10 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

what makes a great leader

1. Focus
“It’s been said that leadership is making important but unpopular decisions. That’s certainly a partial truth, but I think it underscores the importance of focus. To be a good leader, you cannot major in minor things, and you must be less distracted than your competition. To get the few critical things done, you must develop incredible selective ignorance. Otherwise, the trivial will drown you.”
—Tim Ferriss, bestselling author, host of The Tim Ferriss Show
2. Confidence

“A leader instills confidence and ‘followership’ by having a clear vision, showing empathy and being a strong coach. As a female leader, to be recognized I feel I have to show up with swagger and assertiveness, yet always try to maintain my Southern upbringing, which underscores kindness and generosity. The two work well together in gaining respect.”

—Barri Rafferty, CEO, Ketchum North America
3. Transparency

“I’ve never bought into the concept of ‘wearing the mask.’ As a leader, the only way I know how to engender trust and buy-in from my team and with my colleagues is to be 100 percent authentically me—open, sometimes flawed, but always passionate about our work. It has allowed me the freedom to be fully present and consistent. They know what they’re getting at all times. No surprises.”

—Keri Potts, senior director of public relations, ESPN
4. Integrity

“Our employees are a direct reflection of the values we embody as leaders. If we’re playing from a reactive and obsolete playbook of needing to be right instead of doing what’s right, then we limit the full potential of our business and lose quality talent. If you focus on becoming authentic in all your interactions, that will rub off on your business and your culture, and the rest takes care of itself.”

—Gunnar Lovelace, co-CEO and cofounder, Thrive Market
5. Inspiration

“People always say I’m a self-made man. But there is no such thing. Leaders aren’t self-made; they are driven. I arrived in America with no money or any belongings besides my gym bag, but I can’t say I came with nothing: Others gave me great inspiration and fantastic advice, and I was fueled by my beliefs and an internal drive and passion. That’s why I’m always willing to  offer motivation—to friends or strangers on Reddit. I know the power of inspiration, and if someone can stand on my shoulders to achieve greatness, I’m more than willing to help them up.”

—Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California
6. Passion

“You must love what you do. In order to be truly successful at something, you must obsess over it and let it consume you. No matter how successful your business might become, you are never satisfied and constantly push to do something bigger, better and greater. You lead by example not because you feel like it’s what you should do, but because it is your way of life.”

—Joe Perez, cofounder, Tastemade
7. Innovation

“In any system with finite resources and infinite expansion of population—like your business, or like all of humanity—innovation is essential for not only success  but also survival. The innovators are our leaders. You cannot separate the two. Whether it is by thought, technology or organization, innovation is our only hope to solve our challenges.”

—Aubrey Marcus, founder, Onnit
8. Patience

“Patience is really courage that’s meant to test your commitment to your cause. The path to great things is always tough, but the best leaders understand when to abandon the cause and when to stay the course. If your vision is bold enough, there will be hundreds of reasons why it ‘can’t be done’ and plenty of doubters. A lot of things have to come together—external markets, competition, financing, consumer demand and always a little luck—to pull off something big.”

—Dan Brian, COO, WhipClip
9. Stoicism

“It’s inevitable: We’re going to find ourselves in some real shit situations, whether they’re costly mistakes, unexpected failures or unscrupulous enemies. Stoicism is, at its core, accepting and anticipating this in advance, so that you don’t freak out, react emotionally and aggravate things further. Train our minds, consider the worst-case scenarios and regulate our unhelpful instinctual responses—that’s how we make sure shit situations don’t turn into fatal resolutions.”

—Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way and former director of marketing, American Apparel
10. Wonkiness

“Understanding the underlying numbers is the best thing I’ve done for my business. As we have a subscription-based service, the biggest impact on our bottom line was to decrease our churn rate. Being able to nudge that number from 6 percent to 4 Percent meant a 50 percent increase in the average customer’s lifetime value.
We would not have known to focus on this metric without being able to accurately analyze our data.”

—Sol Orwell, cofounder, Examine.com