21 Characteristics of Strong Leaders

By | September 15, 2021

[September 15, 2021]  Command Sergeants Majors (CSM) are the U.S. Army’s most senior enlisted soldiers, and all our military services have an equivalent.  They are highly respected, and they give their wisdom and advice to senior commanders to help their units run smoothly.  One CSM once gave me his thoughts on why there are so few strong leaders … “we coddle the little twerps.”

Everybody has an opinion about what makes a strong leader and why.  I think that’s because we’ve all experienced poor leadership sometime in our lives and because we’ve also seen the ill effects of it.  Tragically, weak military leaders can get you killed, or poor business leaders will lead their companies into financial ruin.

I too have witnessed weak leadership, yes, in the U.S. military.  Today, I’ll focus on those characteristics I see as defining strong leaders.  Strong leaders are successful; they remain focused on their mission and can step into the breach (so to speak) and get the job done.

The following list of 20 characteristics of strong leaders is from my experience and a little from friends of mine.  They are listed here in no particular order:

  1. Experienced judgment
  2. Present and visible
  3. Morally courageous
  4. Drives a positive culture
  5. Accountability
  6. Decisive
  7. Has a compelling vision
  8. Intellectual competence
  9. Inspirational
  10. Gets positive results
  11. Honest
  12. Adopts American values
  13. Deals well with unknowns
  14. Humble
  15. Mentally tough
  16. Has big ideas
  17. Zealous commitment
  18. Adaptable
  19. Great communicator
  20. Controls their emotions
  21. Brings people together for a common cause

We know that strong leadership is not just based on the character of the leader but is an interplay between the character of a leader, their leadership style, and their followers.  What makes a leader strong is important only in the context of how to make a strong leader stronger and more resilient; a difficult task.1

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Note: See also my two-part series on “20 Characteristics of Weak Leaders” (links here and here).

  1. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/strong-leadership
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

14 thoughts on “21 Characteristics of Strong Leaders

  1. Doug Smith

    In the wake of Biden’s horribly botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, Americans have taken to chanting “F—k Joe Biden” in sports stadiums across the nation. Since his shocking, widely-panned speech on Sept. 9, the slogan has reached new heights of popularity, with the message showing up on hats, tee shirts, and banners. Now, wherever he goes, Biden is greeted by booing Americans determined to send him the profane message.

    Reply
  2. Frank Graham

    Ha Ha, you won’t find a list like this elsewhere. Most focus on other, less valuable characteristics. Let’s remember these and apply them to the next leader you see and if they meet the standard of good leadership.

    Reply
  3. Max Foster

    Got me on this one, Gen. Satterfield. Great list BTW. Thanks! I’m one who spends time investing in new people in my company that show signs of leadership. To me, they are easy to spot. Takes only a few seconds. If you are one who claims victimhood, you will not cut it where I run the company and I will tell you to go elsewhere for a job. Finding strong leaders is relatively easy. Building them into stronger leaders is hard.

    Reply
  4. Ronny Fisher

    “What makes a leader strong is important only in the context of how to make a strong leader stronger and more resilient; a difficult task.” This is the main theme (and last sentence). Pay attention folks. The job of leaders is to make more leaders.

    Reply
    1. Dennis Mathes

      Correct, Ronny. Good to point it out. I know that there are many reading this article who are new to leadership and their role can be seen in the context of this article. Not just senior leaders.

      Reply
  5. Bryan Z. Lee

    Spot on article. Once again, you hit the nail on the head with your daily article, Gen. S. I’m a regular fan now so please keep these articles coming our way.

    Reply
  6. Stacey Borden

    Yes, you are a regular supporter of strong leadership, Gen. Satterfield, because you know it works and works best. Weak leaders led us down the path of destruction. Case in point? Pres. Joe Biden, weak weak weak. What else is there to say?

    Reply
    1. JT Patterson

      Right Stacey, F*ck Joe Biden. Ha Ha. I read Gen. Satterfield’s “daily favorites” and saw the chant. Joe Biden is a very weak president. The problem is that many rogue nations like China, Iran, N. Korea, Russia and others will take advantage of that on the world stage and move in the direction of evil.

      Reply
    2. Jeff Blackwater

      Excellent point, Stacey. Gen. Satterfield nailed this article with his list of 21 characteristics of strong leaders. Failure is associated with weakness. Success with strength. Why in the heavens would be encourage weakness? That is what Joe Biden is doing. Showing us that weakness is “good” but it is not, it’s evil.

      Reply
    3. Sadako Red

      Yes, Stacey, good point about Joe Biden. The people of the US are slowly turning against him. His failures are monumental. Eventually we will tire of his condescending attitude and lecturing us.

      Reply
      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Hi RED, great to see you on Gen. Satterfield’s leadership blog again. We look forward to your future articles. 😊

        Reply

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