In these challenging times, good leadership is essential for navigating a team to a satisfying and successful future.  Should leadership fail, the enterprise is doomed.  This applies equally to government, business, institutions or sport organizations.

Research finds that successful leadership is based on three factors: capacity, commitment, and character (Grahek, Thompson, & Toliver, 2010).  The capacity to lead refers to the skills, knowledge and experience of a leader—in short, their ability.  Capacity gets the majority of attention in any leadership discussion.  The commitment to lead is the measure of a leader’s dedication, desire and drive to achieve the organization’s purpose and vision.  This includes both a commitment to both the group and its’ individual members.  The character to lead is embodied in the integrity, ethics and personality characteristics of a leader.

Research has provided an interesting and clarifying picture of the character required to lead (Grahek, Thompson, & Toliver, 2010).  The data was collected using the Worthy Leadership Profile for Executives and consisted of self-ratings by director and executive-level leaders (N=275) along with ratings of these leaders by their managers, direct reports, peers, and others (N=4,127 raters). The following characteristics were found to be critically important to a leader’s success (presented in rank order):

  1. personal integrity
  2. personal and professional ethics
  3. openness to new ideas and differing perspectives
  4. organizational integrity
  5. courage
  6. power
  7. humility
  8. gratitude
  9. forgiveness

The finding of personal integrity as most critical to a leader’s success reinforces its’ importance in leadership.  Leaders who adhere to moral and ethical principles, are honest and trustworthy, and take responsibility for one’s conduct and obligations are not only perceived as better and more effective leaders, but leaders who are successful in their efforts to move an organization and its’ members forward in achieving their purposes.


Grahek, M. S., Thompson, A. D., & Toliver, A. (2010). The character to lead: A closer look at character in leadership. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research62(4), 270–290.