Over the years, I have read countless books on leadership, and many seem to cover the same characteristics necessary for a leader to succeed. Topics like effective communication skills, emotional intelligence, adaptability, delegation, and vision are well-covered.

However, some key areas are often crucial yet rarely discussed. Let’s examine six vital leadership qualities that don’t get the spotlight they deserve.

1. Humility

In my years involved with leadership, I have rarely seen an arrogant leader last. People don’t feel comfortable working with someone self-absorbed or conceited. But a humble leader is an effective leader.

Building Trust Through Humility

Humble leaders are modest and don’t seek the spotlight. We are naturally drawn to those who appreciate our hard work and acknowledge our contributions. Humility matters in a leader because humble leaders build trust and respect.

Real-life Example of Humility

I remember Kevin, who started his journey as a new leader. He criticized one of my training tips, called it “stupid,” and then spent the next few minutes explaining why people should listen to him before leaving the room. After he left, I overheard trainees mumbling about someone being “arrogant” and “cocky.” Kevin did not build trust and respect with these new hires.

In contrast, Steve attended the same training class, introduced himself, praised the new agents when they answered correctly, and sought their feedback. He spoke openly about his struggles, praised my contribution, and expressed great appreciation for the leadership team. Steve’s humble approach built trust and respect with the new hires and the leadership team.

Cultivating Humility

How can we cultivate humility like Steve? Start by taking the focus off ourselves and celebrating other people’s victories. Steve celebrated the successes of each leader and team member as often as he could.

Humility comes from being transparent and acknowledging your limitations. Steve wasn’t afraid to share his struggles. Transparency at the leadership level breeds transparency at the follower level, making it easier for leaders to see where followers need to develop.

Steve constantly asked for feedback. He sincerely wanted to know if there was anywhere both he and his team could improve. Seek feedback from both your leaders and followers to determine areas in which you and your team need to develop.

2. Reflective Thinking

Too many people live through the day-to-day grind. They go from their workday to personal time at home, binge-watch Netflix, fall asleep, and follow the same pattern the next day. It’s like a mindless infinite loop. Leaders are not meant to live in this loop. We are meant to grow

The Power of Reflective Thinking

How do we discover where we need to grow? Reflective thinking. Reflective thinking is the process of consciously analyzing and evaluating one’s experiences, thoughts, and actions. It involves looking back on past events to understand them better, learning from successes and mistakes, and using that insight to inform future behavior and decisions.

Reflective thinking helps you understand your strengths, weaknesses, values, and motivations, leading to greater self-awareness and personal development. On a professional level, reflective leaders are more likely to be empathetic, self-aware, and adaptive, fostering a positive and productive work environment.

Reflective thinking involves gathering and evaluating information before making decisions. This thorough analysis helps individuals make more informed choices as they consider various factors and potential outcomes. Reflective thinking fosters a mindset of continuous improvement. By regularly reviewing and assessing their performance, individuals and organizations can identify areas for improvement and implement changes to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Reflective Thinking in Practice: Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., was known for his intense reflective thinking. Jobs often took time away from day-to-day operations to ponder his vision, design aesthetics, and strategic direction. His practices were evident in his focus on simplicity, user experience, and innovation. Jobs’ ability to learn from failures, such as being ousted from Apple and then returning to lead it to unprecedented success, underscores the importance of reflection in his leadership journey.

Techniques for Reflective Thinking

Incorporating reflective practices into your routine can enhance decision-making and promote continuous improvement. Here are some techniques:


Spend a few minutes each day writing about your experiences, thoughts, and feelings. This helps you process events and gain insights. Use prompts like “What did I learn today?” or “What could I have done differently?” to guide your journaling. Reflect on things you’re grateful for to shift your perspective and enhance your well-being.

Learning from Mistakes

After completing a project or task, conduct a post-mortem analysis. Identify what went wrong, why it happened, and how to prevent it in the future. Reflect on past failures and experiences to understand what you learned and how they contributed to your growth.

Coincidentally, some of my shorter posts are examples of this type of reflection.  Take a look at my post Finding Wisdom in Hindsight: Examining John Wayne’s Statement from True Grit, for an example of reflecting on a prior experience

Setting Aside Time for Reflection

Dedicate specific times in your schedule for reflection. This could be daily, weekly, or monthly. Find a quiet place free from distractions where you can think deeply and reflect on your experiences. Consider taking a personal retreat to disconnect from daily responsibilities and focus on reflection and strategic planning.

3. Patience

Patience is the lettuce of virtues. While we know how good it is for us, it seldom inspires the same level of excitement as other virtues do. People often speak passionately about kindness, empathy, and integrity. Patience is more an afterthought for most. And like many virtues, we see its importance most when we see those who lack it.

The Importance of Patience in Leadership

Kevin grew easily agitated when new hires asked questions he felt should have been covered in training. He expressed frustration when they asked the same questions again. Agents complained that Kevin would quickly blurt out responses and send them away. Eventually, team members stopped going to Kevin and sought counsel from other leaders to avoid his frustration.

