10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of strong leaders in various capacities. Each of them has unique strengths, but I’ve decided today to list common characteristics I’ve seen in all of the top ten leaders I’ve known:

  1. They know Christ. I grant that this first trait should be not a surprise, given that I’ve worked in the Christian world for almost 40 years. And, some of my top ten leaders are probably more committed to Christ than others (in fact, check here for “Markers of the Best Spiritual Leaders I Know”) – but all operate from a Christian foundation. 
  2. They continually dream about what’s next. Never do they get comfortable with today’s accomplishments. Always, they’re dreaming about the next steps in the plan – even if they’re creating that plan on a napkin in a restaurant. 
  3. They trust the team they’ve enlistedThat’s because they hire the best (well, except when I was part of the team, I suppose . . .), and they recognize just how much they need them to carry out the details of the plan. 
  4. They take care of their team. You want to be part of the team because of the vision, and then you learn that the leader provides well for his or her team. You feel wanted, appreciated, needed, and honored. 
  5. They read present-tense reality wellEach of these leaders has a unique ability to look at the circumstances, figure out what’s up, and plan accordingly for the next appropriate steps. They seldom miss in their perceptions.  
  6. They get a lot done while still taking time off. I get a lot done, but I’ve not learned the latter part well. The best leaders I’ve worked with somehow lead organizations, write books, equip other leaders, and enjoy their free days and their vacation weeks. 
  7. There is no pretense in them. You get to know all about them – the good and the bad, the victories and the struggles, the questions and the answers – but that’s the point: they are just who they are. They play nobody’s game. 
  8. They know the organization is bigger than they areAll of these leaders could easily build a kingdom around them, but they choose not to do so. They consistently put the goals of their organizations above theirs—sometimes choosing against their own wishes for the sake of the organization. 
  9. They laugh a lotThe more I think about the common characteristics, the more I’m reminded of the laughs I’ve had with these leaders. They do serious work, and they hold their team to high standards—but they have a lot of fun getting there. 
  10. They adore their family and make time for them. Frankly, this characteristic may be the one that most moves some good leaders I’ve worked with off this list. The best leaders I know prioritize their family, and their family knows it. 

What common characteristics have you seen in your top leaders? And, if you’re interested, here are also my thoughts about “the best bad church leaders I’ve ever known.”   

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