Elance Blog

What Makes a Great Leader?

People around the world often discuss and debate this question:  What makes someone a great leader?

In one of our market research projects, we surveyed a group of Elancers for their perspective on this topic, and asked them to identify the key characteristics of what makes a great leader:

We are not surprised that vision and ability to inspire to act are at the top of the list of characteristics, but interestingly, only a small percentage of survey respondents identified teamwork as key to what makes a great leader.

What do you think makes someone a great leader, and is teamwork a key requirement?


To think original and to find the most economical ways & shortest channels to express the same.

Sadly, I have none of the above. Vision is relative. We all have vision; some more than others. Vision is a great thing to have if you also have communication skills and the ability to inspire to act. These things together make a great public speaker. Someone you can rally around. Those attributes will really get you going in a pep rally. But a leader has to be more than Flavor Flav.

Integrity is nice if it isn't for show. A person with solid principles and candor, that's the ideal. I think a leader needs a bit of a dishonest streak to get along in a dishonest world. I'm scared of the leader who is too honest. After all, this person is to be human, right? Someone like me and you. I can see why integrity didn't swing a huge vote.

Teamwork is up for grabs. Who's on the team? Home field advantage or what? I'd like someone who plays well with others, but not if they're going to give up their whole set of legos. Too willing to be a team player might make a person easy to fool or a pushover.

My ideal leader is experienced, englightened, shows constraint to an extent, has that grit and valor thing going on and is just. Vision worked out well for Bill Gates though.

I believe the group captured the essence of great leaders. However, it has been my experience that if you have a Vision, Communicate that Vision well and get buy-in, then inspire to act on it, Teamwork is the natural follow on. Integrity speaks to the longevity of the leader, this also leads to teamwork and the entire process builds trust. Once Trust is built, and the Vision remains, you get a Jack Welsh.

When there is no team, there is no need for a leader, there is no need for integrity or communication or an ability to inspire to act, and the virtues like integrity, ability to inspire to act and communications skills do not have a stage or room to play. Therefore, if leadership should live, there is a strong need for a team and team work.

When there is a team, there is an automated need for someone to bring in integrity in the team with their strong communication skills and their ability to inspire to act.

Summing up, when there is a vision to be accomplished, we need a team to get it doing; to get the team work right, we need a leader who can integrate the team, to work for the vision with his/her ability to inspire to act.