31 Leadership Experts Reveal Top Leadership Skills & Traits


“What are the 3 most important leadership skills and/or traits?”

Do you want to be a more effective leader?

Do you want to know what it takes to get others to follow your lead?

Well I personally asked 31 leadership experts and thought leaders one simple question:

“What are the 3 most important leadership skills and/or traits?”

From influential authors and speakers to Forbes contributors, even a few social media superstars, each of the quotes are completely original. You won’t find this collection anywhere else!

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Here’s the alphabetical list of the awesome contributors: (click a name to jump to their quote)











Most important leadership skills and/or traits: (as voted by 31 experts!)

  1. Integrity (10 votes)
  2. Helps Others Succeed (8 votes)
  3. Self-Awareness (7 votes)
  4. Vision (7 votes)
  5. Commitment (6 votes)
  6. Humility (6 votes)
  7. Listening (6 votes)


Responses listed in the order they were received in:

Karin Hurt – Let’s Grow Leaders

Twitter: @LetsGrowLeaders

  1. 1mBz1bmp_400x400Confident humility.
  2. The confidence to inspire an audacious vision.
  3. The humility to inspire the deep trust and connection to get it done.


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Christina Lattimer – People Discovery 

Twitter: @pdiscoveryuk

  1. c428b56a0b1a9abc2c52ce47c0b2bc1e_400x400Inspired self-awareness – not just knowing oneself, but being inspired to action.
  2. Being able to get the best out of others, through an understanding about how people tick.
  3. An ability to make things happen, through vision,  conceptual, emotional and strategic intelligence.


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Shawn Upchurch – UpSearch

Twitter: @ShawnUpchurch

Shawn_Upchurch_Facebook_400x400I believe, to be effective, a leader needs to be someone people respond to, trust and want to work with.  Hence, a leaders needs to have many more than 3 skills.  If pressed, I would suggest leaders need to be:

  1. Practiced at rallying people around shared values.
  2. Masterful facilitators of intentional change.
  3. Able to successfully move through the toughest situation with class and grace.

Consider this definition of a leader:

“A leader is someone people respond to, trust and want to work with.”


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Gary Cohen – CO2 Partners

Twitter: @garybcohen

  1. 2cc7fafIntegrity – Being whole and complete.
  2. Success is never a solo act so there needs to be a belief in something bigger than themselves.
  3. Authenticity – To be True and remove your false self.


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Dan Rockwell – Leadership Freak

Twitter: @Leadershipfreak

  1. Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 2.49.07 PMCuriosity.
  2. Direction – know where you’re going.
  3. The ability to understand and tap into what motivates others.


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Marshall Goldsmith – MarshalGoldsmith.com

Twitter: @coachgoldsmith

I will answer your question a little differently.

What are the three most important qualities for leaders to increase their effectiveness.

  1. yQ5ZiYIE_400x400The courage to look in the mirror and face their own challenges.
  2. The humility to admit they can improve.
  3. The discipline to do the work needed for positive, lasting change.


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Charlene Li – CharleneLi.com

Twitter: @charleneli

  1. 40cce624f15379ee6853f069718584eb_400x400Humility.
  2. Confidence.
  3. Engaged.


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Mike Myatt – MikeMyatt.com

Twitter: @mikemyatt

Skills and competencies are table stakes for leaders – they get you into the game, but they won’t keep you there. What makes leaders successful over the long-term are deeply rooted core values like:

  1. bhObpxC0_400x400Character.
  2. Courage.
  3. Commitment.


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Orrin Woodward – OrrinWoodward.com

Twitter: @Orrin_Woodward

In Chris Brady and my NY Times bestseller, “Launching a Leadership Revolution” we identified the three key attributes of all effective leaders:

  1. 8aef8ca4f0368bdfc9938c4e8afec3ef_400x400Character.
  2. Task.
  3. Relationships.


In fact, we developed the Tri-Lateral Leadership Ledger to measure someone’s effectiveness in each category and then multiply the effectiveness of each one together to produce a total leadership score.

