Updated on:
July 16, 2021

8 Characteristics of Leadership — Samuel People

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Over the past 30 years, I have had the privilege of leading many organizations ranging from thousands of employees to a small elite team comprising of a few exceptional individuals working domains as diverse as the military, industry, and competitive sport. I have also enjoyed serving directly under brilliant leaders, whether they be military generals, captains of industry, or sport Jedi masters.

In reflecting on the eight characteristics that make up a quality modern leader who is worth emulating and following, I often reflect on a statement made by Aristotle over 2,300 years ago. He observed that the true ruler (leader) should “learn by being ruled” when the occasion requires it. This insight equally holds true today and can be applied to the modern leader seeking to advance him or herself.

During my time as a university student at the Royal Military College of Canada, the motto “Truth Duty Valour” forms the ethos of military leadership and training. This motto has inspired me and many others over the decades to reflect on the core leadership qualities these words represent. The purpose of this blog is to share what I believe modern leaders need to reflect on daily to achieve excellence in all their endeavours.

Leading by example

We are more likely to follow someone who will show us the way, respect a leader who walks the talk, and demonstrate courage in one’s convictions. The word 'lead' literally means "to guide on a way especially by going in advance or to direct on a course or in a direction." In military culture, the officer would be the first one on the ground and the last one to leave.


Leaders exhibit honesty, trustworthiness, and ethically conduct in all matters and at all times. They do what is honourable and not what will gain them favour. At some point, all true leaders need to fall on their sword on matters of principle when and wherever required. Leadership with integrity is about behaving virtuously over the long term.


A leader protects their team from external distractions, stress, or incidents of all kinds. They are the first line of defence and do not burden their junior members with their difficulties.

Humble yet confident

A leader takes ownership of mistakes and attributes successes to the team. He or she asks for advice and direction to determine the way forward if an unclear situation presents itself. They are not afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

Creativity and vision

A leader has the ability to anticipate the future by recognising patterns from the past while listening to new ideas about what may come. They lead discovery and adventure, spark imagination, support free thought and drive innovation. The leader encourages by example strategic foresight initiatives.

Sense of humour (it makes all the difference)

A leader’s sense of humour comes from interpersonal happiness combined with clever wit and impeccable timing. A smile and a laugh go a long way in any place and especially in the work environment. Making daily life fun is not only desirable, but it encourages success and is rewarding in itself.


Leaders go beyond merely to understand others and their feelings. They often exhibit a heightened emotional intelligence and the ability to read others both directly and indirectly. Leaders strive to better understand others while opening themselves without fear of sharing their feelings to others. When such situations arise, a leader who empathizes with others, overcomes challenges, and defuses conflict.

Play your part

A leader must project an image that represents certainty, confidence, and courage. The true leader remains accessible to others. He or she must also display a solid outward appearance that inspires others to emulate, whether that is exhibited by professional attire, being well-spoken or being true to one’s word. As Aristotle rightfully observed, it is important that we become leaders so that one day, when required, we can play our part in being led by others.

To see full published article, click here.
To see full published article, click here.