Views on Leadership Attributes

Bennis (1994) believes that everyone has the capacity to become a leader if desired. Leaders come in different shapes, sizes, genders, etc. However, they share the following ingredients:


Guiding Vision - The leaders must have a clear purpose and the strength to persist to achieve it.
Passion - The leader must have a passion for a course of action.
Integrity - The three essential parts of integrity - self-knowledge, candor and maturity - provide a basis of trust, and without it a leader cannot function.
Curiosity and Daring - Leaders want to learn and are willing to take risks to try new things.









Even though Bennis refers to these traits as basic, he believes that true leaders are not born, but they invent themselves.

In 1998, Linkage, Inc. and Warren Bennis completed a study of over 350 companies involved with leadership development. The results of this study are published in the book Best Practices in Leadership Development Handbook. A summary report in the book identifies the following top ten leadership competencies (pp. 440 - 442):

  • Building Teamwork: Builds effective teams committed to organizational goals and results
  • Understands the Business: Knows the organization and stays abreast of business and competitive trends
  • Conceptual Thinking: Conceives and selects innovative strategies and ides for the organization; balancing innovation with big-picture thinking
  • Customer Driven: Strives to create value for the customer resulting in mutual long-term success
  • Focused Drive: Focuses on a goal and prioritizes-and harnesses-energy to meet that goal; balances focus and drive
  • Drives Profitability: Achieves shareholder and/or stakeholder benefit by securing cost-effective and efficient operations
  • Systems Thinking: Connects processes, events, and structures; balances process orientation with mental discipline
  • Global Perspective: Addresses cultural and geographic differences in driving corporate strategies for competitive advantage
  • Emotional Intelligence: Understands and masters one's own emotions (and those of others) in a way that instills confidence; balances perception and emotional maturity


Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009