7 Attributes That Demonstrate The Real Strength Of A Leader

What demonstrates the real strength of leadership?

We know things like decision-making, strategy, and execution require strength from a leader, and those elements are vital to realizing your vision, but what puts strength in a leader?

I’ll admit that I like to get things done, make progress, solve problems, and see things change for the good.

But the longer I lead, the more I’m aware of the real strength of leadership. The attributes, that when cultivated, bring you true inner strength.

None of these attributes produce fast results, but they deliver lasting results, most importantly, toward life change.

The reality that leadership is a long-haul endeavor is a discipline that has taken me a long time to learn. Speed is part of culture. Impatience is part of humanity, but eternal significance is a marathon, not a sprint.

Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not an advocate of slow for the sake of slow. Hey, when you can move, go for it. But most things worthwhile take time.

It’s a balance, I know. Sometimes leadership strength is fast; sometimes, it’s more deliberate. But in all cases, it requires substance from within where your real and lasting strength resides.

7 Attributes that Demonstrate the Real Strength of a Leader

1) Kindness softens hearts and opens doors.

It’s difficult to come up with a good reason for leaders to be unkind. 

Kindness is the most overlooked quality of leadership. Here are three bullets from a full post I wrote on the topic of kindness.

  • Kindness is an essential human quality that allows trust, connection, and genuine exchange to take place.
  • Kindness brings peace and joy into pressure-filled situations.
  • Kindness is not a new idea, but it’s often undeveloped as a leadership trait.

Kindness softens hearts, for example, for those who resist the gospel, someone who isn’t supportive of the vision, or someone who simply needs to be encouraged.

Kindness opens doors of relationships and Kingdom opportunities.

2) Humility makes authority attractive.

The days of heavy-handed authority as an appropriate or effective style are long gone. The challenge today is that any authority is often rejected, yet the tension is that all leadership carries authority.

The relevant question is, how do we bridge the gap?

We need to begin with the idea that authority is biblical, and you can’t lead without it, but how is that lived out?

We know that we are not to be demanding or dictatorial (lord it over), and we know that a servant spirit is part of the equation.

Yet leadership without spiritual authority is quickly rendered ineffective.

Humility is the best remedy to anything possibly offensive about authority.

If your heart as a leader genuinely carries a humble spirit, authority becomes appealing and highly accepted.

Authority must always be exercised in the best interest of the people you serve and the vision you are committed to.

Nothing about authority should focus on personal gain.

3) Wisdom discerns and interprets knowledge.

If knowledge is silver, then wisdom is gold.

It’s mind-boggling that we can speak into our smartphones and, in seconds, receive an answer to nearly any question and information on almost any subject.

But that doesn’t mean the information is good, helpful, or morally sound.

Wisdom is the gift God gives us that allows us to discern right and wrong, good and evil, and especially that which is subjective in nature.

It’s in dealing with subjective matters where we need wisdom most.

Perhaps you need to make a really tough decision, and it’s from a cut and dry situation. (Few major decisions are.)

You gain the wisdom you need from four primary sources:

  • Directly from God through prayer
  • Scripture
  • Wise counsel from others
  • Experience

Are you tapping into all four?

4) Integrity is the currency of trust.

We intuitively move toward people we can count on.

We trust those who do what they say they will do.

The opposite is also true; we don’t trust people we can’t count on and therefore keep more distance from them.

Think about how that affects your leadership.

Can people count on you? If the answer is yes, your influence increases. If it’s no, your influence decreases.

Integrity is a substantial subject. It encompasses a large spectrum from major life promises to things as simple as calling someone back because you said you would.

It’s all part of your character, which, over the years, has a cumulative and compounding effect on the strength of your leadership.

5) Resilience places the dream within reach.

Resilience is like a leader’s superpower. Part of your success is that you just keep going; you don’t give up.

2020 is a year in which it’s easy to give up, and that’s different than quitting.

Far too many leaders have given up, resigned in their hearts, but still go to work every day. They go through the motions but have no resilience to bounce back from the tough stuff that life throws their way.

Resilience is the art of learning to deal with increasing and sustained pressure due to the size and scope of your ministry. How are you doing with this?

This is true for pressure or problems in your personal life as well.

Work and home are not experienced as separate. Your body and emotions know only one cumulative level of stress.

6) Courage inspires others to believe and take action.

Courage is contagious; it inspires others to action. It helps them believe they can.

