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The Top 10 Traits of Great Leaders
By Jennifer Whitt

Have you ever walked into your project and looked around to see no one’s there? If by chance that’s ever happened it’s safe to say you are probably not leading your team. It’s happened to most of us at one point or another. One of the most popular and debated questions we are asked is, “What are the traits of a great leader?” A Google search for the term leader produces over a million results; members of our LinkedIn group and readers of our blog continually ask us to define leadership, and how to really lead teams. We’ve had some great discussions and heard varying opinions from everywhere. But today what I’m going to present is that which time and experience have taught me: ten traits that I look for in a great leader and try to replicate myself. Who do you follow? What makes you want to follow them? If you are following a great leader, begin studying them for similar traits. A great leader is/will:

  1. Grounded and Centered. Great leaders can’t be knocked off base because they are centered and grounded. They have strategic pause, and actually decide instead of react.
  2. Aware and Mindful. Leaders that are great are very aware and mindful of not only themselves but their team members and those they interact with. They see how to get people to work together effectively, because they think about things like patterns, and ask, “What are my patterns? What do I usually do? What are the patterns of other people? What triggers responses in me as a leader and what triggers my team members?” A great leader is also aware of his or her projections. For the males, he may be perceived as a father figure; a female leader, as a mother figure. Great leaders have these things in mind and are taking it all into consideration as they work among team members or people they are leading.

  3. Creates Solutions. Leaders look at the bigger picture, think of ways to do things creatively, and consider things that haven’t been done before.

  4. Analyzes facts. Leaders look at the patterns and what needs to be done.

  5. Evaluates Risk. He or she identifies risk and is great at evaluating what will occur if action A or B is taken, and prepares by putting plans in place.

  6. Generates a sense of urgency. As is likely with your own teams, urgency within the team gets things done. The great leader is able to get the team to spring into action.

  7. Uses Insights. Intuition is a tool that we all have but a lot of times don’t use. We forget about it, or it gets out of tune because we stop listening to ourselves. Or, we have an intuitive feeling and talk ourselves out of it using logic. Great leaders use their insights and make decisions.

  8. Builds cohesion among team members or people involved in initiatives so that they work together.

  9. Motivates People. People on a great leader’s team want to be there, want to be involved, are engaged and believe in the cause.

  10. Achieves Results. We all as project managers are responsible for achieving results in our projects, and getting our team members to buy in and produce results.

These are my top ten traits of great leaders, but your list may be different. Again, identify who your role model is, and study and try to replicate the traits that you find effective for leading teams.

Jennifer Whitt, PMP is a speaker, trainer, Certified Performance Coach, author, and company president of She is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and knows how difficult it can be to make time for classroom or online learning so she has developed a new way for Project Managers to Earn n’ Learn while on the go. For more information, please visit

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