The 10 qualities of world-class leaders

Adrien Van Thong
3 min readJan 24, 2018

Aspiring leaders often ask what the important traits are of a successful leader. Typically, the best advice is to model the desired behaviours observed in other successful leaders. The following is my personal list of what I have observed to be 10 of the most important qualities of world-class leaders.

Optimize for the team’s success

World-class leaders help elevate those around them, helping their teammates unlock new abilities and showcasing their unique superpowers. These leaders are hyper-focused on helping set up every team member for success.

Lead by example

People tend to emulate the behaviours of the leaders and other successful people around them. World-class leaders demonstrate a good example by acting in the ways they expect their teammates to act. This also happens to be a great way to set forth positive change on a team (more on that later).

Default to transparency

Nobody likes to be left in the dark about something important. World-class leaders seek to keep their team members in-the-loop as much as possible to the latest on-goings inside and outside the team. This is especially important when the information impacts the day-to-day operations of the team. These leaders never withhold information from their teammates.

Communicate clearly

Similar to the previous point, world-class leaders over-communicate expectations, status, barriers, plans of action, schedules, etc. to the rest of the team, and ensure this information is well understood. Clear and concise are usually the way they do this.

Alleviate barriers

World-class leaders proactively identify and help to remove anything that is standing in their team’s way for success. These leaders anticipate roadblocks because they understand that some personalities may be hesitant to ask for help. These leaders know that the right questions need to be asked to uncover the barriers.

Set a vision

World-class leaders ensure a clear vision is defined, and that each teammate is aware of the vision and understands it completely. The vision can be crowd-sourced from the team itself to help garner buy-in and a sense of ownership from everyone.

Create clarity out of ambiguity

When starting a new project or feature, it’s not always clear what the end goal is or the conditions for success are. World-class leaders help the team by eliminating confusion and bringing clarity by defining scope, goals, problem space, measures of success, etc.

Build collaboration within and across teams

World-class leaders constantly bust down silos and encourage their team members to collaborate with each other to solve problems. The team should always leverage each others’ superpowers to elevate their own capabilities while solving the most challenging problems. Teams should also reach out and collaborate with other teams whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Diffuse negativity

Positive energy draws out the latent abilities in people, whereas negativity kills productivity and morale. Bad things will happen in life and in software but world-class leaders will help the team navigate through these bad events as they happen, rallying the team around potential solutions and lighting the way forward. Commiseration is the anti-pattern to be avoided.

Be an agent for positive change

Change is inevitable — world-class leaders help their teammates embrace it and are ambassadors for changes as they come. The tech industry is constantly evolving, and the only way to stay relevant is to adapt. World-class leaders encourage their teammates to constantly look for ways to evolve their role in the organizations by bringing in new tools, new technologies, new processes, new techniques, etc. Continuous improvement can help teams maximize their potential by being more efficient and more productive every day.

What are your top ten qualities you strive for as a leader? What do you admire in the people that lead you? Sound off in the comments below.