The 12 Attributes of a Modern Leader

Over the past two and a half years I’ve asked everyone from high school students governors through executives at fortune 100 companies, “What is leadership to you?”

The most common answer: “Ummm, I don’t know.”

I’m not surprised. Modern leadership theory is muddled with contradictions, double-speak, and ideas that were more relevant before an uber-connected modernity became the norm for business, education, and non-profits.

In the following months, I will begin publicly working on Ignited Leadership’s Leadership Manifesto through my newsletter (you can sign up here) and blog. If you follow along you will learn how to develop the skills and perspective of a modern leader.

Lets begin with the definition: a good leader is someone who proactively helps other people. I discussed this recently in a guest post over here.

Below are the attributes that I consider essential for modern leaders [Note: this list itself is a work in progress and will be periodically updated  – if you have suggestions for additional attributes I would love to hear from you in the comments section].

the 12 Attributes of a modern leader

  1. Modern leaders believe that there is serious work to be done. They look at the norm and have a problem with all of the needless suffering in our local and global communities. Modern leaders want to tackle problems ranging from quality of life in the workplace through eradicating malaria, HIV/AIDS, environmental degredation, and poverty.
  2. Modern leaders believe that the best way to build a better world is by creating and becoming better leaders. Without good leaders taking action now, nothing will change.
  3. A modern leader possesses both local and global perspectives.
  4. Modern leaders believe that the first step to changing the world is changing themselves. They understand that external change cannot take place until internal change has occurred.
  5. A modern leader knows when to follow.
  6. A modern leader is dedicated to dreaming big, refusing failure, and choosing to test the limits of what is and is not possible for herself instead of allowing society to dictate the limits.
  7. A modern leader asks a lot of questions and then listens.
  8. A modern leader is a servant. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily consensus seeking or in the habit of using democratic decision making. Instead it means that their decisions are rooted in the question, “Is this life affirming for myself and the people I’m leading?” and only proceeding if the answer is yes.
  9. A modern leader is adept at leaving his comfort zone.
  10. A modern leader has a sharp understanding of the importance of honesty; both with herself and with the people she is leading. She knows how to encourage honesty in others.
  11. A modern leader periodically disconnects from the mania of modernity so that they can reconnect with themselves and their personal vision. They understand that the elements that serve us (smartphones that are always at our side and never turned off, superfast laptops enabling us to work from all four corners of the earth, and the subtle demands of being everything to everyone) are also capable of enslaving us.
  12. A modern leader believes that separation is an illusion and that ultimately, we belong to one another.

In the coming months I will be writing articles for both my newsletter and blog on why these attributes are critical in modernity, and how you can develop them to begin creating a better life for yourself, your local community, and our wider global community.

Are there attributes of a modern leader that you believe are missing? If so please leave them in the comment section below. Note: comments are held in moderation and do not post immediately.

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7 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “The 12 Attributes of a Modern Leader”

  1. wanxuan June 4, 2012 at 2:11 am

    Hi Jason, I’d like to add that a modern leader has to set the best example for others to follow. From my brief teaching stint in primary/elementary school(as a ‘leader’ of pupils), I found myself testing the laboratory equipment(e.g. data loggers) one by one (for forty pupils), running through the experiment, preparing visual aids, outside of my teaching hours, so that pupils can maximize their classroom learning during their 1/2 hour science lesson. I also had to think of what problems students may encounter from their point of view and envision what a ideal student should do, act or behave. I got to set the example and be the “best student”. As the adage goes, “once a teacher, twice a student”. I think leaders also gotta go the extra mile and do all the organisation beforehand and be a “class act” so others can emulate from you.

  2. Dasie Nagesa Taye October 8, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Thank you you Idea is realy true.I want to get information from you.I have BA degree in business management and want to know about leadership detaily.I God say I want to learn my MA degree in leadership/business Administiration if I get scholarship chance.I will contribute with you about leadership and try to get knoweldge from you.
    Thank you
    Dasie Nagesa
    Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

    • Jason Connell October 9, 2012 at 10:16 am

      Hi Dasie,

      Thanks for the kind words! I’m happy to discuss leadership ideas and practices with you. You are welcome to email me directly at: Jason@ignitedleadership.com with questions and ideas.



  3. geneti October 7, 2013 at 3:33 am

    i wont more copies to develop my leadership skill

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