Integrity, sense of humor among traits of a good leader

Last week I had an opportunity to work with a leader who personifies the traits every leader aspires to. St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy gave President George Bush the American Hero Award, and I had the privilege of serving as the Master of Ceremonies.

As I prepared for the event I was struck with the long list of credentials, honors and accomplishments of this leader. What I didn't expect was the way he treated me and others as we worked together to make the event a success. He left a deep impression and one that has set a high, new benchmark of leadership for me.

Regardless of your political affiliation, in many ways he is a role model of leadership and he has spent a lifetime learning and living the role. As I reflected on other leaders, both present and past, I found some lessons that we can all learn from:

  • Have a moral compass. All truly great leaders have a strong, clear sense of values that they use to guide them. When times get difficult, they fall back on their core principles to provide them with direction.


  • They know their life's mission. Leaders who accomplish great things usually are focused and determined to pursue a mission that is bigger than life. That mission usually centers around helping other people rather than themselves.


  • They have courage under fire. When they are under attack for a course of action they've chosen, they are able to withstand personal criticism if the decision is made for the greater good. They are able to make tough decisions in spite of criticism or loss of political points.


  • They have integrity under pressure. When it would be easy to be self-serving or to look the other way, great leaders refuse to yield to temptations and pressures that would move them away from their personal code of ethics.


  • They are servant leaders. They believe that they should serve the people they lead, not the other way around. They have profound respect for the people they lead and see their role as a privilege, not a right.


  • They give back to others. They don't forget how they were helped, so they are willing to pay back. They volunteer their time to causes they believe in and encourage others who aren't as fortunate. They don't do it to make themselves look good. They do it because they really care.


  • They're humble. Rather than arrogance and self-importance, they are fully aware of how quickly their image can sour or personal popularity can fade. They never take it for granted and truly are grateful and even deflect the admiration of others.


  • They have a sense of humor. They are the first to poke fun at themselves. They seem to have a knack for self-depreciating humor and for not taking themselves too seriously. They are fun to be around and make work seem less stressful.


  • They have an unspoken power that comes from influence. They don't have to flash status symbols or throw their weight around. They don't shout or talk down to people. Their personal power is unspoken, yet as perceptible as if it were an aura around them.


  • They are well-prepared for their role. Whether it's life experience or work experience, they have gained enough credentials and battle scars to give them wisdom.


  • They have their priorities straight. They seem to have a genuine commitment to other facets of their lives such as family, faith and friends. They aren't so driven that they become oblivious to the things that keep them a whole, balanced person.


  • They appreciate and acknowledge the contributions of others as they work toward a common goal.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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