Leadership adjectives – Words to Describe a Leader

Leadership adjectives

Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow. 

– Chinese Proverb


Leadership is more than managing people and delegating tasks, it is a skill and a characteristic that is needed for a successful project or endeavor. Since the dawn of humanity, leadership has emerged from prehistoric times to modern times. During the Stone Age, early humans have developed certain communities that needed a tribe leader to preside over tribal matters and will decide on the activities of the tribe and will implement the rules. 

During those times, leadership positions are based on aptitude and skill rather than inheritance or blood. Such type of administration is a true meritocracy, a leader is chosen based on who is the best in hunting and who is strongest. Today, there is a multitude of types of leadership in parallel with the independence of many states and territories, which some adopt a specific type of political ideology. 

Leadership in a Workplace

Today, in a corporation, academe, and certain business settings each has leadership positions to keep the system up and running. These leadership positions are tailored to fit the need of each industry. Such positions or roles are needed to manage a specific department or office of a business. Everyday operation of a business involves the constant decision-making of a leader to meet the requirements of a task and meet challenges to ensure an effective operation. 

Whereas, the tasks and responsibilities vary from industries and are tailored to meet the needs of such a profession whereas the requirements to be qualified for a position vary too. Some industries like in a professional kitchen setting, adopt the French brigade de cuisine system of hierarchy to keep a unanimous chain of command in a restaurant. The executive chef is the main leader of the kitchen, he or she is then assisted by his deputy called a sous chef, next the command is delegated to each station managers or chef de partie that specializes in a specific type of dish or food like meat, vegetables, appetizers, salads or desserts. They are then followed by the commis chefs then the kitchen porters and so on. Whatever is the role, each one is expected to contribute to the effort of keeping a successful dinner service. 

Distinguishing a Leader from a Follower

A follower is the one who follows a certain order or commands to finish a task. The leader is the one who delegates the responsibilities to a follower. This is just the basics of a leader and follower dynamics but believe me, it is much more than that. It takes a deeper understanding of the distinguishing roles and boundaries of each one. 

A leader is needed so that there’s a deciding body to keep the order of a system and ensure there’s a unanimous movement to meet the goals of the team or organization. Alternatively, the follower is needed to operate the task. What is needed is a clear understanding of the goal that is set by the leader and a harmonious relationship between the leader and the follower. 

Team Leader and Team Player

Like a team sport, the corporate world is filled with teams that are expected to meet a certain goal. In every team, there is a team leader and several team players or members that move like a single unit to finish tasks one at a time. Anyone can be a team player but not everyone is born a team leader, certain pre-requisites constitutes a leader that we will discuss later. 

A person can determine if one is a leader or a player by how he or she behaves within a team. Some individuals are content to be delegated with a task to complete and be productive enough to be part of a project but some rise above others because of their natural ability to lead people to finish projects. 

Some people have innate capabilities of being a leader that manifest in a given setting. This distinction started to manifest in school, some children are satisfied with being given the responsibility to finish a part in a school project but some emerged to instruct a team to do their tasks. At an early age, one can discover their position in society but that’s not always the case because some people can learn to be a leader in a certain field as they grow up with the addition of knowledge and experience required to ascend to leadership positions. 

Leader vs. Manager

In this modern world, companies and organizations can now demarcate the difference between these two words. These two types of execution of power and authority have their advantages and disadvantages to make a successful enterprise. To determine the difference is to delve deeper into the root words of each of the two. 

The word manager comes from the Italian word manegiarre or to handle which in turn derived from the Latin root word manus or hand. Like a human hand, a manager employs a certain force for the individual parts to move. On the other hand, lead is derived from the Old English word loedan which means to travel. 

Taken from the etymology above, leaders and managers are rooted in different actions on how to exercise power over subordinates. A manager is the one who handles people and makes sure that each one is doing their work properly. The manager executes a plan on how to meet a certain goal and organizes the team on following that goal. He also enforces his goal and vision to his team members to follow. He is delegating the tasks to each member regardless of the level of competency of each member. A manager is rational, seeks control, and output-oriented. His only goal is to push his members on aligning to his vision on how to finish the project and maintains the status quo for the team to survive each challenge. 

A leader is different, he leads his followers by example and action, not words. The leader also shares his vision with his followers but is also open to other suggestions of the member, this employs cooperation within the organization. Each task is shared not assigned, this quality sets the leader apart from a manager because a manager may be skillful enough but a good leader knows how to be a good member first. He is also visionary and future-oriented and likes to take risks to arrive at new ways on how to do the tasks better. In contrast with managers, a leader is creative seeks mutual support, and is process-oriented. He is also adaptable to changes and seeks new ways on leading his team to travel into new and uncharted territories on doing the projects. He leads by example and continues to be a good role model. He is followed not because of his authority but because of his charisma and creativity. 

