26 Entrepreneurs Explain the Best Traits of an Effective Leader

To be successful as a leader requires a combination of skills and traits to make you outstanding. While there are several challenges that surround leadership positions, some leaders still manage to exhibit traits that best describe them to be successful. On the same note, we asked entrepreneurs and business owners about the best traits of an effective leader.

#1- 3 most important traits

Photo Credit : Paige Arnof-Fenn

Strong moral compass – you cannot compromise on ethics and values. Good communicator – able to rally the troops and keep them on the critical path. Smarts – technically competent and they work hard to earn the respect of their team. Bonus – great sense humor and fun to work with

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!

#2- Listens to the team

Photo Credit: Bryn Butolph

They have great ideas and they are the heart of your organization. Value their input and go the extra mile for them to be sure they know how much you appreciate them. A quick email or text goes a long way, just so they know you are watching their work and appreciate their milestones. Stay on track. All eyes are on you when managing, so be sure that you set the right example and more importantly you set the tone. All of that positive and productive vibe that you put out will pass through to your staff, so step it up and be the leader!  Think outside of the box. Not one solution will work for every situation, and not one approach will be a great fit for all staff members. Situations are unique and so are your staff, so you have to be flexible and adjust your approach based on the situation.

Thanks to Bryn Butolph, Eat Clean Meal Prep!

#3- Inclusivity

Photo Credit: Michael Papay

In traditional organizations, decisions are often made in a closed room with a small, narrowly defined set of leaders, and are rarely shared with the larger organization. This is why 70 percent of all change initiatives fail, because change agents overlook the role front-line managers play in the success of the initiative. In order to engage the people who will actually execute on those decisions, leaders need to include EVERYONE's voice in topics that matter (e.g. values, culture, strategy, change, process improvement, etc.). This helps employees feel connected to the organization and empowered to drive change. People are far more likely to get on board with decisions if they understand the reasoning behind them.

Thanks to Michael Papay, Waggl!

#4- Highly contagious energy

Photo Credit: Marcella Dominguez

The best leaders often have energy that is highly contagious. They inspire others to move in the direction of a vision bigger than that of an entire team combined. Great leaders are often very aspirational and motivate others to tap into immeasurable levels of commitment to reach personal goals. Most importantly, great leaders choose goals that positively impact social and personal development not just on a general, but also a profound level.

Thanks to Marcella Dominguez, Law Firm of Marcella Dominguez!

#5-Communicates the “Why”

Photo Credit: Super Julie Braun

So often, people will be told “please work on this” or “can you do that” without knowing why. As leaders, we assume people would understand “why” however they usually don’t. That’s the difference between getting the team to know the big picture, buy into the idea, and get excited about being apart of the grand plan…or not. I suggest every leader assign one person a task without telling them the “why” and give another person the task with the “why.” Watch for yourself the difference between the 2 people. Why always wins!

Thanks to Super Julie Braun, Super Purposes™!

#6- Grit

Photo Credit: Deborah Sweeney

The best trait for effective leaders is grit. Grit is a combination of passion, persistence, and resilience. Those with grit have the ability to achieve long term goals and display mental toughness and courage. When you show grit in your personality, you are showing you won't give up until you exceed your goals. It takes the willingness to keep on going when the task gets tough and to do your best, even in the face of adversity.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney,!

#7- Demonstrate Integrity and Character

Photo Credit: Doug Ross

Let's face it. People, whether employees or clients, have more choices today than perhaps at any time in history. My experience is that people will loyally follow and do business with a leader who they trust. And that means someone with integrity. Leaders show that by balancing respect and responsibility in all relationships. We show respect for others by demonstrating emotional mastery, humility, empathy and a lack of blame when things don't go as planned. Responsibility means possessing self confidence, courage, personal accountability and focus on the whole.

Thanks to Doug Ross, Synergis!

#8- A number of traits

Photo Credit: Seth Rand

Effective leaders need to be able to recruit and retain a strong team of talented hard-working individuals that will allow that business owner to work on their business instead of in their business. Effective leaders must be able to inspire their team of employees, vendors, and contractors, to provide the best products and customer service, understanding that the most successful businesses scale based on client retention and referrals.  Effective entrepreneurs are able to look to anticipate the needs of their target market and predict the upcoming trends in their industry. I've always believed in being proactive by investing in growth opportunities early and doing it professionally. For our business, that includes the shifting consumer behavior in how they consume their media and make purchases, along with the huge potential of artificial intelligence which includes machine learning. Successful entrepreneurs are mentally prepared to sacrifice their short term desires to build something special that will allow them to build an asset, control their own destiny more than most, and have a larger income potential than the stability of being an employee.

Thanks to Seth Rand, Wizard Digital!

#9- Power of We and Celebration at Work

Photo Credit: Vartika Kashyap

Leaders who use collaboration and recognition as their strategy are the ones who succeed. Working with a variety of leaders has made me realize that no matter how creative, smart or savvy a leader is, his or her leadership is not effective until and unless they understand the ‘Power of We’. It is also very important for a leader to give importance to the celebration related to recognizing effort at work. When a project is completed on a set deadline, for instance, you can recognize the effort and celebrate the same.

