Five traits of successful leaders

Successful leaders demonstrate integrity, vision, commitment, confidence and self-awareness, says Teresa Campbell.


At this time of year, as we prepare for the PKF-FPM Annual Leadership Talk, we often reflect on the traits shared by successful leaders.


What is it that makes the best leaders stand out? Do the best leaders have some kind of innate ability that others lack, or can anyone develop leadership skills through training and personal development?


Arguably, the answer to both questions is ‘yes’.


Certainly, in our work with businesses across the island of Ireland, we come across some ‘born leaders’. Typically, these are energetic, charismatic individuals with a strong vision and commitment to their business. They have great communication skills that help them to inspire, motivate and challenge their teams. However, we also find many successful leaders who have developed leadership skills through experience, coaching, and personal development. Set out below are five traits which, in our experience, set both types of successful leader apart.
Five traits of successful leaders


1. Integrity: Warren Buffett, the investor and billionaire CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, famously said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And, if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.” Business is built on relationships and relationships are built on trust. Without integrity, there is no trust. Successful leaders set the tone from the top and act as an example for their teams to follow.


2. Vision: Successful leaders have a clear vision of where their business is going and, importantly, they have the ability to communicate their vision to their team. Padraig McManus, Chairman, Mincon Group Plc emphasised this in our 2018 Annual Leadership Talk when he said, “If you can get those around you to buy into your strategy and what you are trying to achieve, you are on the road to becoming a leader.”


3. Commitment: Successful leaders are committed and passionate about their business, realising that by instilling passion among their team, they fuel momentum and inspire their team to strive and accomplish exceptional results. Clients who have attended PKF-FPM seminars over the years have often heard us speak on the importance of investing in and growing a passionate culture which empowers their team and supports greatness.


4. Confidence: Leadership involves influencing others, therefore self-belief is very important, however confidence needs to be partnered with clarity and good communication skills and tempered with empathy in order to secure buy-in from others.


5. Self-awareness: This quality, perhaps more important than any other, is vital for successful leaders as it gives them the ability to recognise their own strengths and weaknesses which is essential both for personal development and for knowing what and when to delegate. Anne Heraty, CEO, CPL Resources plc stressed this at the PKF-FPM 2017 Annual Leadership talk when she outlined that leaders must develop the ability to select and empower strong teams. “The most important thing a leader has to do is to put the right people in the right jobs. Delegation is important. Give clarity about what needs to be done and empower people to get on with it,” Anne advised.



Even the most successful leaders will eventually reach the end of their tenure and it would be remiss to end without the stressing the importance of planning for leadership transition. Succession planning is topic that we will return to in a future blog. In the meantime, you can find about our succession planning services here.


This year’s PKF-FPM Annual Leadership talk takes place on 14 February 2019 as part of MLN Management Month, where the keynote speaker will be MJM Group Chairman Brian McConville. For further information, contact our Belfast Office 02890243131 or email Lauren Quinn.



Teresa Campbell l Director