What makes a great leader?


If you want to be considered a great leader, one who can bring about real change whether it is on a small or large scale, there are certain traits that you cannot go without. Brilliant leaders shape some of the most important moments in history, and there are several traits that helped them succeed.


Being honest will earn the respect of your peers and cause them to look to you for guidance. Look at Abraham Lincoln, who was nicknamed, ‘Honest Abe’ and according to Robert Rutledge, “Lincoln’s judgment was final in all that region of country. People relied implicitly upon his honesty, integrity, and impartiality.”

Likewise, Michelle Obama has been open and honest about many issues during her husband’s time in office, and has proved herself to be a great leader on matters such as childhood obesity and family concerns for the military.

Be aggressive

Being aggressive isn’t always a bad thing. When you are passionate about a cause, don’t feel as though you need to step down your response. Eleanor Roosevelt certainly didn’t. One of the most beloved women in history was also known for being incredibly forceful and aggressive when it came to the things she believed in. Her efforts were responsible for raising the issues of human rights, and helping draft the 1948 United Nations declaration of human rights.


If you want people to respect you, you have to treat them with respect as well. And [tweet_quote hashtags=”#leadership” ]you can’t let your ego be bigger than your goal[/tweet_quote] ⎯ modesty is always an important trait in a great leader. Nelson Mandela had this, with people often citing how humble he was and that when meeting people he would always say, “It’s an honor to meet you.”

Audrey Hepburn was another person who always showed humility, even though she was voted the 20th Century’s most beautiful woman. She is famed for saying the only facelift any woman needs is a smile, and after retiring from the screen devoted the rest of her life to humanitarian work with UNICEF.


When in a leadership position there is no room for self-doubt. Margaret Thatcher was a woman who radiated confidence in everything she did, even though she was frequently in unchartered territories as a woman in politics. As a result, she became one of the most important political figures in recent history, regardless of gender.


No one said being a leader was an easy job and there will no doubt be times where you wish that you could just sit back and give up. But you need to stay focused and committed through it all, much like Martin Luther King, Jr. who stayed committed to his cause throughout his entire life.

Helen Keller committed herself to furthering the cause of deaf and blind people ⎯ herself losing sight and hearing at 19 months of age. Despite the restrictions of her disabilities in a time that lacked the assistive technology of today, Keller’s commitment never wavered.

Lead by example

Some of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen are those who don’t wait for someone else to make the first move but rather make it themselves. Rosa Parks was one such leader, who after refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man became an important figure in ending public segregation.


Knowing what you want and how to get it is an important quality to have if you want to be good leader, and Winston Churchill always did just that. Churchill is said to have been known for his clear decision making as well as always trusting his instincts, being wary of Stalin and Nazi Germany when no one else was and eventually stepping up when he needed to.

Coco Chanel was determined to free women from the tyranny of corsets. Starting by redesigning traditionally male garments, she went on to become one of the most innovative designers in women’s fashion history, not only changing the way women looked but how they were able to move and take roles in life.

Don’t be impatient

Timing is everything and being a leader means that sometimes no matter how bad you may want something to happen, you can’t always have it straight away and have to wait for the perfect timing. This is something that Mother Teresa shows us, having waited 20 years to start the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, but once she did it was clear that it was the right decision.


In order to be an effective leader you have to be able to capture people’s attention. One of the world’s greatest leaders, Queen Elizabeth I, relied on charisma to strengthen her role as Queen of England during an era of war and turbulent economic, religious and social change. The mystique and charisma of the ‘Virgin Queen’ was what helped her to keep strong command from her throne.


If you want to create real change you can’t be afraid of the possible consequences, much like Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman. This occurred because she openly encouraged for the right for young girls to go to school despite knowing the danger she would have to face, all for equal rights for females.

About Natalie Cupac

Natalie Cupac Journalist & Features Writer for The Business Woman, Natalie Cupac is studying a double degree of Journalism and International Studies and has previously worked for Pacific Magazines

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