Each attribute received a score from 0 to 10 so the smallest leadership score is zero and the highest potential is 1,000. Most of the best leaders in the country score around 300 so nearly everyone has room to grow. Moreover, most people start their leadership journey at zero and can only go up from there.


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Guy Kawasaki – GuyKawasaki.com

Twitter: @GuyKawasaki

  1. W_YUvkCK_400x400Empathy.
  2. Honesty.
  3. Humility.

Those three say it all for me!


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Jim Kouzes – Leadership Challenge

Twitter: @Jim_Kouzes

While I can’t answer with 3 skills, I can answer with five! According to Barry Posner’s and my research over the past 33 years, when performing at their best leaders engage in The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:

  1. Jim168.red_sweater_copy_400x400They model the way.
  2. Inspire a shared vision.
  3. Challenge the process.
  4. Enable others to act.
  5. Encourage the heart.


Constituents of leaders who demonstrate these practices the most frequently are 25% to 40% more engaged and rate their leaders as 30% to 60% more effective than constituents of leaders who demonstrate these practices least frequently.


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John Baldoni – JohnBaldoni.com

Twitter: @JohnBaldoni

  1. OZoQVmhG_400x400Street smart — A leader needs to know the score if she is to lead effectively. She needs to understand the situation she and her people are facing.
  2. Compassion — A leader needs to respect the rights of others and to treat individuals with dignity and respect.
  3. Humor — A leader needs to be able to laugh at self as a means of enjoyment as well as humanity. Humor leavens the equation and makes the leader seem approachable.


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Tanveer Naseer – TanveerNaseer.com

Twitter: @TanveerNaseer

When it comes to effective leadership in today’s faster-paced, global environment, I think 3 important skills leaders need to possess are:

  1. Tanveer-Twitter_400x400Having a strong sense of self-awareness – of how your actions and words impact and inform those you lead.
  2. The ability to build relationships at the emotional level with those under your care.
  3. The ability to create a vision or shared purpose that people want to be a part of because they see the inherent value in what their collective efforts will create.


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Scott Edinger – EdingerGroup.com

Twitter: @ScottKEdinger

  1. iQgcHEbS_400x400Make an emotional connection with individuals, teams, and larger groups.
  2. Prioritize the development and coaching of your key people.
  3. Stay focussed and beware the distraction of shiny objects.


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Skip Prichard – SkipPrichard.com

Twitter: @SkipPrichard

Leaders who garner respect, who influence, who make a difference have many characteristics that make them stand out.  Three traits that stand out for me include:

  1. ONIb0ImG_400x400Passion: Passion attracts others; it runs deep; it ignites flames that start a movement or a company.
  2. Positive attitude: With the right attitude, a failure is temporary; a problem is only an opportunity; a performance issue merely a learning experience on the path to greatness.
  3. Performance driven: Leaders produce results.  They galvanize others to move the needle and achieve goals.  Performance distinguishes the leader as one to be trusted to get things done.


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Dan McCarthy – Great Leadership By Dan 

Twitter: @greatleadership

  1. vjYR128A_400x400Authenticity.
  2. Presence (includes listening).
  3. Humility.


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Michael McKinney – Leadership Now

Twitter: @LeadershipNow

  1. MDM2_400x400Humility because it makes the other traits work.
  2. Genuine concern for others.
  3. Integrity.


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Meghan Biro – Talent Culture

Twitter: @MeghanMBiro

  1. MPCnmWX0_400x400Our People Skills:
    • Regardless of data and technology, you simply can’t have an optimally performing organization and display great leadership without a genuine, people-centric relationship between you and your workforce. Effective leaders understand empathy, and have the ability to read people’s needs and desires, speak to them and fulfill them in a timely fashion. This makes your entire organization more effective, not just the leaders of the world.
  2. Appreciation and Love for our Career:
    • By shaping a fulfilling career that you are passionate about you’ll naturally come to appreciate your time “inside and outside” of work and blend the two together in a more seamless way. Having your career as a passion naturally makes you more effective.
  3. Impeccable Listening Skills:
    • Listening skills are crucial. By listening and tuning in to the wisdom of the crowd and your employees, you’ll end up accessing priceless information, ideas and tools.
  4. Futuristic Vision:
    • Technology has removed borders and has allowed us to become much more effective, and the future has more to bring in this department. Stay curious and willing to try new methods of doing things, engage in new technology and strive to be a leader that embraces a shift towards a more social business.


