Top 20 Leadership Traits of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Founder of the Turkish Republic)

Who is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and what did he achieve?  

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the founder and the first president of the Republic of Turkey.

His name Ataturk which means the father of the Turks, was granted to him by the government. He served as the president of Turkey from 1923 until he died in 1938.

Ataturk was born in 1881 in a town called Salonika that is now called Thessaloniki. Salonika was a part of the Ottoman Empire when Ataturk was born.

In 1893, at the age of 12, Ataturk joined Rüşdiye, an imperial military school of the Ottoman Empire.

He then advanced to the Ottoman Military College situated in Istanbul, where he graduated in 1905 as a senior grade lieutenant of the Ottoman Empire.

In the year 1911, Ataturk served at the Battle of Tripoli to fight against Italians who were on a mission to conquer Libya.

In 1912, he contributed to the Balkan wars, which ended in 1913 and was one of fifteen major events which lead to World War I.

In 1914, Ataturk was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant colonel in the Ottoman army.

A monument of Ataturk at Ankara University, Turkey.

How did Ataturk rise to power?

In the year 1914, Mustafa Kemal was entrusted with the responsibility of commanding and organising the 19th infantry division at the front-line of the Battle of Gallipoli.

Ataturk became a national hero and solidified his reputation in 1915, during the Battle of Gallipoli, when he anticipated the position where the Allies of World War I (Entente Powers) would attack.

As a result of his intuitiveness, he went against military orders and triumphantly rebelled against the Dardanelles attack.

Until the year 1916, he served at Edirne.

In 1917, he was promoted to an overall commanding officer of the second army after he declined to establish a new army.

In the same year, he replaced Fevzi Pasha and became the German general.

The last service that Ataturk offered at the Ottoman troop was ensuring that the Ottoman army returned to Turkey when they were left out in the south.

In 1919, Mustafa Kemal resigned from the Ottoman army and returned to the Ottoman Empire.

In the same year of 1919, Ataturk led a nationalist revolution that took place in Anatolia.

The Revolution was organised to resist settlement by the Entente Powers.

The Entente Powers intended to seize Smyrna.

Ataturk secured an Amendment of the peace agreement when he gained victory over the Greeks.

Later, in 1921, Mustafa Kemal came up with a provisional government in Ankara.

In 1922, The Ottoman Empire was abolished. In 1923, Turkey became a republic.

Mustafa Kemal became the first president of Turkey. He founded a party regime that was free from conflict until the year 1945.

On March 24, 1923, ‘Mustapha’ Kemal Ataturk was featured on the front-page of TIME Magazine.

In 1925, Ataturk gave a speech where he said that the people of Turkey are democratic and that the people of the United States of America are their allies.

In the video, available below, Ataturk stated that “Turkish people have a deep and powerful fondness for American people” and should “keep the world at peace through a mutual alliance”.

He noted that he was certain the US felt the same way.


There is some probability Ataturk drew inspiration from George Washington, from his days as a teen studying the wars of America’s Founding Father at military school, to his adult days when he became the Turkish equivalent.

Both America and Turkey shared a mutual antagonist during their wars of independence, namely the British Empire.

As the president of Turkey, Ataturk established a political and social re-organisation of his nation.

Some of the reforms were the elimination of the Islamic institutes, the introduction of Latin scripts, and the liberation of women. He also established strong relations with neighbouring states.

On the 10th of November 1938, he died from Liver Cirrhosis.

Short video biography of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (English Documentary)

20 Essential Leadership Traits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

1. Broad Thinker

Ataturk was a skillful military and a political leader.

This is seen from some of his accomplishments in the military like anticipating the position where his enemies would attack.

Ataturk was also entrusted with challenging assignments where he performed well and got a promotion as a result.

Being the first president of Turkey when the Republic was being transformed required him to be a critical leader.

In 1919, he launched a defensive revolutionary war against antagonistic empires despite the fact that the Ottoman Sultan opposed it.

2. Excellent Communicator

When making important decisions, he consulted other leaders.

Ataturk successfully shared his religious beliefs, goals, and amendments with his followers.

For instance, when making decisions about religious reforms, he could reach out to Hoca Rasit Efendi who led religious affairs in the Ottoman Empire.

In case Hoca Rasit needed more persuasion, General Fevzi, who had strong Islamic stands, was referred to him.

More so, Ataturk reached other soldiers, villagers, artisans and common people.

3. Alluring Persuasion

Ataturk was able to convince his followers and his close friends to support him in achieving his objectives.

He established a new and revolutionised Turkey by convincing her people.

He strategically shared how implementing reforms would make the nation better than before.

He could create hope, confidence, and courage so that his followers could fight alongside him, even though some opposed his ideas.

Through his power of convincing people, he was able to achieve what most people thought was impossible.