Patience is important in leadership because leaders deal with people who don’t learn and grow at the same pace.

Characteristics of a Patient Leader

Here are some common characteristics of a patient leader:

Calm Under Pressure

When a new hire anxiously approached Steve with a problem, he calmly addressed their concerns. A problem many new leaders face is embracing the panic of their team members. A good leader needs to remain calm under pressure, even without an immediate answer. Stay calm and lead on.

Good Listener

When a new hire had a question, Steve would wait until the team member finished speaking and then asked additional questions. Too often, we don’t take the time to listen. We rush others to get back to our previous task and miss the bigger picture. We need to not just hear but listen to understand their concerns. A patient leader is a good listener.


After the new hire told Steve they didn’t ask further questions during training, he asked further questions to understand how he could help. Steve didn’t say, “You should’ve asked John during training.” Instead, he addressed the new hire’s concerns with an empathetic ear. A patient leader is an empathetic leader.

Developing Patience

Here are three ways to develop patience:

Set Realistic Expectations

Avoid setting overly ambitious timelines or expecting immediate results. Recognize that progress takes time. By setting realistic expectations, your team can grow, and your patience will develop.

Practice Empathy

Put yourself in others’ shoes and consider their perspectives to increase understanding and tolerance in challenging situations. Ask questions and use active listening to see things through others’ eyes.

Practice Patience in Daily Activities

Start small by practicing patience in everyday situations, such as waiting in line or dealing with traffic.

Take a look at my post Embracing Patience and Positivity: Insights From the Fast Food Drive-Thru, to see an example of practicing patience while waiting in line.

4. Resilience

On the walls of the locker room at the University of Michigan, it says, “Those who stay will become champions.” This quote, attributed to legendary football coach Bo Schembechler, is fitting for those who were around during Michigan football’s dark times.

“Those who stayed” witnessed Schembechler compiling a record of 194 wins, 48 losses, and 5 ties. He won 13 Big Ten Conference titles and took Michigan to 17 bowl games over 21 years.

The Value of Resilience

Resilience is like a rubber ball. Despite setbacks, you need to bounce right back. The Michigan Wolverines, through Schembechler’s leadership, are a great example of resilience.

Why Resilience Is Important

Resilient leaders provide a consistent and steady presence, offering guidance and support that teams can rely on during uncertain times. Teams that exhibit resilience are more dependable, consistently delivering results despite external pressures and disruptions.

Ways to Build Resilience

Here are a number of strategies you can employ to build resilience:

Build a Strong Support Network

During tough times, those around you can either motivate you to push through or quit.

A strong support network of people who understand and empathize with your struggles can provide a significant emotional boost. That emotional support can help reduce stress, increase feelings of belonging, and enhance overall well-being, making it easier to cope with difficulties and challenges.

Support networks can also offer practical help, such as sharing resources, providing advice, or helping with tasks. This assistance can alleviate burdens, allowing you to focus on problem-solving and recovery.

Supportive relationships provide encouragement and motivation, reinforcing your determination to persevere. Knowing that others believe in your ability to overcome obstacles can boost your confidence and drive.

Maintain a Positive Outlook

Life can be a series of peaks and valleys. To develop resilience, we need to maintain a positive outlook through the valleys.

Kevin had a pessimistic attitude during the peaks. Do you expect he would stick it out in the valley? No.

Optimism is the catalyst towards resilience.

Cultivate optimism by focusing on what you can control and finding lessons or opportunities for growth in adversity.

Seek Purpose

During life’s lowest points, a person without direction won’t survive. A person living an aimless life will give up when the going gets tough. But a person with purpose will overcome any obstacle.

To bolster resilience during difficult times, connect with your values and goals to maintain motivation and a sense of purpose.

5. Facilitation

Kevin was asked to hold a meeting where he dominated the discussion, dismissed others’ ideas, and failed to manage time or maintain focus. He did not encourage participation from the quieter team members, and decisions were made hastily without consensus. This lack of effective facilitation resulted in frustration, disengagement, and unresolved issues among team members.

In contrast, Steve started by setting clear objectives and guidelines for the discussion. He actively listened to all viewpoints, encouraged open dialogue, and ensured everyone had an opportunity to contribute. He used techniques like summarizing key points, asking clarifying questions, and guiding the group toward consensus. As a result, the meeting was productive, decisions were well-informed, and team members felt valued and engaged.

Why Facilitation Is Important to Leadership

I have spent years as a leader in what our church refers to as Life Groups. A Life Group leader is not expected to teach but to serve as a facilitator for small group discussions during Bible studies.

Encourages Learning and Development

Facilitation encourages continuous learning and development among team members. Leaders who facilitate workshops, training sessions, brainstorming activities, or small group studies help participants acquire new skills and knowledge.

Empowers Participants

Effective facilitators empower team members by giving them a voice in discussions and decision-making processes. This empowerment can boost motivation, job satisfaction, and team synergy. In the case of the Bible study, I found that when I directed a question to a normally quiet or shy person, it empowered them to speak up. This enabled them to break out of their shell and get more out of the discussion than if they had stayed silent.

