Which Leadership Qualities Do You Value Most?

Every four years, as Election Day approaches, we hear a lot of talk about strength and vision and character. But what do those words really mean? This month, readers share the traits they value most in a leader—from the president of the U.S.A. to the president of the PTA.

Photo by Christopher Silas Neal

A thinking mind. I can respect any change in opinion or policy if it was preceded by thorough research and an effort to deeply understand the issues. Leaders should have not only the ability but also the desire to look at things differently when new facts arise. To me, a shift is a sign of an energetic intellect.
Catherine S. Vodrey
East Liverpool, Ohio

An open mind and a tolerant attitude. You should have faith in your convictions but not be blinded by them. In other words, be like the Dalai Lama. He has met and talked with countless public figures and has shown respect to each and every one, regardless of their politics.
Rhi Cook
Tempe, Arizona

Practicing humility—that is, serving your people rather than insisting that they serve you. My dad has been a pastor and a counselor for more than 30 years and has raised eight children. In all that time, I’ve never seen him too busy to lend an ear, offer a piece of advice (when asked), or give a helping hand. A true leader is not known for how great he is as an individual but rather for how greatly he aids the people around him.
Grace Velasquez
Salt Lake City, Utah

A willingness to get in the trenches with underlings. In college, I worked in a deli. When my boss saw that we were slammed, he would come behind the counter and ask,  “OK, what do you need me to do?” Through this offer, he let us know that he didn’t consider himself  “above” our tasks. It’s amazing how such a simple act can generate team morale and enthusiasm.
Heather Solsvik
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

The best leaders have the ability to express kindness and sympathy. My last two managers (both at a financial institution with more than 60,000 employees) took the time to get to know me as a person, to find out what motivated me, and to show that they cared about my personal and professional development. When it comes to bosses, it really doesn’t get better than that.
Lindy Vaught
Indianapolis, Indiana

I would say decisiveness coupled with wisdom. Throughout history, the most influential leaders—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt among them—proved to be strong decision makers. I have more admiration for someone who makes a poor call and learns from it than for someone who never makes the call at all.
Jen Ko
Foster City, California