important leadership traits

What is the single most important leadership trait?

Many of the professionals and teams we work with come to us for leadership development and training because they are looking for one thing.  They are looking for the secret ingredient that is going to help them bust through the walls and challenges they face as leaders and managers.  What is it?  “What is the single most important leadership trait I should possess that I don’t already”, they ask.

And that’s where the quest for the answer and hard work begins.

Like most leadership development courses, we spend time discussing qualities of a great leader.  Sometimes we list them out, and other times the topic comes up naturally in conversation.  A list such as this is a good baseline and often includes items like:

Being honest

Being open and honest helps build a solid foundation for trust and communication.  Many times, honesty brings respect.  When making a mistake, most people will say they’d rather their team member be honest about what may have happened rather than try to cover it up.  Sticking with this policy also helps ease the pressure associated with difficult conversations.  Being up front and honest often results in higher levels of trust and respect.

Clear communication

Confusion is a great way to quickly lose team direction.  When a leader has control of a situation, has a plan in place, and can clearly communicate the plan in a way that avoids confusion, the team is happy.  Clear communication keeps teams aligned and moving in a common direction.


This is a big one and many people believe this is the single most important leadership trait.  Earning and obtaining trust takes hard work, dedication, consistency, commitment – all of which could be included in this list on their own.  Trust is at the core of effective leadership and without it, it’s tough to get anyone to do anything for or with you.


Having a calm and cool demeanor, no matter the situation, is a common trait that’s listed under the umbrella of sound leadership.  If a leader looks lost and has no hope, the feeling will trickle down and resonate with the team.  When a leader is calm, the team tends to be calm.

Taking time to make a list of leadership characteristics or traits is a good one.  It acts as a checklist and reminder of things we strive to own and be as good leaders.  Making a list like this is also a good check-in.  It’s good practice to write items out and hold yourself accountable.  Are you where you want to be as a leader?  What characteristics are most important to you?

The truth is that no matter how long or short the leadership trait list is, it doesn’t mean anything unless these items are actually put into practice.

This is why the single most important leadership trait is to do something.

If your team is confused, adjust and communicate clear direction.

When there is a lack of trust, define why and address it.

If you lose your cool during a stressful moment, own it and do what you need to do to get both yourself and your team back on track.

In order to be the best leader, define what it is that’s important and then go out and do it.

It really is as simple as that.