Whether it’s something personal like a public declaration of faith or taking a big risk to start a business or launch a new campus, you set the pace for others by the courage you demonstrate.

Telling your story is one of the most courageous things you can do. It permits others to be real, get honest, and change for their good.

When someone hears your shortcomings and failures and sees your consistent Christlike lifestyle, it inspires them to continue to grow and mature too.

When you step up to serve and give yourself away for the vision’s benefit, others will too.

7) Confidence makes leadership believable.  

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either.

The best place to start is to believe God is with you.

I’m referring to something more than the assurance of your salvation and eternal life.

This is about knowing that God is actually with you in your leadership endeavors; he knows your struggles and is in the battle with you!

You know the story of God’s challenge to Moses. God wanted Moses to confront Pharaoh and demand the freedom of the Israelites. But Moses didn’t believe in himself. (“Who am I?”) Notice God’s response. “I will be with you.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you.

Exodus 3:11-12

There is much more to the concept of developing your confidence. If you are interested, you can check out my new book, Confident Leader!

13 thoughts on “7 Attributes That Demonstrate The Real Strength Of A Leader”

  1. Hello Dan:
    Love these insights from your leadership. Always thought-provoking and practical while still invokes possibilities for growth. Thank you for all that you do. Blessings.

  2. Thank you Dan for these seven deeply insightful explanations of authentic strength in a leader. One area that I think can be included is Emotional Control. As fallible human beings we are often governed by our feelings and our innate passions. Often these impulses express themselves seemingly without our participation! A leader must be unflaggingly self-aware to notice when his or her emotional reactions can threaten our leadership responsibilities. Even awareness can often fail to stem an undeserved remark, or a negative perspective on those we lead. As leaders, we must establish a firm foundation of emotional maturity, understanding and acceptance of our nature. We then build the additional leadership attributes on that foundation. And the best tools to build that foundation? Prayer, faith, selflessness and confession. Thanks so much for expanding the scope of what it means to be a strong and effective leader.

    1. You are most welcome Jarius!

      Thank you for you add. I agree with you about emotional control, that is so vital. And in more extreme cases, a few moments of, for example, an outburst of anger, can really hurt one’s leadership.

      Very insightful! Thank you again for your thoughts and comments.

  3. Kindness is one that I’m working on. I often use the excuse of driven, task focus to lose way to kindness. For me, it has to be intentional as it’s not very natural to me. Your post on kindness was great: https://2022.danreiland.com/1-overlooked-quality-leader/ Busyness and impatience can be my downfall but your practical tips of slowing down, taking time with the person is something I can work on… even though it can be painful to do so at times. One show of love is time, and I can do that.

    1. Hey Josh,

      Most of us are driven, and you are so right, kindness has to be intentional.

      It’s not that leaders don’t want to be kind. It’s almost like they/we think there isn’t enough time. (Which of course isn’t true.) There is always have enough time to be kind.


  4. I appreciate these insights. What sticks out to me is within #4 >>We trust those who do what they say they will do<<
    I think this is especially true when there is conflict among staff. I have seen many situations where the leader wants to do something, or change something, and a 'key' staff member does not, and is typically adamant and vocal, and the 'leader' backs down.

    Then everyone knows they can not do anything unless that 'key' staff member approves.
    As you have said- it is all about relationships. Thank you for the insights.

    1. Hi Ray,

      You are very welcome. Glad this post was helpful and thank you for sharing your thoughts and comments. Very true and practical.


  5. Amen! Thank you so much May the Lord JESUS CHRIST continue to use you. I appreciate these insights, and I’m
    greatly encouragedđź‘Ź.

  6. Hi Dan,

    Deeply appreciate your article exploring the real strengths of a leader – thanks! What resonates in particular with me is that none of these have anything to do with performance, outcomes, kpi’s or even vision. There is much written about all those aspects of leadership, however it is character, integrity, humility and aspects of a leader’s life like the fruit of the Spirit that I believe are essential attributes and qualities of godly leadership that are too often overlooked or relegated down the list of a high performing leader’s toolbox. No trust, no ministry!

    Blessings my friend to you, your family, your church and your ministry in 2021.

    1. Hi Neil,

      Great insight! These attributes are not related to performance. I think in the long run they enhance outcomes, but it helps us start in the right place… also obviously all based on the power of God!

      Thank you for your comments and insights!

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