The 2 unexpected traits of all great leaders

Nelson Mandela at the Mandela FoundationAssociated PressNelson Mandela was a truly inspiring leader.

You’ve read it over and over again — the best leaders are team-players who are honest, confident, committed, and hard-working.

A lot of people fit this generic description, so what sets truly inspiring leaders apart from the rest of the pack?

Business Insider spoke with Professor Herminia Ibarra, author of “Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader,” and asked the leadership expert about the most surprising characteristics of the greatest leaders.

While Ibarra was quick to shut down the idea of a universal leader — “there’s no model — some work really hard and some do it more effortlessly; some of them are really people-oriented and some are not at all” — she did mention two essential qualities that apply to all effective leaders.

“Successful leaders really believe in what they’re trying to do, and they manage to be contagious in their enthusiasm for it,” says Ibarra, “but there are many different ways of going about that.”

She warns against our determination to pinpoint universal leadership qualities. “I think part of the problem with leadership education is that we’re asking ‘what is the model?’ or ‘what are the six traits of a good leader?’ or ‘what do these certain people do before breakfast?’ But there is no model, and it varies a lot by situation.”

A cookie cutter template for leadership does not exist. Great leaders come from all walks of life, in all shapes and sizes. They don’t necessarily share the same traits — what they do share, though, is a deep belief in what they’re trying to get done, and the ability to transmit their passion and enthusiasm for this belief to other people, she says.

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