Leadership adjectives and List of Words That Describe a Leader

These are the words that construe the qualities and characteristics of a good leader.

Self-reliant. A great leader is responsible. He is entrusted to lead a team by coordinating with each member to do their tasks properly. He does this by trusting first himself on doing the job. He is confident enough to execute his vision and do whatever it takes to materialize them. He is responsible to handle setbacks and problems in completing a project. Whatever happens, he takes sole responsibility and does not blame others when one met difficulties involving the duty. He can also rely on his skills and resources to do the job and also trusts his subordinates to do them too.

Proactive. Proactive means someone who has the personal initiative to take action on certain goals. He can anticipate problems and changes and acted on them in advance to minimize risks and future problems. He has self-initiative and does not rely on someone else’s decision on how to do his job. Proactive is the opposite of reactive which is someone who relies upon someone else’s instruction. He is the one who acted first and sets an example to others in doing things right. He is the primum mobile or the first-mover, he creates the template on how to behave and sets the direction of how to follow his aim.

Observant. A leader must be observant enough to see beyond appearances, actions, and behavior. He is attentive and involved in the activities of his subordinates. He knows each member’s strengths and weaknesses and utilizes them to the team’s advantage. An observant leader knows his environment well and has a deeper understanding of his role and responsibilities. He is focused and does not let himself be distracted by unnecessary things that get in his way of doing tasks. He is also quick to notice important details of the information or data he may use for his job. 

Strategic. A great sense of strategy constitutes a good leader. Like a commander on the battlefield, he can plan on how his members move like a single unit. He is smart enough to take on difficulties and knows how to devise a plan handling everyday problems. He is also adept at how to visually present his ideas to his subordinates. A leader also has an arsenal of back-up plans in case of unexpected circumstances that can derail a project. He can lay out methods of doing tasks, study the overall logistics of a plan, and outsource backup strategies in case of emergencies.

Smart. Being smart as a leader does not mean one has to finish his study with Latin honors or has an above-average IQ to be capable to lead, what he needs is common sense and a deeper understanding of his responsibilities. He can think and use his intelligence for his expertise beyond his technical skills. He can also understand the prerequisites of attaining a goal. One also can grasp the heart of a problem and think of ways of utilizing skills to solve them. 

Adaptable. A leader must be adaptable to changes to rise above the challenges of attaining his vision. He must be flexible to anything, he understands that life is a fluctuating ocean of ups and downs. A business is changing over time and new ways of management have emerged in the rise of the internet. The organizations today employ some kind of strategy on how to deal with these changes. Another factor is being able to adapt to emerging difficulties, some old ways may not be used anymore so being adaptable makes us cope with leadership setbacks. 

Optimist. Positive-thinking is needed in leadership because many leadership positions deal with stressful situations. An optimistic disposition in life helps the leader to deal with these situations. From unruly subordinates, rude clients, financial difficulties, miscommunication, and lack of support, a leader must rise above these situations, and a positive attitude is needed. One must set aside his problems and be his most optimum when in his duty because mixing personal problems with professional life is a recipe for a disaster. Optimism means one can believe that a goal is attainable and has a positive outcome. 

Creative. A leader doesn’t have to be artistic to be creative. Creativity is an innate ability of an individual to invent a certain method of doing things other than what was already being implemented. He can solve problems using his original approach and seek ways to help his subordinates. Inventiveness and imagination are needed to be creative. One can be able to think of original solutions to solve the challenges of every day doing a task. He is also capable of breaking new grounds by expressing his ideas to his members. 

Supportive. A certain quality called empathy is needed to be an effective leader. Being a leader doesn’t have to be always to be logical, there must be a fine balance between rationality and being sensitive enough to deal with his subordinates. A good leader also is supportive of his members. He can see his members as humans that have needs, emotions, and individual personalities. He creates a sense of community in the workplace and can be easily approached as a friend outside work. He is concerned with each of his member’s well-being and ability to understand his member’s style of doing his work. He is also open to suggestions and can support other’s ideas and not be rigid in his beliefs and authority. 

