Three surprising qualities of successful leaders

When you think about the qualities of successful leaders, you may think of someone driven, charismatic, visionary or confident. The truth about the qualities that truly make a leader successful, however, looks a little different. It looks more like servant leadership, where leading is less about getting employees to follow you and more about you serving employees.

Successful leaders seek to serve first

Servant leadership, as defined by, is a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. You can see it playing out in a variety of successful businesses and organizations. And you can see it in three surprising qualities of a good leader from Karla Cook on

At first they may seem counterintuitive. But when you take a closer look, they all align with the characteristics of a servant leader.

#1 Successful leaders experience self-doubt

Insecurity can lead to more critical thinking, and that leads to more realistic decisions. Self-doubt can also keep a leader from becoming too comfortable in their position. It takes character to keep the self-doubt in check, though. Too often, people will try to hide their insecurities through bullying, behaving like a know-it-all or micromanaging. The key here is to use your doubt to become more adaptable to change and continuously improve yourself.

#2 Successful leaders are predictable

Twice a year, Google employees review their bosses in an “upward feedback survey” where they evaluate 12 to 18 factors, according to In reviewing the data, Google found that the most successful leaders are predictable and consistent—as those qualities essentially remove leaders as road blocks to employee progress. Leaders’ predictability encourages more creativity and autonomy in the workplace, which leads to greater employee happiness and higher job performance.

#3 Successful leaders work collaboratively

In today’s fast-paced world, there’s no room for ivory towers where directives are handed down for everyone else to execute. Successful leaders know they do not have a monopoly on the best ideas. Instead, they know how to put their egos aside and open themselves to others’ ideas, understanding that many of the best ideas come from teams who are welcome to share conflicting opinions and who have high morale because they are connected with one another and know their opinions are valued.

Successful leaders are servants first

While some traditional notions about good leaders can certainly help you be more successful (e.g., charisma, decisiveness), the outmoded idea that a leader is at the top of the pyramid will not. Servant leaders share power and develop people, leading to greater success for all.

Character Lives