8 Core Leadership Values Every Great Leader Possesses

Written By Chris A. Maslin


From finance to hospitality, large corporations to quickly scaling small businesses, to find success in business, every organization needs great leaders. Aside from gaining the respect of employees and colleagues, great leaders positively impact everything from company culture to profitability and brand acceptance.

For The Biltmore Company, that person was our founder, George Vanderbilt. As a passionate, courageous leader with clear, heartfelt vision and a strong sense of ownership, Mr. Vanderbilt set the foundation for generations of successful employees. But what makes a leader truly great? Why do some men and women make it seem easy transforming diverse groups of people into high-functioning teams? Or the ability to navigate stressful situations with ease? They likely exhibited a few—or all— of the below eight traits and values.

1. Self-leadership

More than just self-awareness, self-leadership means examining who you are, where you excel and where you have room to grow—and leaning into your findings to manage and guide yourself. Great leaders are able to nurture and harness their own skills and navigate their weaknesses; and as a result, they’re able to lead others to do the same.

2. Transparency

Most employees aren’t thrilled by surprises; they want to know what’s going on behind the scenes because it gives them a sense of ownership and allows them to plan for the future. Leaders who value truth and transparency cultivate loyalty and morale within their companies and ensure employees feel seen, heard and valued. Demonstrating the courage to proactively address potentially difficult situations, while showing kindness and authority, creates a culture of trust.

3. Authenticity

Authenticity stems from self-leadership. When you have a fundamental understanding of yourself, it’s difficult to fake what’s important to you. Great leaders know what’s driving them, and they make their core truths known in their work. George Vanderbilt and his wife Edith embodied authenticity as leaders, serving their employees with grace and uncommon kindness in the late 19th century. This core value of authenticity and kindness has spread through generations of family ownership and is a core tenet of Biltmore’s culture today.

4. Forward-thinking

Great leaders don’t just focus on the here and now or the measurable aspects of their businesses. Instead, they operate as goal-oriented strategists. They know each and every action they take will have an effect, and they learn to anticipate what it will be. Such vision-oriented leaders come out on top more often than not because they make certain processes more effective with well-planned, well-executed tactics.

5. Creativity

When it comes to thinking outside the box or stepping outside their comfort zones, great leaders are well-versed. Consider Bill Gates, who built Microsoft on a belief that creativity could change the world. One of the most innovative leaders of our time, Gates created a groundbreaking company in the face of countless, ever-changing challenges. Great leaders are problem solvers who aren’t afraid of changing their perspective or encouraging collaboration in order to achieve a goal or overcome an unforeseen circumstance.

6. Empathy

The old adage “put yourself in their shoes” rings true with the most effective leaders. Empathy means having the ability to understand another person’s perspective and feelings—and leaders who succeed in doing such also succeed in enabling others to create remarkable work. Why? Investing in others with empathy cultivates a culture where employees feel safe, comfortable and effective.

7. Decisiveness

Unshakeable confidence and the ability to make a decision without delay is critical when building confidence and trust from your team. While it may not come naturally, decisiveness—and the courage to take responsibility for a choice—is something employees expect from management. It will bolster credibility and gives leaders authority that can’t be easily questioned.

8. Passion

Driven by curiosity and a desire to connect with the world around them, passionate leaders are often inspired to do their very best and encourage others to do the same. And thanks to their fiery, soulful convictions, they become change agents who don’t just talk-the-talk but walk-the- walk.

Becoming a great leader takes time and practice, but it is possible. If you’re ready to finesse your leadership skills, join us for an Authentic Leadership workshop with Biltmore Center for Professional Development.