Disciplined. Being disciplined means one must have a will to control his desires and excess passions. Discipline is a well-defined trait of a leader, it is being consistent with one’s goals. Pursuing his visions and beliefs with composure and grace is a quality of a true leader. He knows his priorities and doesn’t succumb to temporary easiness. He can choose between what is easy and difficult and knows the hard work needed to materialize his goals. He has prudent thinking and is a good role model for his members. 

Patient. How often do we come across this adage that patience is a virtue? A great leader is patient and understanding. An impatient person does not respect the natural processes of things, a leader is not like that, he knows that everything happens for a reason. He believes that a long-term goal is attainable but needs to develop in time by study and practice and learning from mistakes and gaining experience. He knows that personal and professional development takes a great deal of time and requires a lot of personal reinvention before one can arrive at his desired goal. 

Diligent. Diligence is a quality of being productive and attuned to the continuous effort of finishing a task. He knows how to accomplish his tasks and be persistent enough to deal with them one at a time. He is very careful and considers every moment of doing a task as important. He has an exemplary work ethic and does not waste his time with distraction and unnecessary gossip. He arrives early and finishes early, he has a strong will and has respect for time and regulations. A leader is also practical, he is prudent in his thinking. 

Visionary/Pioneering. Many great leaders are visionaries, they are trailblazers and sets the world on fire with their original ideas. They are pioneers, self-starters, and geniuses in their fields of expertise. A leader has an original vision and seeks ways to be understood by his subordinates to follow him. He has a sense of inventiveness to create something or discover what was never discovered before, be it a technology, method of management, or an idea. He has a clarity of thinking and is also creative in searching for methods to execute his plans. 

Organized. Being organized requires focus and discipline, and it is also a defining quality of a leader. He can compartmentalize his thoughts and he can organize ideas in his mind so that can have a better understanding of his job and role. He also can use his surroundings to his advantage. He is tidy and can maintain a minimalist space to create a sense of focus. His thoughts are also organized, he is not scatterbrained and can make a sound decision. He creates an organized system and will do anything to reduce chaos. He can linearly plan things and can list methods to help him tackle things carefully. 

Resilient. A leader is resilient, he can tackle problems head-on and has the endurance to any problems. He is expected to follow through with his goals despite unexpected circumstances. He does not allow defeat to ruin his confidence and ability to bounce back from any setbacks. He is very persistent in his goals and will do anything to carefully achieve them. Clearly what is needed is a positive attitude towards work and rely on his self for resources and strength. He is like a mountain, firm, and correct, and able to withstand the storms of life. He can recover swiftly to any setbacks and knows that they are part of growing and life.

Charismatic. When you think about charisma you may be thinking about good looks but charisma is simply a quality of a person to inspire devotion from others. This is rooted in the leaders’ ability to communicate well, he is a people person and able to communicate his ideas and present them. A charismatic person also relies upon his confidence, he knows himself well, his skills, intelligence, and capabilities. A leader inspires others to follow him not because of his gentle charm but because he is concerned for them. He reciprocated their love by being sincere and supportive. 

Levelheaded. Calmness is a quality a leader must cultivate in these modern times. He must have a calm mind to think clearly about stressful situations. His equanimity precedes his skills and he can able to have a sense of composure and balance in circumstances that requires one to be calm and collected. He can master a zen-like calm amidst chaos and can create a sense of space in his mind to process problems. He can handle difficult situations and strong personalities and does not participate in arguments. A leader also requires to have a greater understanding of behavior to create a harmonious relationship between him and his subordinates and can master himself. 

Impartial. A fair person has no personal bias against anyone and upholds justice all the time. He has a sense of equilibrium and is open to all of the perspectives. This quality can only be achieved by understanding different behaviors and personalities that constitute human experiences. An impartial and just person is a master of himself. He can utilize his emotions not the other way around. He also does not favor anyone or be easily swayed by power, wealth, and beauty. He has a strong virtue of justice and is not blind to inequality or abuse. He is also practical and able to circumspect for mistakes and flaws.

Humble. Finally, contrary to the popular belief that leaders are arrogant and proud, a true leader is modest. He is humbled by his experiences and mistakes and uses these lessons to better himself and teach others to avoid the same mistakes. Humility is the quality of being mature enough to know his place in the world and is not bound to the trappings of his authority. True leaders are servers, not the ones being served. 


These are the adjectives to describe a leader, I’m sure that a leader is composed of many things. He has many qualities that set him apart from his subordinates. He is a person of humanity, confidence, and intelligence. In the ever-changing landscape of the modern corporate world, true leaders can rise above challenges and can share their wisdom and experiences to inspire other people to become leaders themselves. 

Leadership adjectives – Words to Describe a Leader

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