Leadership Traits vs. Leadership Skills

Leadership Traits vs. Leadership Skills

The terms traits and skills are often used interchangeably especially when discussing leadership. However, they are two distinct groupings. 

A trait is a distinguishing characteristic or quality of an individual’s personal nature. 

A skill is the ability to apply knowledge to perform a task or activity. 

Think of a trait as something that is part of a person’s personality, while a skill is something a person can develop through training and coaching. 


Leadership Traits vs. Leadership Skills Explained

Leadership Traits

Traits are part of someone’s personality, demeanor or nature.  They are displayed in a pattern of behaviors, attitudes, and habits of the individual.  There are certain traits which are consider ideal for a leader. 


Examples of Leadership Traits

Dependability –  A good leader is reliable.  They can be counted on the get the job done.  They will show up and do what is necessary. 

Accountability – It is important that a leader is accountable for their actions.  They need to hold themselves and their team accountable for high-quality results.

Trustworthiness – A good leader is trustworthy.  People are able to count on them to have their best interests at heart.  

Positivity – A leader should be optimistic and help lift the morale of those they serve.  They should inspire others through their words and actions.

Perseverance – An effective leader focuses on achieving the teams goals.  The remain determined and persistent during challenging times. 

Resilience – A good leader deals effectively with pressure and challenges.  They recover quickly from setbacks and remain optimistic even under adversity.

Flexibility – A leader should be able to adapt to change and be open to reevaluating their plans when circumstances call for a new direction.  They should also be able to see the merits of perspectives others, and be able to reevaluate decisions when presented with new information.

Emotional Intelligence –  A leader should recognize the various psychological and emotional needs of people and exhibit consideration for the feelings of others when taking action.  They should also possess the ability to control and filter their emotions in a constructive way. 


Leadership Skills

A skill is the ability to apply technical knowledge to perform a task.  Skills are proficiencies that can be developed and learned.  There are certain skills which are consider ideal for a leader. 


Examples of Leadership Skills

Strategic thinking – Leaders should be able to formulate objectives and priorities as well as implements plans. Effective leaders create a vision of where they want to take their team.

Active Listening – Leaders need to be good listeners and acknowledge people fully and respectfully when speaking to show they genuinely care about that person.

Problem Solving – A leader needs to have the ability to solve problems and to deal with issues when they arise.  However, just as important, they need to prevent problems from happening or minimize their occurrence.

Team building – Leaders need to be able to build strong teams that can help them achieve the team goals.  Building an effective team requires several skills, starting with the ability to identify people with the right skill sets and personality traits for your group dynamics.

Communication – The most essential skill of an effective leader is communication.  Leadership involves providing instruction and strategy, delegating responsibility, and providing feedback on performance.  All these activities require excellent written and verbal communication skills.



Leadership encompasses both inherent traits and learned skills.  It is best to have a person who has the inherent traits and is willing to learn and develop additional skills to be an effective leader.  However, whether a person is born with those special leadership traits or not, anyone can become an effective leader by investing in their personal development to acquire the necessary skills.


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