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20 Traits That Make Great Leaders

From passion and vision to authenticity and forward thinking, there are a few characteristics that are often found in leaders regardless of their industry.

When it comes to the overall success of a business, we often point to markers like system-wide revenue or same-store sales. However, there’s another non-numeric factor that has the power to make or break a company’s future: leadership.

Brands marked by poor leadership have to overcome negative reputations and stifling work environments. Companies that are known for their positive leaders, on the other hand, consistently recruit the best talent and see consistent success. No matter what industry you’re in, there are a variety of traits and habits that are known for making great leaders. And according to Doug Kushell of Franchise Search, Inc., a brand that places strong candidates in executive positions at a variety of emerging and established franchise concepts, those characteristics are easy to spot.

Below are 20 traits that have a proven track record of making great leaders:


Leadership can’t exist without passion. Whether you’re leading an entire brand or a small group of employees at one specific franchise location, you need to be passionate about your mission to succeed. That’s ultimately what sets you up for success—being passionate gives you the drive necessary to turn your goals into reality.


Being a leader requires an advanced level of focus. While being in an executive position often comes with a side of chaos, it’s crucial for leaders to be able to focus on the most important tasks at hand. Even if something goes wrong, being focused on your desired outcome will ultimately help you see success.


In addition to being focused, one trait that all leaders share is a vision. Without a vision, it’s impossible for employees to know what they’re working towards. That’s why it’s up to leaders to show that there’s a long-term goal in sight that’s possible to achieve.

“All leaders need to have the belief that they can make a difference in their company. It’s obvious when someone has a vision or goal that they’re working towards—that makes all the difference in effective leadership,” said Kushell.


Leaders then need to be held accountable to their visions. It’s one thing to say you have a goal, but it’s another thing to put the work in to achieve it. Leaders need to be able to back up their goals with a proven track record and history of making positive changes in the company’s they’ve served.

Expertise and Confidence

In order to be trusted with the responsibilities of a leadership position, you have to demonstrate that you’re an expert in your particular field. That means being confident in your abilities, and not being afraid to get things done. When leaders are backed up by a confident attitude that’s grounded in real expertise, they have a greater shot at growth.

Honesty and Integrity

Being a great leader requires traits that extend outside of the office. Two of those are honesty and integrity—it’s critical for you to be forthcoming with the team around you in order to be trusted. Honesty and integrity ultimately position leaders as invaluable assets to the brands and consumers they serve.

Friendly and Positive

Along the same lines as honesty and integrity, leaders also share the characteristics of being friendly and positive. No one wants to work for someone that’s mean or negative about their jobs—by being a nice person to be around and encouraging those around you, leaders create an atmosphere and culture that attracts top tier talent.

Kushell said, “While it’s often overlooked, leaders need to live and breathe their company’s culture. In order to effectively lead, they need to be setting the example that others need to follow.”

Team Builder

Leadership and the ability to build a strong team go hand in hand. In order to thrive, leaders need to surround themselves with other people who will push them to do their best, even under high pressure. That then impacts the culture of a brand or organization—strong teamwork often leads to success.

Understanding and Empathetic

Once a leader has their team in place, it’s crucial for them to be understanding and empathetic towards their needs. That doesn’t mean they can allow their employees to waste time—instead, it means that leaders should have a realistic understanding of what their team needs in order to do their jobs well.

Excellent Listener

In order to be both understanding and empathetic, leaders need to listen to feedback. You need to really listen to what people are saying, from employees to customers. That feedback has the potential to further your growth and development down the line.


One of the most important characteristics for leaders to have is the ability to multi-task. Being placed in a high-level position requires juggling multiple things at once, even under a lot of pressure. And those things all require a lot of attention—projects can’t be forgotten. Instead, they need to be prioritized.

“Leaders are able to oversee multiple projects at the same time. In the franchising industry, for example, executives need to be comfortable guiding both franchisees and other corporate team members,” said Kushell.

Open Minded

Leadership also lends itself to open mindedness. There’s a certain level of innovation that comes with taking charge—leaders often have the ability to see beyond the day to day tasks in order to envision a successful big picture. That requires being open to new ideas, even when they seem daunting at first.


Being open minded doesn’t mean that decisions are never made. Decisiveness is a trait that makes leaders into who they are. People will never look to someone who struggles with pulling the trigger on decisions both big and small.

Kushell says, “People who lead with a decisive hand create an environment in which sound and strategic plans can be executed. That importance of that type of atmosphere can’t be overlooked for businesses that wish to succeed.”

Financially Responsible

Being financially responsible is another habit that’s often found in those who lead. Even though all leaders may not be tasked with planning a budget, they need to be able to find ways to stay within their means. At time, that can mean getting creative with the resources at your disposal. But in the long run, it’s worth it to avoid the fallout of climbing debt.

Calm in a Crisis

In business, there are always problems that arise and unexpected events that go wrong. When those situations happen, the leadership behind a brand needs to be able to solve whatever problems pop up. And if they’re unsure of what to do, real leaders will know who to ask for help.

Forward Thinker

It’s easy to spot a leader by their ability to think ahead. It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily aspects of any job. But leaders have the ability to think beyond those tasks to others that will arise in both the near and distant future. Forward thinking is a sign that a leader can anticipate what’s coming next, and better prepare for possible situations.

“True leaders can think ahead. It’s not uncommon for candidates looking for leadership positions to be asked to create a 60 to 90 day business plan based on the due diligence they’ve done before they’re even hired,” said Kushell.


Being a leader doesn’t mean taking on every single responsibility you come across. Instead, leaders typically know when they need to delegate tasks to others. By splitting up responsibilities, leaders enable their teams to grow professionally and ensure that all of their work is being done by the people best equipped to handle a specific task.


An often overlooked trait that’s commonly found in leaders is authenticity. It comes with honesty and integrity—it’s easy to spot when a leader isn’t being their true self. Your passion and dedication to your role need to be real in order to see positive changes being made.


Leadership also requires the doors of communication to be wide open. It’s ineffective for leaders to hide their goals or expectations—those need to be communicated to their team. It’s critical to discuss both successes and failures to determine the best next steps for a business or brand.


Lastly, leaders have the ability to inspire those around them. On top of their assigned responsibilities, this is one of the most important tasks leaders are charged with. By inspiring others to succeed and grow alongside their vision, they have the potential to ensure the growth of their company.

“If a leader doesn’t have a strong idea of where their brand is going in the future, how will others buy into it? Executives need to have a clear understanding of what’s to be expected down the line in order to relay that message to everyone around them. The same applies on a personal level—leaders should leave their employees inspired and excited about the career opportunities that lie ahead,” said Kushell.