Are the Basic Characteristics of Leaders Different?

By | September 15, 2022

[September 15, 2022]  I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer is, of course, “no” … the characteristics of leaders are the same as all other leaders.  To some of my friends, they were a bit surprised by my answer because, like many people, they are confusing leadership style with leadership characteristics.

This may only be a matter of semantics but the confusion can result in the poor education and development of young leaders.  The study of leadership also confuses similarities and differences between leadership and management.  That is the reason that for a long time, many senior leaders have recommended a revamping of leadership development education and practice to help clear up those areas that lack clarity.

Honor, integrity, courage, etc. are characteristics of leaders regardless of their profession.  How they carry out their duties are a reflection of style.  The military leader, for example, is often stereotyped as being autocratic but while I agree with such an assessment, what this does not tell us is that the style can adjust over time depending upon circumstances.  In direct combat action, it is not unusual to be autocratic but in peacetime the leadership style is likely to be more transactional or transformational (see a short summary on styles of leadership, link here).

My blog here at is dedicated to ferreting out those characteristics of leaders that are universal (or nearly so).  While I’ve spent less time on leadership style, it is by no means less important because of the nature of the application of leader characteristics.  In fact, the failure of leaders is the result often of the lack of character, not so much the style of that leadership.

I’m reminded of the time I was training with my military unit in preparing for deployment to combat in Iraq.  Our commander, who had been in command for over two years, was like a father figure to our soldiers.  During the hard training we had at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 2003, he seemed to have changed.  It was no surprise to any of us that after we deployed overseas he was even more authoritarian.  But what we never saw a change in was his personal dedication to being an open, honest, hardworking man of the highest integrity.

Regardless of your profession, or even in a temporary job, characteristics of you as a leader remain the same.  At no time should any of those characteristics be sacrificed.  Any job we do involves people and any change should only be in style.  My commander told us the day before we entered combat that he expected us to be, not just courageous but to do those things we had learned as American soldiers … to do the right thing.


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

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.

16 thoughts on “Are the Basic Characteristics of Leaders Different?

  1. Doug Smith

    Once again, as I’ve written before, this website by Gen. Satterfield has many features and those features are all FREE. Gen. Satterfield doesn’t advertise anything ever. So let’s all support him by buying his book on Amazon. See his links at the bottom of each article. That is how we can keep this website going.

  2. Greg Heyman

    “Regardless of your profession, or even in a temporary job, characteristics of you as a leader remain the same. At no time should any of those characteristics be sacrificed. Any job we do involves people and any change should only be in style. ” —— Gen. Satterfield

  3. Jonnie the Bart

    Most folks out there don’t give a hoot about this topic. But they are also the first ones to yell that we lack leadership when the SH$$ hits the fan. I would say, hey get on it and be a leader, learn the basics, practice leadership in your family and community. That is how you make things better, not by whining about it.

    1. Harry Donner

      Me as well, Laughing Monkey. I find this blog one of the best on leadership – consistent and rewarding reading.

  4. KenFBrown

    Another excellent blog post by Gen. Satterfield discussing the basics of leadership. Let me also add that, IMHO, being a good person and being a good leader is not much different. They are inextricably linked to each other. Don’t think that if you are a good person -ethical and supportive and encouraging of others to be good – that you are no leader, you are by definition.

    1. Fred Weber

      Same thinking, great thinking. This leadership website is great. That’s all I’ve got to day except please go and buy Gen. Satterfield’s book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq.” I did and was a good decision. Now my wife is reading the book.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        I’m a long time reader of this blog and I recommend it to everyone.


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