The Characteristics of Influential Leaders

Adam White is CEO of Adam White Speaks, entrepreneur and author of the bestselling book, “A Leader Others Will Follow: The Power of Influence.

Whether you are leading a company or a country, often in leadership our focus is on leading other people. Years can slip by in our lives as we focus on vision, planning, managing conflict, resolving issues, and on and on.

We can lose sight of our internal progress. Often what we read, hear, and study about leadership is for external purposes, but what is most important is what we are becoming inside and what type of influence we are having on those we are leading.

If we lose sight of our own development or we have compromised our standards, our values and our beliefs, then those compromises will show up in our work, and in our relationships with others.

I call them character cracks. We can be brilliant leaders but may have never resolved internal character cracks that if left unresolved can shatter our character and expose what is deep within us.

When we see failure in government, failure in political leaders, failure in organizations, failure in marriages, and failure in life, it is often the result of failure in our character.

I want to give you the timeless and priceless characteristics of an influential leader. As you read through these characteristics, I want you to focus on yourself and use these characteristics as a baseline to test your own character.

The beautiful thing about growth is that we as leaders have the ability to improve who we are as a leader and that will have a profound impact on our work, our relationships and the type of results we produce.

As you read through these characteristics, I want you to focus on yourself and use these characteristics as a baseline to test your own character.


Here are the Characteristics of an Influential Leader…

Patience – it means to show self-control (impulse control). It means being consistent and predictable in mood and actions. Acting out in some form of anger violates and discredits your relationship with others. You will damage relationships around you when you fail to possess the leadership virtue of patience. It would be easy to lead “perfect people”, but the problem is, there are none. People are going to make mistakes and fall short in many areas. It takes a Leader with an exceptional level of patience to lead people. That leader then becomes a leader who others will seek to follow.

Kindness – have you been demonstrating kindness to those who follow you? Have you communicated with those you lead in a kind way? Have you listened to your tone lately? Could you have used a different tone? Maybe some things were better left unsaid. The skill of leadership also depends upon your ability to know when to speak and when to be silent. Sometimes silence is louder than sound and simply listening to what is being said and showing common courtesy and kindness can make all the difference in your leadership.

Humility – This character trait for a leader is a really big one for me. I’m sure you share the same dislike for a person that possesses pride vs. humility. Pride and arrogance are guaranteed payments in advance for poor leadership results. The reality is that pride and arrogance points to deeper feelings of insecurity within a leader. There may be several human needs that are not being met in the life of a leader and that lack can translate into a false sense of pride and arrogance. If the need for significance is not met or managed properly, it can matriculate into pride and arrogance. A leader will esteem himself or herself higher than others in order to protect a weak character hidden within. People will always be more understanding, more forgiving and more patient when you demonstrate that you have a humble nature and you are always willing to learn from others regardless of your title or position.

Respectful– Having a nature that is respectful toward others is the sign of a leader of influence. Considering others opinion before offering your own and not over-talking or interrupting others is also a sign of influential leadership. Another word for respect is honor. Do you honor those who follow you? Do we seek to honor others or are we the ones who are seeking for honor as a leader. When we can develop the nature of respect in leadership that allows us to honor those who follow us, then there is no limit to how high we will rise as influential leaders.

Self-less – A self-less leader mentors others but a selfish leader refuses to show others what they know. Do you seek to really mentor, train and develop the people who report to you? It takes character to become unselfish. In this age of social media being self-absorbed has become second nature for many. Leadership means going in the opposite direction of the self-absorbed crowd. This is a character trait that many leaders fail to possess. Do you use people only when you need them? I have a friend who worked for the director of a manufacturing company who was this way. The Director would only approach to team members when he wanted them to do something. The rest of his time was spent in his office, shopping for golf clubs on line and surfing the internet, as noted by many employees who walked by his office and noticed his computer screen. Have we really reduced leadership to manipulating people? Make sure you develop the characteristic of self-less leadership for those you lead. The law of sowing and reaping will never change or bend. If we don’t show respect to others, then we never expect it in return. You will always reap what you have sown.

Forgiving – Often our ability to advance in our life and leadership is held back by this one simple thing; unforgiveness. Unforgiveness was never intended for the other person, it is for you. When we harbor feelings of resentment and unforgiveness it slowly eats away at us like a hidden cancer. We can literally develop health issues as a result of the stress of unforgiveness that we hold inside. It is important that we develop the ability to be able to forgive others. Forgiveness is a universal law that can’t be ignored. We must know that the people we lead, our family members, and friends are not perfect people. People will hurt us, make mistakes and create plenty of opportunities for us to exercise the ability to forgive. It’s not wrong to get angry at times and even the best of us can let our emotions get the best of us. But again this is a test in Leadership that you must take and pass in order to grow as a leader. This test of forgiving others will keep showing up in your life until you have learned to manage and master it. The best way to develop this trait is to remember that by forgiving others you are in essence healing yourself.

Honest – One of the number one traits that people look for in a leader is honesty. The people who follow you want to know that you have their best interest at heart as a leader. It is often in corporate America that executives at the top of company will not share vision and direction all the way down to the bottom or managers at lower levels will not share their knowledge of company direction and any changes that may be coming. This keeps employees in the dark and most importantly it gives them a sense of distrust towards leadership. Above money, people want to be told the truth. Another word for honesty is integrity. This trait is missing in so many leaders that dishonesty has become the new honesty. If you are not an honest person, this is still something that you should and need to develop as a leader. The ultimate test of your honesty is what you do when no one is looking. Dishonesty starts in our personal life and is not a leadership issue but a character issue. Something as simple as lifting towels from a hotel room is an act of dishonesty. Always choose integrity and honestly when faced with the decision to do otherwise. Your leadership will always stand the test of time and be enduring in nature when you follow the principles of integrity and honesty.

Committed – Leadership not only requires character, but also requires commitment. You must be committed to your role as a leader, to your work and committed to developing those that you lead. Beating your followers out of the door or continuous absenteeism doesn’t demonstrate that you are committed as a leader. You don’t have to be a workaholic or spend 24 hours at your desk, but your commitment to seeing the project through, meeting deadlines, or creating a vision and plan for your organization should shine through and stand head and shoulders above those that follow you. People will want to follow your leadership and they will have a strong sense of respect when you are a leader who shows commitment. A strong commitment generates strong results but a weak commitment generates weak results.

If you will practice and develop these characteristics in your life and leadership then you create a desire for others to follow you by permission and not because of position. The true essence of leadership is developing the ability to lead others who have given you their permission to lead them and not simply because of your position.

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