Thanks to Vartika Kashyap, ProofHub!

#10- Focused, willingness to learn and positive attitude

Photo Credit: Leon Ho

Having a clear vision of what needs to be achieved and a strong amount of self-motivation is a crucial quality of good leadership. Leaders are also positive, decisive, expressive, and energetic, never hesitate to take responsibility for negative situations, and will step up to the plate when need be. And, good leaders are always learning all they can about their profession and industry, so they’ll able to make confident and assured decisions. Finally, it takes a major focus to stay committed to tasks and goals. The best leaders understand this, and therefore, they’re always looking at ways to boost their team’s focus.

Thanks to Leon Ho, Lifehack!

#11- Take care of themselves and are true to their values

Photo Credit: Claire Tomkins

It’s powerful when leaders make time for themselves and stay true to their values. Effective leaders reflect on their own life, what is making them happy and what could make it all better — then they build it. Entrepreneurs that do this aren’t afraid to leave a job they like to build something they love. Leaders that know themselves and can say yes to most things but no to others are even more powerful because they have the energy and positivity to help lift their teams.

Thanks to Claire Tomkins, Future Family!

#12- Drive

Photo Credit: Sean Sykes

The number one trait I see among leaders is drive. We did a survey last year and found that 81% of sales leaders say being driven is very important to sales success. Drive is that intrinsic passion that pushes these leaders and their teams to succeed in spite of hard to reach targets and looming quarter-ends. This is one of those traits that people are told you either have, or you don’t, but I feel like lighting the fire only calls for the right spark to get your passion going – and once it starts, it can spread to your team like wildfire.

Thanks to Sean Sykes, Peak Sales Recruiting!

#13- Three constant traits

Photo Credit: Adrian O’Connor

Authenticity – By all means be direct, be driven, be focused on your business goals, but above all else, be real. Your teams need to want to work for you, rather than because of you and for that you need to take a genuine interest in them and their needs. Too many “leaders” feign that interest in order to pursue their own agenda. The best leaders are authentic with their people. 2. Make people part of the mission – the work world is changing. Gone are the days of company loyalty, jobs for life, following without question. Today’s top performers need to be part of the mission, to feel that they are contributing to the overall success of the business and that they are developing themselves by doing so. Communicate your goals, make it clear how someone’s contribution is helping achieve those goals and celebrate success publicly. 3. Hire people better than you, and then empower them to become better still. Entrepreneurs are typically hyper-driven, control freaks. It’s what got them to the position they are in. Letting go is hard, so make sure you have hired the best people into the right positions, supplement your weaknesses with top talent, establish clear goals with them and then set them free to deliver. You’ll never regret letting go if you’ve let go to the right person.

Thanks to Adrian O’Connor, Global Accounting Network (GAN)!

#14- Empathy

Photo Credit: Keller Tiemann

At the risk of someone misunderstanding the trait, I think effective leaders demonstrate, I’ll say it anyway. Empathy. And no, I don’t mean that effective leaders are ‘soft’ or ‘touchy-feely’. I think that effective leaders have the ability to understand and share the feelings of their employees and clients. How else could a leader effectively lead people if they don’t have the ability to know, understand, and share their follower’s feelings? Being an empathetic leader doesn’t mean you have to agree with your followers on everything, concede to them, or follow them back. It means you understand how they are feeling and with that understanding now have the power to influence and lead them.

Thanks to Keller Tiemann, Leadsurance!

#15- Standing Alone

Photo Credit: Shelley Meche'tte

Unfortunately, most of us are never excited about standing alone when it comes to important decision making. In order to be an effective Leader however, there will come a time when you will have to stand in your decision…*alone*. Effective leaders understand that sometimes, they won't receive the high-fives or approval of others, on the direction they are taking. Being able to stand strong in a solid decision is a trait that all leaders must adapt to, if they are ever going to truly become effective in their position.

Thanks to Shelley Meche'tte

#16- Emotional intelligence

Photo Credit: Chris Chancey

I believe that in today's business environment, the best trait an effective leader can demonstrate is emotional intelligence. The modern workplace is experiencing numerous changes both at a personal, team, and technological level and all of these affect how leaders interact with their teams. A leader's ability to build solid relationships, manage conflicts, and work well under pressure without losing focus of their vision is important now more than ever. Even as technological advances such as artificial intelligence are set to replace job functions requiring cognitive abilities, one attribute that technology cannot replace is emotional intelligence. The most effective leaders are those who demonstrate a deep-seated ability to lead by example connect, and motivate entire teams.

Thanks to Chris Chancey, Amplio Recruiting!

#17- Create a safe space for their team

Photo Credit: Dolores Hirschmann

Effective leaders are able to create a safe space where they listen, encourage others to listen, ask questions, and invite their teams to engage in healthy conversations. An effective leader KNOWS that they are in the service of their team and not the other way around. They understand that they are ultimately responsible for the performance of their team and that their job is to equip, support, and empower them to become the best versions of themselves. Effective leaders understand that CLARITY is kindness. They understand that assertive, clear communication is at the core of leading their teams effectively.

