Successful managers do not fit a cookie-cutter mold. Instead, they have distinct attributes just as people in other careers. However, a few core qualities are so important to impacting leadership that it is difficult to succeed without them.

Personal Empathy
Emphasis on coaching and people development has been a major shift from the traditional management approach to the contemporary management approach. To gain the trust and respect of your employees, you need to show genuine interest in them as people and not just workers.

Personal empathy often shows up at the top of surveys about great leadership qualities. Empathy means you have a desire and ability to understand the total person with each employee. You know that their personal and family lives impact their joy and accomplishments at work. Empathetic leaders listen to employee concerns, coach them through obstacles and inspire respect.

Responsibility and Accountability
Responsibility and accountability are very distinct attributes. However, they relate closely in great leadership. Top managers accept responsibility for the actions they take and the decisions they make.

A motivational leader passes on credit for successes to his company or work team, but accepts personal accountability when things do not go so well. Passing on blame prevents a manager from thinking about how to do things better the next time. It also fosters a culture in which employees deflect accountability and failures lead to inner conflict. When a leader is accountable, it sets the right tone for a product organization.

Leaders need confidence and optimism. These traits contribute to another impacting attribute of great leaders — decisiveness. Employees look to a manager as a stabilizing force during uncertain times. When a dilemma comes up, a manager inspires confidence by making a swift, confident and assertive decision.

Great managers understand when more time is necessary to gather data and analyze a situation as well. This balance of assertiveness decisiveness when urgency is important, but rational evaluation when time allows contribute to quality leadership.

High Character
Above all else, a great leader is character-driven. This means that he has strong moral character and acts with integrity. A character-driven person does not take the easy way out or seek immediate gratification above what is right. He also thinks about how his actions impact customers, employees, partners, suppliers, investors and other company stakeholders.

Without character, a manager is a leader in title only. With compelling character, a manager is able to get buy-in from employees.


Aspiring managers can grow in each of these areas, though naturally possessing core qualities of an effective leader gives you an easier path to management success. Many other attributes enhance a leader’s performance, but the synergy of empathy, responsibility and accountability, decisiveness and high character shape a compelling leader.


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