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Whether leaders are born or made is a long-standing question among business leaders, academics, the military, and even athletes of every age. 

Nearly every corner of society asks, “What does it mean to be a leader? What are leadership skills? Is leadership development a real possibility or is leadership something that can’t really be taught?” 

Since this issue is so prevalent, these are questions anyone interested in professional development or personal development must explore as well.

First, we must consider what it means to be a leaderwhat are leadership skills?

According to Business News Daily, a leader is:

“A leader is someone who brings people together and guides them toward a common goal. Anyone can tell others what to do, but effective leadership requires much more than the ability to assign tasks to a group.”

Think about “good” leaders you know or have known. Or others you would consider to have traits of effective leaders or who have what you think are strong leadership skills.

They may have been vastly different in overall personality but likely had some traits – or leadership characteristics – in common.  

Here are some general leadership traits  and characteristics of leaders:


  • Ambition

Big leaders often have big goals and are confident in their personal power to achieve those goals.

  • A Sense of Self-Empowerment

An important aspect of leadership skills is the ability to inspire and empower yourself intrinsically—without relying on others to provide your motivation. Leaders are the ones others look to in order to get inspired. Therefore, leaders must themselves be inspirational from within.

  • Charisma

Similarly, most leaders are “likable”, easily draw others to them, and are able to inspire others and be inspirational fairly easily and “naturally”.

  • Confidence

Want to know how to build confidence? Check out the leaders around you. They may not always know all the answers – or even act like they do – but they know where to find the answers they need and they have self-confidence they can achieve whatever they set out to do.

  • They Get Focused and Stay Focused

Leaders can get on track, keep on track, and stay focused.  This helps them to be more productive and achieve greater results.

  • An Ability to Think Outside the Box

Leaders don’t tell why something can’t be done but rather look for ways it can be done. They think outside the box for solutions when others are stuck on the obstacles.

  • Strong Time Management Skills

Ever needed time management tips? Look to a leader. Leaders have developed effective time management skills time to optimize productivity.

  • They Invest in Leadership Development

A good leader realizes they never stop learning – both in their area of specialty and in their leadership skills.  Leadership development is a consistent priority.

  • They Participate in Ongoing Self-Development

Leaders understand that self-development should not ever stop either.  

While all leaders may not have ALL these leadership skills, these are the leadership traits and characteristics of leaders common to many. 

The next part of the equation – are leaders born or made and what does this mean for leadership development – is a little trickier. We will explore the “Are leaders born?” question next.


Susan Sly is a best selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television and the CBN. Susan is the mother of five children and resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Join Susan for Organize Your Life for Entrepreneurs. In this 6 week, live interactive webinar course, you will learn time management and scheduling, office organizational strategies, tax planning, online branding and social media, contact management, and much more.

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