Thanks to Dolores Hirschmann, Masters in Clarity!

#18- Wears three hats

Photo Credit: Chris Mason

A great and effective leader needs to be wearing three hats on any given day: As a coach – someone who gets people to do the things they don't want to do so that they can become who they want to become; As a leader – someone who helps mobilize a group of people to work toward shared aspirations; And as a manager – someone who ensures the achievement of a predetermined outcome by working with and alongside team members.

Thanks to Chris Mason, HealthMarkets!

#19- Balance

Photo Credit: Paul Bromen

Often times people who get promoted to leadership roles are unbalanced. They leaned heavily on a few traits, tactics or action patterns that created success in individual contributor roles. Being rewarded with a leadership role reinforces their conviction that their behavior is best. Effective leaders know and use their strengths, but they are aware when they might have to do things in a way they are less comfortable with. If they are charming and talkative, they can also be a reserved listener when the context calls for it. Balanced leaders can manage a diverse team and make sure that everyone's voice is heard. They can make decisions using the best insights from both sides of arguments. They are pleasure to work with and I am working on becoming a more balanced leader everyday.

Thanks to Paul Bromen,!

#20- Two traits

Photo Credit: Beth Lawrence

Effective leadership, to me, is not asking your team to do anything that you, yourself, haven't done or wouldn't do. For example, the leader who stays late to finish up a big project is more effective than the leader who goes home right at 5:00pm, leaving their team to finish what needs to be done. Additionally, uplifting your team and empowering them to make their own decisions, rather than expecting everyone to come to the same conclusions or use the same processes. Growing other people to be leaders in their skill sets and fields of work–that's leadership.

Thanks to Beth Lawrence, Beth Lawrence LLC

#21- Visionary

Photo Credit: Rishit Shah

One of the best traits an entrepreneur or a leader can have is ‘to see.' He is able to see what others cannot see or in other words, he is a visionary. A leader sees and then directs the people towards the path to ultimately achieve the objective. He is valued and followed by other people for his ability to perceive things that other people generally miss out. With this trait, no matter what the circumstances, a leader can efficiently guide the company to sustain and grow.

Thanks to Rishit Shah, TallySchool!

#22- Have a positive mindset

Photo Credit: Julia Myllylä

Entrepreneurship is hard. Not only you have to make sure you’re constantly making the best decision regarding your business and taking things to the right direction, but you also need to be able to constantly motivate your employees to give their best. Because there are so many things to consider, it’s impossible that everything would always go as planned. You’ll face many obstacles along the way, some of which you cannot even affect. The most effective leaders have the ability to approach obstacles rationally. Instead of getting angry and looking for someone to blame, the best leaders try to see the brighter side of the issue and consider it as an opportunity to learn. Positivity is contagious – when people are happy at work, they perform better and are more motivated to continue doing so also in the future.

Thanks to Julia Myllylä, Viima!

#23- Open-minded

Photo Credit: Bernice Quek

A leader should be open-minded in order to be effective. When it comes to churning out ideas, there's no right or wrong. In fact, having an emphasis on quantity over quality of ideas may help to generate even better ideas when refined and/or combined together. One way to practise this is to organize brainstorm sessions where the entire team is free to contribute anything they have in mind, no matter how big or small. Not only does this encourage your team members to use their creative juices, you'll also be surprised at how many feasible and fresh ideas you would have collated. Listening and taking your colleagues' contributions into consideration make them feel valued, further spurring them to unleash their potential. Such a collaborative effort will definitely bring greater results for your company.

Thanks to Bernice Quek, Durian Papi!

#24- Self-assessment

Photo Credit: Jason Kay

One of the best traits for an effective leader to have is the ability to assess themselves. We all know part of a leader's task is to assess others but they must also be proficient in self-assessment. This requires being able to look at their own strengths and weaknesses and work on those areas. In addition, an effective leader needs to be able to not only speak well but listen well. A leader should be able to listen to and incorporate the ideas of others.

Thanks to Jason Kay, Retreaver!

#25- Respect

Photo Credit: Jason M. Edwards

I've been active duty military for 19 years and recently started a career in real estate. The most effective leaders, both in the military and in the business world, treat everyone with the same respect. Whether it's employees or Sailors, when they are treated with honest respect, you gain their respect. A subordinate who respects you is going to do his or her best for you. When everyone is giving their best effort, you're going to get the best results.

Thanks to Jason M. Edwards, GoldHaven Homes!

#26- Greatness

Photo Credit: Jeff Badu

Effective leaders know how to solve important problems and make each team member a better person in the process. Effective leaders inspire people to perform their best at all times and act in the best interest of stakeholders of all times. When an effective leader walks in the room, people listen and are ready to take action on any task assigned to the room. In order to be an effective leader, you must be great yourself and inspire others to be great.

Thanks to Jeff Badu, Badu Tax Services, LLC!

What are the best traits for effective leaders? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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