14 of the Most Significant Leadership Principles & Traits

coworkers talking about leadership principles

Leadership development can seem like a mystery.  

There are many times in business that managers share that “we need more leaders,” but don’t give specific guidance on how to go about building the skills commensurate with leadership.

We thought we’d do you a favor by listing 14 of the Most Significant Leadership Principles & Traits we’ve observed as Marine Corps officers, business managers, and executive coaches.  These 14 traits, when activated, will not only allow you to see yourself as a leader – it’ll allow others to see you that way, too.

14 Leadership Principles & Traits

  1. Selfless.  A leader, by definition, has followers.  People will only want to follow you if they know that it’s not about you … it’s about the team.  When you prioritize the needs of others, you generate trust, respect, and greater collaboration.
  2. Direct.  The best leaders don’t leave others guessing.  They demonstrate directness, with tact, to share their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs.  And if they don’t know?  They’re not afraid to say they don’t know, but will also work to help get to a position where they’re better informed.
  3. Credible.  You don’t have to be an expert on everything … but you do need to be dependable, competent, and able to meet (and in some cases exceed) the expectations others have for you.
  4. Accountable.  There’s no such thing as a perfect leader.  If you make mistakes, have the courage to admit that you’re wrong.  Leaders don’t shirk responsibility.
  5. Decisive.  Leaders don’t procrastinate.  If they sense an opportunity, they take action.  
  6. Courageous.  We often think of courage as physical in nature; that’s not always the case.  There’s also moral courage, which is doing the right thing … and sometimes can mean not the popular thing.
  7. Deliver Feedback.  A leader knows that regardless of their role, they should share their feedback.  They offer praise and appreciation when appropriate, then deliver criticism when necessary.  Through time, their feedback shares with others that they’re committed and they care.
  8. Future-Focused.  As a leader, you need to know where you’re headed.  Yes, be present in the moment … but also know how your actions align to future goals.
  9. Time Managed.  A good leader optimizes their performance by ensuring they make their moments count.  They run a disciplined schedule so they don’t squander their time, or miss out on dedicating time to activities that lead them (and others) to a better future.
  10. Consistent.  You always know what you’re going to get from a good leader.  They do their work to ensure they can be counted on by doing what they say they’re going to do.
  11. Connected.  No one wants to work with/for a disconnected leader.  As a leader make sure you stay in touch with folks, that you’re engaged with the organization, and you don’t act independently like you’re on your own island.
  12. Empathetic.  To build better relationships, a leader seeks to understand the viewpoints of others to develop understanding and to help them broaden their own perspective.
  13. Confident.  Confidence isn’t a skill … It’s an emotion, which is great news because that means it can be managed.  Confident leaders project a can-do (not can’t do) attitude in the moments where they feel pressured or challenged.
  14. Authentic.  Great leaders focus on knowing their strengths, improving upon their weaknesses, and being open to feedback that allows them to learn how they can get better.  Combined, this information helps a leader be the best version of themselves.  Authentic leaders are genuine and real – they earn our respect.


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