The 5 characteristics of great leaders. On fastcompany.com Bill Mcbean states there are essentially five characteristics of great leaders. The first of these is being flexible. Not everything goes as planned. Competitors change tactics, governments force new regulations on business, strikes stop the flow of products, and, occasionally, natural disasters occur. And at times like these, leaders have to be able to change course; that is, first make sure their businesses will survive, and then find a new way to reach their goals.