The ultimate measure of leadership is results, long term and short term.  Successful leaders as a group, have a wide variety of personalities and nuances, but most good leaders possess or develop the following traits.

Vision:  Good leaders have the ability to formulate a concrete image of a desired end state.  They can eloquently communicate this end state and discuss the gaps that need to be filled.  The vision may not be extremely detailed, but it is constant and clear.  The leader has confidence in that vision and is willing to stay on course, even during difficult times.

Pragmatic:  While setting “stretch goals” and lofty end states is admirable and even necessary, a good leader has to understand the every day practical elements and constraints of the organization.  If there is only a focus on the glorious end state and no direction or understanding of the practical elements needed to achieve the vision, the organization will only get flustered and lose faith.

People Oriented:   This is a little like saying that water must be wet, but leaders need to connect with people, and people need to connect with the leader.  The leader should be able to inspire and motivate and be compassionate and caring.   People need to like their leader, but not necessarily like everything that the leader is pushing for. 

Ethical:  Good leaders hold themselves to high standards in terms of integrity and honesty.  If you can’t trust your leadership, you aren’t going to follow.  Sometimes leaders are faced with challenges and dilemmas.  Leaders who are perceived as being less than totally ethical will rapidly lose the engagement of the organization.

Knowledgeable:  The expression “leaders are readers” was popular a while back.  The leader should not be the subject mater expert with all work related items, but good leaders have a well rounded knowledge base that extends beyond the immediate business.  A good leader spends time reading about a wide variety of subjects and is open to learning new things.  This knowledge base helps give leaders balance and judgment. 

Humility:  A good leader understands that she isn’t perfect and is not afraid to admit her short comings.  A good leader will be open to feedback (sometimes very negative).   Good leaders will seek council particularly in areas that they know that they are weak in.  Good leaders are constantly striving to develop their leadership skills and are willing to assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership is something that can be objectively assessed and developed.  For more information on this area see MG Assessments leadership development program.