7 traits of Great Leaders

Have you ever heard someone speak who really inspired you? One whom you wanted to remember – and share – everything they said? Last week I did! I had the privilege of hearing Pat Williams speak on the seven common traits of great leaders.  If somehow you are not familiar with Mr. Williams, a few of his accolades include being a best selling author, former NBA coach, and current Sr. V.P. of the Orlando Magic. To say his talk was terrific would be a sad understatement; I literally hung on every word, eagerly anticipating each nugget of wisdom, start-to-finish.

As he introduced his topic, I happily realized Mr. Williams and I have a few similarities: We are both fascinated by people, intensely interested in what makes great leaders great, and voracious readers.  Right away I knew this was going to be an hour well invested, so I grabbed my pen and paper and started taking notes.

Mr. Williams told the group he has studied and compared what many thought leaders, as well as widely recognized great leaders, consider to be the most critical elements of leadership.  While they don’t all agree on everything, he has distilled the seven most widely agreed upon characteristics necessary for truly great leadership. I can’t wait to share them with you!

My summarization of Pat Williams’ 7 Common Traits of Great Leaders:

  1. Great leaders have great vision. They see the end goal clearly, and map strategy backwards from that vision.  Their vision keeps them focused, fueled, and able to stick with it to the finish line.
  2. Great leaders are great communicators. They effectively communicate their vision and keep it alive. They are great story tellers – in fact they are hard wired to recall good stories and tie them to their vision, strategy, and goals.
  3. Great leaders have great people skills. They are genuinely interested in, and care about, other people. They are visible and make themselves available to interpersonally connect with the members of their teams.
  4. Great leaders have great character. They act responsibly, with integrity and humility. They act responsibly, with integrity and humility. (Yes, I intentionally duplicated that.)
  5. Great leaders have great competence. They are good problem solvers, spotters of talent, teachers, and learners. They hang out with the smartest people they can find, and they read – a lot. They have an intense sense of “I must… If I don’t’…If not me, who?” and they step-up during times of adversity.
  6. Great leaders are bold and decisive. They are comfortable initiating change, as well as making “the” decision. They decide and move forward without second guessing, over analyzing, or being stalled by fear.
  7. Great leaders have great big serving hearts. What they do is never about them, it is always about you.

There you have it.  Clear and concise. Wise words paraphrased from a great leader, for every leader.  As I re-review the traits, I am again realizing why great leaders stand out so much: Few have the fortitude to possess all seven characteristics day-in and day-out.

If you recognize any personal skill gaps as you review these traits, I encourage you to seek out good books, a strong mentor, and maybe even an effective coach. Pat Williams has about 100 good books you could start with, and I personally know a couple of effective coaches who could help you out as well. ????

* Photo of Pat Williams originally appeared in Orlando Magazine.

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