6 Traits That Show Leadership Potential

Being a team player is a common leadership trait

Being a team player is a trait of successful leaders

By Beth Leslie

Power. Prestige. A paycheque to make your head spin.

There are plenty of reasons many of us dream of becoming a leader in our field. But when we’re stuck way down the career ladder as the office dogsbody, that dream can seem impossible to achieve. After all, when your work is mostly menial or low-level, you don’t have any opportunity to demonstrate to your bosses that you would be a kick-ass leader, right?

Wrong. In reality, you don’t have to manage anybody or anything in order to dazzle your company with your leadership potential. That’s because all great leaders share some common traits which even the lowliest intern can cultivate and display.


Great leadership is synonymous with innovation. Simply overseeing the status quo won’t cut it; good leaders should be constantly advocating for and implementing new strategies. That’s why having a creative mindset is so important: it confers the ability to think outside the box and see potential in new possibilities.

Junior employees can prove their creativity credentials by constantly critiquing their own work. Think about your daily tasks. What works? What doesn’t? How could you do things differently? What effect would a different way of doing things have?

Be mindful, however, that your critiquing doesn’t stray into outright criticism of your company’s current procedures. Share your ideas with your manager as a discussion point on which you want to solicit their advice, not a diatribe of everything wrong with the way your colleagues currently do their job.


Success is rarely easy. Becoming a respected and venerated leader requires a lot of hard work, particularly when it comes to hard-slog tasks that are boring but essential to a project’s success. Plugging away at the start of your career doesn’t just help you cultivate the sort of habits that will be crucial in higher positions, it also builds you a reputation for diligence and conscientious.

This reputation is your key to higher positions. Colleagues and managers who notice your grafting are likely to give you glowing references. A company who sees you excel at your current tasks will feel confident about giving you more responsibility.


Leaders have to be able to inspire others and carry a room. They have to know how to get people to invest – emotionally and financially – in their projects. Part of this comes from competence. But a great deal of it also comes from confidence. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should anybody else believe in you?

Think about the ways you could project confidence in your current role. Do you speak up in meetings and team projects? Can you communicate clearly and articulately? Can you make and stick with decisions when called for? Are you able to throw yourself into a new task and face any challenges head-on?

If you’re currently more of the shy and retiring type, there are plenty of online and offline resources to help you find your voice. If you’re already comfortable pushing yourself forward, just be careful that you know the difference between projecting confidence and projecting arrogance. Confidence is not about assuming you know better than everyone else.


Have you ever had a boss who insisted everything they did was wonderful, all while the company was crashing down around their ears? If so, you’ll understand why self-awareness is one of the most important traits a leader can have.

Self-awareness is a form of emotional intelligence. It’s about being aware of your own biases and emotions, in order to analyse and control them. Make it a point of principle to be constantly evaluating yourself – and regularly ask friends, colleagues and managers to evaluate you too, to see if your internal assessment is on track.

Think about where your weaknesses lie, and how you can best combat or overcome them. At the same time, think about your strengths. Where can you shine? Where would it be most productive to concentrate your talents?


Bad leaders blame everyone but themselves. Good leaders evaluate mistakes fairly and honestly, only use criticism in a way that is constructive, and understand that as the leader of the project the buck ultimately stops with them.

As a junior employee, accountability is equally important. When things go wrong, switch your focus from pointing fingers to finding solutions. At the same time, be quick and willing to own up to your own slip-ups and shortcomings. It’s not about self-flagellation – we all make mistakes – but establishing a reputation for honesty and integrity.

Hold up your hands to the problem, fix it, then move on.

Team Player

If you think leadership is about shining a spotlight on your own achievements, you’ve got it wrong. Great leaders are venerated by other people, sure, but they themselves devote most of their attention to valuing and promoting their subordinates and team-mates.

Leaders take time to communicate and empathize with other people because they understand that that is how you motivate teams into producing great results.

So the next time you have the opportunity to hog the limelight, considering making some room for the people who helped you to your success. Giving praise where it’s due isn’t just a way to make your co-workers like you – it also encourages your managers to think that a person who is so great at working in teams should be given the opportunity to lead them.



Beth Leslie is a career and lifestyle writer. She is also the editor of the Inspiring Interns blog, which gives graduate careers advice to career starters.

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