The 21 Qualities of a Leader

Becoming the Person Others Will Follow

From last week’s post, Andy Stanley’s 20th building block for a vision was “MAINTAINING A VISION REQUIRES BOLD LEADERSHIP”. Someone once said, if you think you’re a leader and turn around to find no one is following you, then you are really just out for a long walk!

man alone

In this post, I’m going to introduce you to John Maxwell. Known as America’s expert on leadership, Maxwell is the founder of the INJOY Group, an organization dedicated to helping people maximize their personal and leadership potential.

I had the privilege of meeting John years ago, I’ve attended a number of his leadership and stewardship seminars, and I’ve read just about every book he has written, more than once! He is a wealth of knowledge on the subject of leadership, and it will be well worth your time devouring his wisdom on the topic of leadership.

This week we’ll glean leadership wisdom from John Maxwell’s book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

1. CHARACTER: First, the best definition of character I’ve ever heard comes from Andy Stanley: “Character is the will to do what is right, as God defines right, regardless of personal cost.”

John Maxwell states, “The key to transforming yourself from someone who understands leadership to a person who successfully leads in the real world is character. Your character qualities activate and empower your leadership ability—or stand in the way of your success.” A few points from Maxwell include:

  • “Character is more than talk
  • Talent is a gift, but character is a choice
  • Character brings lasting success with people
  • Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character
  • As you lead others at home, at work, and in the community, recognize that your character is your most important asset.”

2. CHARISMA: “Charisma, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you. To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:

  • Love life
  • Put a ’10’ on every person’s head
  • Give people hope
  •  Share yourself”

3. COMMITMENT: “True commitment attracts and inspires people. It shows them that you have conviction. They will believe you only if you believe in your cause. People buy into the leader, then the vision.”

4. COMMUNICATION: “You can be more effective as a communicator if you follow four basic truths:

  • Simplify your message
  • See the person
  • Show the truth
  • Seek a response”

5. COMPETENCE: If you want to cultivate the quality of competence, here’s what you have to do:

  • “Show up every day
  • Keep improving
  • Follow through with excellence
  • Accomplish more than expected
  • Inspire others”

6. COURAGE: “As you approach the tough decisions that challenge you, recognize these truths about courage:

  • Courage begins with an inward battle
  • Courage is making things right, not just smoothing them over
  • Courage in a leader inspires commitment from followers
  • Your life expands in proportion to your courage”

7. DISCERNMENT: “Discernment is an indispensable quality for any leader who desires to maximize effectiveness. It helps to do several important things:

  • Discover the root issue
  • Enhance your problem solving
  • Evaluate your opinions for maximum impact
  • Multiply your opportunities”

8. FOCUS: The keys to having “the focus required to be a truly effective leader are priorities and concentration. To improve your focus, do the following:

  • Shift to strengths. Make a list of three or four things you do well in your job.
  • Staff your weaknesses. Identify three or four activities necessary for your job that you don’t do well.
  • Create an edge. Time and money spent to take you to the next level are the best investment you can make.”

9. GENEROSITY: “Nothing speaks to others more loudly or serves them better than generosity from a leader. Cultivate the quality of generosity in your life. Here’s how:

  • Be grateful for whatever you have
  • Put people first
  • Don’t allow the desire for possessions to control you
  • Regard money as a resource
  • Develop the habit of giving”

10. INITIATIVE: Maxwell says there are at least four qualities “leaders possess that enable them to make things happen:

  • They know what they want
  • They push themselves to act
  • They take more risks
  • They make more mistakes”

11. LISTENING: “A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear…keep in mind that you have two purposes for listening: to connect with people and to learn. For that reason, you should keep your ear open to these people:

  • Your followers—your customers—your competitors—your mentors”

12. PASSION: Maxwell says there are “four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:

  • Passion is the first step to achievement
  • Passion increases your willpower
  • Passion changes you
  • Passion makes the impossible possible”

13. POSITIVE ATTITUDE: “A positive attitude not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you.

  • Your attitude is a choice
  • Your attitude determines your actions
  • Your people are a mirror of your attitude
  • Maintaining a good attitude is easier than regaining one”

14. PROBLEM SOLVING: “Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:

  • They anticipate problems
  • They accept the truth
  • They see the big picture
  • They handle one thing at a time
  • They don’t give up a major goal when they’re down”

15. RELATIONSHIPS: “It requires three things to manage and cultivate good relationships as a leader:

  • Have a leader’s head—Understand people
  • Have a leader’s heart—Love people
  • Extend a leader’s hand—Help people”

16. RESPONSIBILITY: “Good leaders never embrace a victim mentality. They recognize that who and where they are remain their responsibility…characteristics of people who embrace responsibility:

  • They get the job done
  • They are willing to go the extra mile
  • They are driven by excellence
  • They produce regardless of the situation”


  • “Secure leaders are able to believe in others because they believe in themselves
  • They aren’t arrogant; they know their own strengths and weaknesses and respect themselves
  • When their people perform well, they don’t feel threatened
  • They go out of their way to bring the best people together and then build them up so that they will perform at the highest level
  • When a secure leader’s team succeeds, it brings him great joy. He sees that as the highest compliment he can receive  for his leadership ability.”

18. SELF-DISCIPLINE: “If you want to become a leader for whom self-discipline is an asset, follow these action points:

  • Develop and follow your priorities
  • Make a disciplined lifestyle your goal
  • Challenge your excuses
  • Remove rewards until the job is done
  • Stay focused on results”

19. SERVANTHOOD: “A true servant leader:

  • Puts others ahead of his own agenda
  • Possesses the confidence to serve
  • Initiates service to others
  • Is not position-conscious
  • Serves out of love”

20. TEACHABILITY: “If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable…five guidelines to help you cultivate and maintain a teachable attitude:

  • Cure your destination disease
  • Overcome your success
  • Swear off shortcuts
  • Trade in your pride
  • Never pay twice for the same mistake”

21. VISION: “A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:

  • Vision starts within
  • Vision draws on your history
  • Vision meets other’s needs
  • Vision helps you gather resources”

I hope you’ve enjoyed soaking in this very brief wisdom-filled overview of John Maxwell’s qualities of a leader. Unfortunately, it is just the very tip of the iceberg relative to the wealth of knowledge and wisdom you’ll find in his book, The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

You can download a free copy of John Maxwell’s 21 qualities of a leader that I’ve outlined above at my website Wisdom-Matters by clicking on the “Free Resources” tab.

Also, if anyone has read this book, or any other book written by Maxwell, I’d love to read your comments.

NOTE: Please see my full disclosure policy on my usage of Hyper-Links for additional information.

See you next Sunday for more Wisdom on leadership!







Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.