It seems like everywhere you look, someone is claiming to know the “secret recipe” for a great leader. These articles always capture our attention because we all want to be better leaders, but which leadership traits are actually backed by data?

Russell Reynolds Associates and Hogan Assessment Systems studied more than 200 CEOs and published data revealing three successful leadership indicators. So what are they? Let’s dive in!

They’re filled with purpose, passion & urgency. Great leaders have a real sense of purpose and know where they’re headed. They’re passionate about achieving that purpose, and excitedly take steps to move them closer to their goals. This passion and purpose also instills a sense of urgency and drives them to constantly work to move the company forward. These aren’t the leaders who are likely to deliberate or take a long time making a decision, but they’re not impulsive either. Instead, they embrace change and move forward, taking calculated risks.

They’re good at identifying what’s important. Leaders are always bombarded with information from everyone in the company. But great leaders can sort through that information swiftly and identify the important things that are likely to affect the business and the business’s decisions. With their great sense of purpose, passion, and urgency, great leaders quickly separate the important from the unimportant and use that information to make decisions they can be proud of and that can propel their companies forward.

They’re humble life-learners who work well with others. 

Many of us hold the notion that great leaders are prideful people who think they know everything and are difficult to work with. But according to this data, truly great leaders are the complete opposite of this iconic leader. Great leaders are never finished learning, and they’re always seeking opportunities to add to and expand their knowledge. These leaders are likely found listening to podcasts and reading in their spare time, and chances are, they’re hiring people they deem smarter than themselves. Why? They know that surrounding themselves with smart people isn’t a threat to their own intelligence — it presents an opportunity for them to learn from others and get smarter. These leaders may be great at making decisions on their own, but they know that two heads are better than one, which is why they’re also likely to seek input from advisors, employees, and colleagues. They want what’s best for the company, regardless of where the best ideas come from.


So, how did you fare? Do you have these traits and qualities? The good news is, great leaders are made, not born, so if you lack any of these qualities, your fate isn’t written in stone. You can always work on cultivating these qualities, traits, and ways of thinking in yourself.