Written by: Adam Lloyd

Promoting internally? Hiring externally? Typically, characteristics of a desired leader are understood and defined, but the reality is they may not be easily noticed. These are the traits you will not see on paper. If you want to spot the potential for a great leader, look for someone that displays these attributes.




A real human engages with people and shows a genuine interest in the well-being of others. This does not have to be an extrovert, introverts interact and engage in their own form. A real human takes an active interest, asks questions and listens. You know you’re in the presence of a “real” human when you find yourself talking about yourself, your concerns and answering questions. Real humans are engaged and show they care, they do more than just go through the motions of work and life.


This may be the most important trait to take notice of. Fake, untrustworthy leaders are not leaders. They are simply individuals that have somehow been put into a position higher up the ladder. Authentic leaders communicate directly and comfortably, providing clear direction. An authentic leader is honest and transparent, they do not make false-promises or appease. Even if their message is not popular, you can still take their word to the bank and trust that you know where you stand. Authentic leaders help humanize corporate brands with genuine trustworthiness.


A great leader knows their strengths and weaknesses. Thoughtful and accurate decision making, based on credible sources is the sign of a substantial leader. Substance is what maintains customer and employee loyalty. Never over-promising/under-delivering, a substantial leader is confident in their expertise and knows how to supplement the areas they lack in with great people and resources. Leaders with substance do not have to overcompensate for it in other ways and are never too good to learn.


Ego? What ego? A humble leader lacks ego. Nobody gravitates towards self-promoting tendencies and a know-it-all attitude. Great leaders know that their accomplishments and credentials will speak for themselves, and although will enhance their leadership ability, will not speak for it. You know you are in the presence of a humble leader when you start discovering their wins. Humble leaders often pass credit and reward to the people they depend on to get work done. Having to showcase one’s superiority in order to lead, is just as bad as leading with fear.


Leaders make decisions all day. It’s how they come to their decisions that is just as important as the decisions themselves. This one is tricky because you do not want to confuse decisiveness with rashness. Great leaders consider all pieces of information, opinions and data and then make thoughtful decisions that are timely. Making decisions without anyone else’s input is the sign of a dictator. Decisive, balanced, non-emotional decision making is the sign that you’re in the company of a leader.


Look for passion, not emotion in great leaders. You want a leader that believes in the organization and its people, but is also realistic and level-headed. There is a fine balance between a cock-eyed optimist and pessimist that is scared to innovate. Look for a progressive thinking individual that is also in touch with reality. Rational leaders are often very strong at resolving disputes and fixing problems. They keep their cool, maintain composure and are positive representations of the organization.

Pay attention for these attributes and you’ll know when you’re in the presence of a genuine leader.