the marker of a true leader. Authenticity and unpretentiousness are qualities that you will find shared by some of the most well-known CEOs in the world of technology, business, and industry.

In the run-up to Facebook’s stock exchange listing in 2012, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously turned up to an investor presentation wearing jeans and his signature hoodie. While there was some criticism about his attire, many observers noted that he was actually being true to who he was and what Facebook stood for—a cool young company that has disrupted traditional notions about networking and doing business.

  1. Open-mindedness

Inspirational leaders don’t shut themselves away in an ivory tower.  They are receptive to and actively encourage innovation. A lot of the magic happens because such leaders motivate and inspire their employees to come up with novel ideas. Learning from past mistakes and being open to out-of-the-box strategies is crucial. Being flexible and assertive, where needed, is a rare leadership quality.

  1. Training yourself is the key

Some leaders are born with these qualities. Others have to cultivate and develop them. Developing leadership traits is not rocket science, but a systematic series of focused efforts.

To understand leadership and develop leadership skills, the first dialogue you must have is with yourself. With continuous practice and purposeful efforts, you can build your leadership qualities in a particular field or profession.

How to develop good leadership skills

Here are some ways to develop good leadership skills:

  • Understand your innate gifts and weak areas, and address your weaknesses and focus on your strengths
  • Set meaningful benchmarks and chalk out a strategic plan to achieve them
  • Acknowledge your failures and discuss them openly to find solutions that can help you move on
  • Sharpen your ability to overcome challenges and see the bigger picture
  • Strive to be exemplary to your juniors and nurture their leadership skills
  • Work on the people management skills required in a wide range of situations
  • Cultivate analytical and decision-making skills
  • Study inspirational leaders, learn from their life stories, identify their qualities and try to imbibe them
  • Approach a good mentor and seek guidance

Final Thoughts

Leadership is popularly understood as the ability to guide others. But the real work of leadership is internal. For personal growth and success in your career and life, it is crucial to first learn to lead yourself.

Harappa’s Leading Self course is about becoming the best version of yourself, and reaching your potential while overcoming all the challenges life throws your way.

With the help of The Ladder of Learning tool in the course, you can improve your competence and skill levels. You will also be trained to identify and manage your mental blocks.

So are you ready to begin your leadership journey and take yourself to the next level?


Explore our Harappa Diaries section to know more about topics related to the Lead habit such as stress management, emotional intelligence, and the meaning of resilience.

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