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Peter Mello – Water Fire

Twitter: @petermello

  1. ZngY6rPS_400x400Mindfulness.
  2. Confidence.
  3. Trust.


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Mary Jo Asmus – Aspire CS

Twitter: @mjasmus

  1. Mcpeak_photo_1__400x400Deep listening.
  2. Respect for others.
  3. Courage.


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Jonathan Pearson – JonathanPearson.com

Twitter: @JonathanPearson

  1. ip1SUHbx_400x400Passion.
  2. Consistency.
  3. Integrity.


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Ron Edmondson – RonEdmondson.com

Twitter: @RonEdmondson

  1. Ron_B_W_400x400Character.
  2. Passion.
  3. Consistency.


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Todd Smith – Little Things Matter

Twitter: @ToddSmith

  1. Final_LTM_Pic-w250-h300_400x400They are Likable – Gone are the days of authoritarian leadership!  Sure people will do what their boss says, but the most successful leaders don’t lead with their titles or authority.  They are successful leaders because people WANT to follow them. Would you follow someone you don’t like?  What are the little things you can do to become more likable?
  2. They are Respected – Successful leaders do the hundreds of little things that cause people to respect them.  Would you follow someone you don’t respect?  What can you do to become a more respected leader?
  3. They Make Good Decisions – Part of being a leader is leading and taking risks.  In order to make the best decisions possible, successful leaders have a process of making decisions to ensure they are considering all their options and the pros/cons of each option.  When making big decisions, they involve others they respect in the process.


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Jon Gordon – JonGordon.com

Twitter: @JonGordon11

  1. JGFB180_400x400Optimistic—optimistic leaders see a brighter and better future and they rally their teams and organization to create it.
  2. Servant- Servant leaders serve the people in their organization by mentoring, coaching, and developing them. You don’t have to be great to serve but you have to serve to be great.
  3. Humble and Hungry—Always learning and growing with a hunger to work hard and get better.


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Scott Eblin – Eblin Group

Twitter: @ScottEblin

  1. g2Mom_UJ_400x400Awareness.
  2. Intention.
  3. Service.


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Kevin Eikenberry – Kevin Eikenberry Blog

Twitter: @KevinEikenberry

  1. J820Cjws_400x400Other-focused.
  2. Goal-focused.
  3. Intentional learner.


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Sharlyn Lauby – HR Bartender

Twitter: @hrbartender

SJL_Avatar_2_400x400I’m a believer that leadership exists in everyone. It’s not something that’s attached to job titles or only found at the upper echelons of organizations. Everyone in an organization has the ability to lead. Here are 3 qualities that I find consistently mentioned with leadership.

  1. Self-awareness – Leaders need to be able to open the doors of perception and see what’s inside. This isn’t always easy but, in order to see things in perspective, it’s necessary.
  2. Empathy – Effective leaders are able to identify with others and accept others for what they can contribute.
  3. Commitment – Leaders are committed to developing people. They share their talents and help others become good leaders.


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Chris Brogan – ChrisBrogan.com

Twitter: @chrisbrogan

  1. TwNyM9Fx_400x400Service.
  2. Discipline.
  3. Perspective.


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Wally Bock – Writing A Book With Wally

Twitter: @wallybock

  1. wallyEnjoy helping others succeed.
  2. Willingness to decide and be accountable for actions.
  3. Willingness to confront team members about behavior and performance issues.


