The 5 Most Important Leadership Attributes According to Leaders from Around the Globe

Dr. Sunny Giles, Advisor at Stanford Business School Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, recently published results of her survey about leadership attributes.

The survey about leadership attributes showed surprising results.

The 5 Most Important Leadership Attributes According to Leaders from Around the Globe

What she found was a little surprising… it wasn’t authority or confidence that made effective leadership, but rather a range of other characteristics, which we’ll tell you about below.

The survey queried 195 leaders from around the world, in 15 different countries and from over 30 global organizations.  Dr. Giles took her data and formed a list of 5 leadership attributes important for effective leadership.

She did this by compiling all the traits which survey respondents found important for their roles as global leaders, and found that they could be categorized into 5 main areas.

Here is what the top 9 important leadership traits looked like, according to the survey:

  • high moral standards: 67%
  • provides goals: 59%
  • communicates expectations: 56%
  • flexibility to ongoing training: 52%
  • committed to ongoing training: 43%
  • open to new ideas: 39%
  • creates feeling of succeeding and failing together: 38%
  • helps with leadership growth: 38%
  • provides safety for trial and error: 37%

Now, here are the 5 leadership attributes, derived from Dr. Giles’ grand list of traits from the survey.

1.  Has Strong Ethics and Safety

The highest category of important leadership attributes was strong ethics and safety, a combination that fosters a trusting environment.  This banishes uncertainty, which helps employees feel free to be as productive as they can be.

2.  Empowers Others

No manager does everything by him or herself.  Multiple studies have shown that teams who are empowered are more productive.

3.  Supports Efficient Learning

Leaders who create a culture where ALL ideas are welcome are appreciated.  Employees should feel comfortable learning from one another’s mistakes, since this is how they grow.  This encourages diversity.

4.  Nurtures Growth

When leaders are cultivating personal growth and development of their employees, they’re tapping into everyone’s primal need to feel supported.  A commitment to ongoing training is one way of nurturing growth.

When employees feel supported in their personal growth, it makes them feel appreciated, and they feel that the employer has gratitude for their work…which in turn gets reciprocated!

5.  Fosters Connection and Belonging

Fostering connection is done by communicating often and openly.  “We’re in it together” is the feeling that employees appreciate.  Coming from leadership, it means a whole lot, especially when it applies to both succeeding and failing together.


When employees feel safe and cared for, they’re better able to tap into the higher functioning areas of their brains.  The five categories of leadership attributes named in this study represent the five ways leaders can cultivate this kind of atmosphere in their companies.