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201 Words to Describe a Leader: The Good, Bad, and the Inbetween

201 Words to Describe a Leader: The Good, Bad, and the Inbetween

For a moment, think back on the leaders you’ve worked for, interacted with, and got to know over the years. What words would you use to describe those leaders?

If they were a good leader, you might use words like dedicated, understanding, and empathetic. Whereas, if you had a particularly bad leader, you might use words like aloof, unpredictable, and frantic.

Now, think about yourself. What words would you use to describe yourself as a leader? Are you happy with those words? If you aren’t, which ones would you like to use instead? Then consider what words your direct reports might use to describe you. Would you be proud if you heard them use those words or embarrassed?

This is a simple but powerful exercise any leader, manager, or supervisor can do. It’s not long or complicated and, if done consistently over time, can help you become the leader you not only need to be but want to be. Not to mention, it enables you to see how your seemingly small and insignificant everyday actions can add up over time and influence the way others see you in the workplace - for better or worse.

To help get you started, here is a list of 201 words that can be used to describe leaders. It contains words commonly associated with great leaders, words associated with bad leaders, and words that can mean different things depending on the situation or context.


Table of Contents


85 Words to Describe a Good Leader

This list of positive words to describe a good leader will not only help identify your existing leadership strengths but will also get you thinking about the ones you want to develop in the future. This is particularly helpful, as those aspirational words can then be used to create a development plan that reflects your unique professional vision.

  • Adaptable 
  • Accepting
  • Accountable
  • Ambitious 
  • Appreciative 
  • Approachable 
  • Assertive 
  • Attentive 
  • Authentic 
  • Calm
  • Caring
  • Charismatic 
  • Clever 
  • Collaborative 
  • Compassionate
  • Competent
  • Composed 
  • Confident
  • Conscientious
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Customer-centric
  • Decisive 
  • Dedicated 
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Dignified
  • Diligent 
  • Diplomatic 
  • Disciplined 
  • Driven
  • Dynamic
  • Empathetic
  • Empowered
  • Encouraging
  • Engaging
  • Enthusiastic 
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Ethical
  • Fair
  • Flexible
  • Forward-thinking 
  • Friendly
  • Fun
  • Grounded
  • Hardworking
  • Honest 
  • Humble
  • Independent 
  • Innovative
  • Intelligent 
  • Inspiring
  • Inviting
  • Kind
  • Knowledgeable 
  • Likable 
  • Logical
  • Memorable
  • Mindful 
  • Observant 
  • Open-minded 
  • Optimistic 
  • Organized 
  • Passionate
  • Personable 
  • Persuasive 
  • Positive
  • Principled 
  • Progressive
  • Receptive 
  • Reliable 
  • Resilient
  • Respectful
  • Results-driven
  • Sensible 
  • Sincere
  • Smart
  • Strategic
  • Supportive
  • Tenacious 
  • Thoughtful
  • Transparent
  • Trusting
  • Truthful 
  • Upstanding 
  • Welcoming

85 Words to Describe a Good Leader


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85 Words to Describe a Bad Leader

No leader is without fault or weakness; after all, you’re only human. So, while it might be challenging, try to be as honest as possible with yourself as you review the following list of negative words. Do any apply to you? Are there any words you think your direct reports, colleagues, or supervisors would use to describe you? If so, don’t panic. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to improve and grow as a leader.

  • Abrasive 
  • Absent 
  • Abusive
  • Aimless
  • Aloof
  • Antagonistic
  • Anxious 
  • Argumentative 
  • Arrogant 
  • Authoritarian
  • Avoidant 
  • Biased 
  • Bitter
  • Boastful
  • Cold
  • Combative
  • Complacent 
  • Condescending 
  • Confusing 
  • Controlling
  • Critical
  • Cynical 
  • Deceitful
  • Degrading
  • Demanding
  • Difficult 
  • Dishonest
  • Disrespectful
  • Egomaniacal 
  • Elusive 
  • Fearful
  • Flaky 
  • Forgetful 
  • Frantic
  • Hesitant 
  • Hostile
  • Hot-headed
  • Hypocritical
  • Hypercritical 
  • Indecisive 
  • Impatient 
  • Impulsive 
  • Incorrigible 
  • Inept
  • Inexperienced 
  • Insecure 
  • Judgemental 
  • Lazy 
  • Machiavellian
  • Manipulative 
  • Moody
  • Narcissistic 
  • Negative 
  • Neglectful 
  • Obnoxious 
  • Old-fashioned 
  • Opinionated 
  • Patronizing 
  • Pessimistic 
  • Pompous
  • Power-hungry
  • Prideful
  • Quik-tempered
  • Resentful 
  • Restrictive 
  • Rigid
  • Secretive
  • Selfish 
  • Show-off 
  • Shortsighted 
  • Stressed 
  • Tactless 
  • Toxic
  • Trepidatious 
  • Uptight 
  • Unapproachable
  • Unfair
  • Unfocused 
  • Ungrateful 
  • Unpredictable 
  • Unrealistic 
  • Unsupportive
  • Vain 
  • Volatile
  • Weak

85 Words to Describe a Bad Leader


31 Words to Describe a Leader That Can Have Double Meanings

There are a handful of words commonly used to describe leaders that have double meanings, depending on who they are used by and the context they are used in. For example, the word non-traditional can either be a good or a bad thing. It will be up to you to analyze the use of the word and decide what it means to you.

  • Agreeable 
  • Blunt 
  • Careful 
  • Competitive
  • Complex
  • Conventional 
  • Daring
  • Different 
  • Disruptive 
  • Dominant 
  • Eager
  • Emotional 
  • Fierce
  • Formal
  • Insatiable 
  • Intense 
  • Laidback 
  • Non-traditional 
  • Opportunistic
  • Perfectionist 
  • Practical 
  • Predictable 
  • Relentless 
  • Righteous 
  • Risk-averse
  • Self-conscious
  • Stoic
  • Stubborn
  • Traditional
  • Unapologetic 
  • Vulnerable 


Next Steps: Putting Your Knowledge Into Action

Once you have a list of words you would use to describe yourself as a leader, it’s time to do something with that knowledge. If your list contains positive words, think about how you can uphold your strengths and build on them in the future. If your list contains negative words, then it will be important that you create a plan of action to address those characteristics through leadership training for managers. Many leaders find it helpful to capture this information in a development plan, as it will also prompt you to break out your goals into steps, set a timeline, and identify resources needed, such as financial support for leadership training or coaching.

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