Strengthens Communication Skills

Leaders who practice facilitation develop strong communication skills, including active listening, clarity in expression, and empathy. These skills are crucial for building rapport and fostering a positive team culture.

How to Develop Facilitation Skills

Enhance Questioning Techniques

Learn to ask open-ended questions that encourage discussion and deeper thinking. Good questions can stimulate dialogue and uncover valuable insights.

Develop Active Listening Skills

Facilitation requires strong active listening skills. Practice listening attentively, summarizing points, and asking clarifying questions to ensure you understand participants’ contributions.

Practice Regularly

Facilitation is a skill that improves with practice. Volunteer to facilitate meetings, workshops, or group discussions whenever possible to gain hands-on experience.

If this is not available to you in the workplace, look for other places where you can practice. If you belong to a church community, volunteer to host a small group. Volunteer to facilitate meetings, workshops, or events for local community groups, nonprofits, or civic organizations. These groups often need skilled facilitators for their activities. Join professional associations related to your field and volunteer to facilitate sessions at conferences, seminars, or networking events. Join or start Meetup groups focused on topics of interest. Facilitate group discussions, workshops, or events within these groups.

There are endless possibilities to practice facilitation if you seek them out.

6. Hunger

Of the characteristics on this list, this is the one that is not talked about enough. At first glance, you might be asking yourself, “Is this really a time to talk about food?”

I am not talking about food, but about the desire to win. It’s what separates champions from participants. It’s what differentiates the professional athlete from the amateur. It’s that driving desire to succeed. It caught my attention when I first read “Launching a Leadership Revolution” by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady.

Too often in the past, people believed that leaders were born, not developed. Yet the one key component they discovered that differentiated those who succeeded from those who didn’t was hunger. If hunger can be developed (and it can), then anyone can lead as long as they have hunger.

The Importance of Hunger in Leadership

The opposite of hunger is complacency, and there is no room for complacency in leadership. You might find complacency in management, but it is the death-gurgle of a leader. Complacency is a state of self-satisfaction and lack of concern or effort, often leading to stagnation and a failure to strive for improvement or success. Some would suggest that complacency caused the downfall of companies like Blockbuster Video during a time when companies like Netflix pivoted from video rental to streaming. Complacency is a deep, murky pit while hunger is a tall, majestic mountain waiting to be climbed. Not all leaders will be charismatic, but all leaders have a deep internal hunger.

Developing Hunger

Hunger is the common trait of all leaders, and it can be developed. Here are three suggestions on ways to develop hunger.

Visualize Success

If you have ever seen an interview with an Olympic gold medalist, you will hear them say things like, “I have been dreaming of this day since I was a kid,” or “I have been playing this picture in my head over and over again.” Champions see their victories in their minds before they become reality.

I imagined myself crossing the finish line hundreds of times before I completed my first half-marathon. I visualized confidently speaking before a group of people thousands of times before I ever got the chance. I visualized sitting in on meetings where my team was recognized for achieving their goal countless times before they were able to do so. I help my teammates visualize their victories countless times before they achieve their goals. You need to see it before you can achieve it.

Date your destiny. Visualize your victory. See it, and achieve it.

Celebrate Small Wins

Before I could run 21k, I needed to be able to run 13k, or 8k, or 5k. Every run I completed was a small victory. Maybe you heard how most successful CEOs read 60 books a year, and you haven’t read a single book in years. Start with one page a day. Work your way up to 2 or 3 pages. Soon you will find yourself reading 15 minutes a day. Each day you read is a victory. Each book you complete is another victory. Stack up a lot of small wins, and the bigger wins will come naturally.

Surround Yourself with Winners

Nothing builds hunger like associating with other hungry people. Find a community of people who have similar goals and are chasing after their dreams.


While many leadership qualities are well-known, it’s often the rarely discussed traits that can truly set a leader apart. Humility, reflective thinking, patience, resilience, facilitation, and hunger are essential for any leader aiming for long-term success and impact.

Take Action Today

1. Cultivate Humility

Celebrate the victories of others and seek feedback to grow and improve.

2. Engage in Reflective Thinking

Set aside time for self-reflection to understand your experiences and make better decisions.

3. Develop Patience

Practice active listening and empathy to build stronger relationships with your team.

4. Build Resilience

Maintain a positive outlook and surround yourself with a supportive network.

5. Enhance Facilitation Skills

Encourage open dialogue and ensure everyone’s voice is heard in discussions

6. Foster Hunger

Visualize your success, celebrate small wins, and associate with driven individuals.

By embracing these qualities, you can transform your leadership style and create a lasting impact on your team and organization. Start implementing these strategies today, and watch as your leadership capabilities grow. Lead with humility, think reflectively, practice patience, build resilience, facilitate effectively, and always stay hungry for success. Your journey to becoming an exceptional leader begins now.

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