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Mark Sanborn – MarkSanborn.com

Twitter: @Mark_Sanborn

  1. mark_sanborn_400x400Integrity.
  2. Competence.
  3. Power with people.


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Mark Babbitt – Youtern.com

Twitter: @MarkSBabbitt

As we transition from an Industrial Age leadership style and become Social Age leaders, the skills that will help us be more effective are:

  1. yELCvZaj_400x400When building a collaborative team | Enable innovation by being an active listener first and “Chief Facilitation Officer” second.
  2. When helping the team thrive | Be a “Relentless Giver” by openly sharing:
    • The vision or job-at-hand
    • The knowledge needed to get the job done
    • Credit when the job is done well
  3. When faced with a challenge or rising to an opportunity | Enable an OPEN (Ordinary Person | Extraordinary Network) circle of influence; in other words, getting the right people in the right room at the right time.


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Final Thoughts

A huge thank you to everyone who was involved in creating this article. Please be sure share if you thought it was helpful!

Most important leadership skills and/or traits: (as voted by 31 experts!)

  1. Integrity (10 votes)
  2. Helps Others Succeed (8 votes)
  3. Self-Awareness (7 votes)
  4. Vision (7 votes)
  5. Commitment (6 votes)
  6. Humility (6 votes)
  7. Listening (6 votes)


For more great content like this, be sure to subscribe to our blog.

Now it’s your turn! What do you believe are the 3 most important leadership skills and or traits?

Leave your thoughts in comment section below, I’d love to get a discussion going.


  • 31 Leadership Experts Reveal Top Leadership Ski...
    Posted at 02:16h, 11 March Reply

    […] What are the 3 most important leadership skills and/or traits? 31 leadership experts reveal the most skills and traits needed to be an effective leader.  […]

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  • No-Fuss business coaching Advice Considered
    Posted at 20:16h, 23 March Reply

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It’s the little changes which will make the
    biggest changes. Many thanks for sharing!

  • Dave Noonan
    Posted at 10:04h, 25 March Reply

    Awesome list! Really cool to see these amazing leaders share their thoughts. The top 3 feel right on and I’d add creativity to the list as well. Keep up the great work.

  • Google
    Posted at 14:31h, 30 March Reply

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  • ELIV8 | Infographic: 7 Most Important Leadership Skills & Traits
    Posted at 18:52h, 30 March Reply

    […] You can find the original article along with all 31 expert quotes here: 31 Leadership Experts Reveal Top 3 Leadership Skills & Traits >> […]

  • Comment Avoir Une Belle Peau
    Posted at 20:34h, 31 March Reply

    Awesome post.

  • Raymond Allen
    Posted at 06:30h, 27 April Reply

    I found your article and post, through The Leadership Challenge newsletter, and read with interest the contributions made in regards to top leadership skills and traits. I have followed Jim on Twitter for a while now and along with others who responded found it difficult to reduce to 3. However in the interest of your research here goes. May I please lead into my selection with the following personal beliefs that shape my response. Leaders have been leading from the beginning of time until today and will continue to lead in the future. As they have moved through the ages their Skills, Values and Experiences have changed to adapt to changes in Technology, Communications, Trade, Data and Information, Movement of people, and their.Social environment. So skills are constantly changing and differentiates good, great and exemplary leaders at all levels. I now move my focus to what integrates leaders regardless of their skills: and it is this that each leader must possess; a MINDSET that sustains and constantly reminds them how to utilize their skills not only in workplace but also in their personal and community lives.

    There are seven (7) things Leaders must think about and practice regularly. For this response I offer 3…

    1. Set the example
    2. Are always Accountable
    3. Integrate Relationships

    Thanks for the opportunity and taking the time to read this and I look forward to ongoing discussions.
    Best Regards
    Twitter: @mycaski

  • 2 Top Leadership Traits of Every Successful Leader in Home Business — Elizabeth Oliva
    Posted at 15:56h, 21 July Reply

    […] Here’s a great article on more top leadership traits. […]

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