15 Leadership Traits and Qualities of Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison is one of the most famous and successful inventors in history. He is known for his inventions, such as the light bulb, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera.

Many people don’t know about Edison because he was also a businessman and an excellent leader.

In fact, when Thomas Edison was only 13, he started his career selling newspapers to passengers on a train. And when he died in 1931, he had accumulated over USD 12 million.

These are the leadership traits and qualities that made Thomas Edison so successful:

He was determined

One leadership quality that Edison possessed was his determination. He was always willing to put in the hard work to see his projects through to completion.

This determination helped him achieve some of his greatest successes, such as inventing the light bulb.

quote
"Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."
Thomas Edison

He had good communication skills

Edison was also an excellent communicator. He was able to explain his ideas clearly and concisely. This made it easier for people to understand his vision and follow his lead.

Here is an interview with Thomas Edison on his birthday in 1931, the year he died, to give you an impression of his personality.

He was great at delegating

Another one of Edison’s leadership qualities was his ability to delegate.

He knew that he couldn’t do everything himself, so he was always willing to delegate tasks to other people. This allowed him to focus on the most important aspects of his work.

Additionally, Edison recognized that, although time on the clock was limited, the source of creative inspiration was limitless. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of energy, and he possessed a great breadth of expression.

He was absorbed in whatever he was doing, experiencing life in the now. Edison established an ideal rhythm that allowed him to maintain incredible stamina and performance.

He was persistent

Edison would always question what the failure indicated when an experiment failed and eagerly write what he had discovered.

His journals are filled with information on what he learned from his failed ideas, including his many tests on willpower (he conducted countless experiments with rubber tubes extended from his forehead, trying to will the physical movement of a pendulum).

When an assistant once asked Edison why he was attempting to find a long-lasting filament for the light bulb despite failing hundreds of times, Edison replied that he didn’t understand the question.

In his opinion, he had never failed.

Instead, he claimed to have unearthed thousands of failed experiments. Finally, he finished Patent 251,539 for the light bulb, bringing fame and money.

Another innovation he never abandoned was the movie camera. During the development of the movie camera, he had to figure out how to take frame-by-frame photographs at a rate of roughly 24 frames per second.

To make a film seem smooth and lifelike, the images must move fast enough to appear genuine. Edison needed to figure out how to move these images quickly enough to generate a realistic movie.

quote
"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time."
Thomas Edison

He was creative

To begin with, Edison felt that to uncover a good idea, one must develop numerous ideas. Quality emerges from abundance. He established idea quotas for all of his employees.

His personal goal was to make one small innovation every ten days and one significant invention every six months. The alkaline storage cell battery required almost 50,000 tests to develop, while the lamp took 9000.

Edison saw creativity as nothing more than good, honest, hard labor. He famously remarked that genius is 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration.

Every wonderful idea he had was followed by a dud, such as the horse-drawn machine that would gather snow and ice in the winter and compress it into blocks that people could use as a refrigerant in the summer.

He had vision

One of many qualities he gains is his capacity to perceive the broader picture in his innovations, sometimes known as a visionary.

Edison designed several of his innovations with a specific purpose in mind, such as the light bulb, which he knew would have a major influence on the globe in the future.

When he built the movie camera, he also realized how it might elicit emotions in people and motivate them to achieve their goals in life. One of the final innovations he viewed as having the greatest promise was the phonograph or voice recorder at the time.

When he created this, he immediately realized how it would progress technology and allow you to capture another person’s thoughts and discussions.

He was a workaholic

Work, like many workaholics, comes first, followed by food and family. “Work hard and enjoy afterward," as some say. Edison didn’t have much time for leisure, although he did buy and develop land in Fort Myers, Florida, to get away from the Menlo Park grind.

Workers who could keep up with him during his “insomnia squad” all-night binge searches for lab answers were more likely to withstand his staff changes.

When balance sheet changes had to be made, workers who were unwilling or unable to work the long, grueling hours often left or were eliminated from the payroll.

Edison disliked public speaking, yet he had a “talent for gab.” He was fairly eloquent and compelling when he did take the time to preach on nearly any topic.

quote
"There is no substitute for hard work."
Thomas Edison

He was solution-oriented

Edison thought that success was inevitable, and this idea fueled all of his endeavors. His solution-focused approach enabled him to embrace impossible aspirations, such as lighting the globe and making them a reality.

Edison’s aims were connected with his interests, and he built a tremendous feeling of optimism that drew employees, investors, consumers, and, finally, the whole country around him.

He was humble

One of the most important qualities for a leader is to remain humble in their success. Although Edison was one of the most prolific inventors of his time, he was always quick to give credit where it was due.

He once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work." This quote is often attributed to his determination and resilience in the face of failure. By admitting his mistakes, he learned from them and moved on to greater success.

quote
"We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything."
Thomas Edison

He was a lifelong learner

Another key quality that Edison possessed was his willingness to learn throughout his life. He was always seeking out new knowledge and experimenting with different ideas.

This curiosity led him to some of his greatest inventions, such as the light bulb and the phonograph. Even in his later years, Edison continued to learn and experiment, a quality that all great leaders possess.

He was resilient

In addition to being a lifelong learner, Edison was also extremely resilient. He faced many challenges and setbacks throughout his career, but he always managed to bounce back. This is a quality that is essential for any leader.

He was a good listener

One quality that is often overlooked in leaders is the ability to listen. Edison was a great listener, and he always took the time to hear what others had to say.

This quality allowed him to learn from those around him and make better decisions. By listening to others, Edison was able to gain a different perspective on things, which led to his success.

He was always seeking out new knowledge and experimenting with different ideas. This curiosity led him to some of his greatest inventions, such as the light bulb and the phonograph.

Even in his later years, Edison continued to learn and experiment, a quality that all great leaders possess.

He was willing to take risks

Edison was not only a visionary, but he was also willing to take risks to achieve his goals. He set up a laboratory in New Jersey where he conducted over ten thousand experiments, many of which failed.

However, he never gave up and continued trying new things until he found a solution that worked. This willingness to take risks led him to success in many of his endeavors.

He had a positive attitude

Edison was not only persistent, but he also had a positive attitude. He believed that anything was possible if you set your mind to it and worked hard. This positive attitude led him to success in many of his endeavors.

quote
"They say President Wilson has blundered. Perhaps he has, but I notice he usually blunders forward."
Thomas Edison

He could inspire others

One of the most important leadership qualities that Edison possessed was his ability to inspire others.

He was always coming up with new ideas and projects, and he was always looking for ways to improve upon his previous work.

Thomas Edison was a very inspiring leader because people could see that he was constantly striving to achieve more.

Bonus: A day with Thomas A. Edison

Conclusion

Thomas Edison was one of the most successful inventors and businessmen.

He possessed many qualities that made him a great leader, including determination, creativity, and perseverance.

These traits helped him achieve his goals and create new technologies that changed the world. If you want to be a successful leader, study the life and work of Thomas Edison to learn from his example.


About the Author
James has over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. As a founder, he led startup teams as well as million-dollar companies. He has recently turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass his knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments regarding the content of this post, please send us a message via the contact page.
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