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Four Essential Traits of a Leader

Purdue students demonstrating traits of a leader.

Many of our students, especially our Weekend MBA students, are looking for knowledge and expertise to move into leadership roles in their career, or even start their own company. Often, the discussion of leadership morphs into a conversation regarding the traits of a leader and how different personal characteristics of leaders make their management great or, conversely, terrible.

A simple Google search on the traits of a leader can leave the reader feeling more confused than ever. Entrepreneurship, leadership, synergy, creativity… there are countless buzzwords that make us scratch our head after reading another article filled with business jargon.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled our list of four essential traits of leaders.

You’ve Got Moxie Kid

Without trying to sound like a 1930s gangster, we’re starting off our list with “moxie.” This trait is especially important for entrepreneurs.

If you are passionate about what you’re doing, have determination if things get difficult, take charge, and are self-motivated, then you have moxie. It is that indescribable “something” in you that gets things done, despite an uphill climb or adversity. That moxie will help you to get through the challenges leadership will bring and, if you’re the business owner, the risk and its accompanying stressors.

In Practice: Leaders who have moxie, don’t let a bad day — or week, or month — get in the way of their vision or goals. They’re fighters. They’re passionate. They’re relentless.

Quick on Your Feet

Gifted leaders can bounce back from an issue and learn from it. Things can and will change in the marketplace, regardless of your industry or product. Sometimes, you’ll feel like a failure, but great leaders catch their breath, get back on their feet, and prepare to block the next hit.

In Practice: Managers who are quick on their feet will take up the training to understand the new advertising platform or investigate further to understand why the campaign didn’t work in that market. They view problems as riddles, as a puzzle, and don’t rest until they find the solution.

The Golden Rule

Remember when you were working as a fry chef in college and that awful boss made your shifts unbearable? Like any other relationship, the manager-employee relationship is two-sided; respect should be mutual. Successful leaders treat their employees in a way they would like to be managed. Employees that consider their boss a great leader view them as approachable, vulnerable, and even a “servant-leader.”

In Practice: Servant-leaders put the needs of their employees above their own needs. They take the Saturday shift every once in a while so their employees can enjoy a weekend off. They actually know their employees — the name of their partner, the college they went to, what they do in their free time — because they have an interest in knowing what makes them click and what motivates them, and they’re never too proud to do a task that is the “responsibility” of an employee they manage.

Macgyver-ness

No aviator sunglasses or flowing blond locks required. Macgyver is known for getting out of the stickiest situations with minimal resources. Essentially, you need to be resourceful. A great leader understands their constraints, like resources and time, and uses them to the best of their ability to create magic.

In Practice: Speaking of resources, one resource managers can easily forget is their people. The best leaders communicate and collaborate with their staff, recognizing them as a valuable source. After all, you hired them because you trusted their abilities and ideas, so why pigeonhole them into just doing their position?

These traits of a leader can be developed in any person willing to put in the work. If you’re not sure where to start, consider laying the foundation with an MBA; you’ll feel more confident in your skills when you secure your management role. If you have a weekday job that makes a full-time-student schedule impossible, we encourage you to learn more about our Weekend MBA program.

Director of MBA Recruiting

Heather Goodwin
Assistant Director of Recruiting
Krannert MBA & MS Programs
hgoodwi@purdue.edu