4. Consistent Assertion

Ataturk convinced people that culture and civilisation were synonymous.

He was able to counter Ziya Gokalp who was a Turkish ideologist on nationalism.

Gokalp believed that there was a distinction between culture, which he thought was born out of religion, and civilisation, which he felt was a product of a global universal science.

Mustafa Kemal insisted that his friends should modernise their lavatories and the waiters should be trained in a modern way.

Mustafa Kemal derived his assertive nature from military school and his mother.

5. Open-Minded Learner

Ataturk believed that acquiring knowledge was the main recipe for survival.

His past influenced his thinking. He invested a lot in knowledge, and it is because he had to remedy the shortage of skills and information in his country at the time.

He valued civilisation a great deal and the only way Turkey could survive its process was through acquiring knowledge.

Ataturk could acquire merchants and professionals who were able to run the republic as it found its way to modernisation.

He also believed that civilisation would drive away what he referred as a “dark cloud of general ignorance.”

6. Transformational Leader

Ataturk believed in change.

He changed the Arabic alphabet to Latin in Turkey. This forced the people of Turkey to learn a new language.

He also declared that Turkey was a state separate from the Muslim religion; He closed Islamic institutes, allowed alcohol and granted prayer to be in the Turkish language instead of Arabic.

In addition, he allowed women to wear dresses or jeans and access education, which was not allowed prior to his leadership.

By changing a remnant of The Ottoman Empire to a secular republic, he also acted as a transformational leader.

7. Consistent Performer

Ataturk’s steady nature is seen from his endless energy in his career.

He consistently fought against political forces that led to the crumbling of the empire.

He also worked tirelessly in all assignments entrusted to him.

As a result, Ataturk served successfully in every chain of command, operation and defensive battle assigned to him.

Winston Churchill also referred to him as “a man of Destiny.”

8. Game-Changer

One of Mustafa Kemal’s main accomplishments that enabled Turkey to exist as a nation is when he formed a non-expansionist force to defend against the aggression of simultaneous attacks on multiple-fronts from Entene Powers including Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, and France to name a few, and yet he still succeeded.

He also replaced the strongest remnant of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, being partitioned by colonial forces before his eyes, with a Turkish republic.

This breakthrough required him to face many oppositions plus change many rules & regulations that were stringent in legal, economic, political, social and cultural fields.

If he did not have a game-changer trait, Turkey would not have existed as a republic.

9. Quick Decision Maker

Ataturk faced many critics in his time, and because of this, he adopted an executive form of leadership.

The chances are that he could not be successful if he were slow at decision-making.

This type of leadership style allowed Ataturk to make fast decisions as well as implement measures immediately and determinedly.

Many adverse conditions existed in Turkey and therefore, he being a quick thinker knew that there was little or no time for compromise building.

10. Loyal Associate

Ataturk trusted and cherished his associates.

His close friends respected and were outright loyal to him in every significant step of his life.

Some of them included Fevzi Cakmak, who was the chief of staff, Ismet Inonu who was the prime minister, and Karim Ozalp who was the defence Minister.

These friends supported his leadership ideologies, while Ataturk supported them and carried out common ideals so that they could realise their potential.

For every leader in a business or a political forum to succeed, it is imperative for them to have close associates who support them in their endeavors.

11. Visionary Imagination

Ataturk had extraordinary objectives for his people and his country.

He believed in something that was greater than himself.

Throughout his life, he was a results-oriented person who had ambitions of enabling his country to reach the highest level of modernisation.

Not only was he smart, but also determined, reformist, fearless and inquisitive.

In the late Ottoman period when his empire was deteriorating, he had the goal of revolutionising his renewed country and making it great.

His vision was to ensure a modern and secular Turkish republic, which became reality as a result of his visionary insight.

12. Altruistic Goals

Throughout his reign, Ataturk worked for the good of the country and its people.

He worked unselfishly for his dreams and was able to accomplish most of them at a tender age.

Most people and his followers gained from his achievements.

By changing Arabic alphabets to Latin letters, he enabled the people to become literate more quickly.

As a result, more people became well educated during his reign.

He also made a profound impact by implementing westernised legal systems like commerce codes, civil codes and new legislation.

13. Liberal Command

Ataturk fought tirelessly against the Entene Powers and affiliated armies, on a mission to colonise his motherland.

More so, he enacted laws that were free from gender discrimination, opening the way for women to hold positions of power in all sectors of society including the government, business and military.

This led to thousands of courageous women including Fatma Seher Erden, Şerife Bacı, Hafız Selman İzbeli, and Tayyar Rahmiye amongst others to contribute as military leaders during the Turkish War of Independence.

The equality laws brought forth by Ataturk allowed women to get an education as well as dress freely.

More so, Ataturk ensured that women had equal rights with those of men across every facet of society.

Women were also allowed to end divorce at their discretion.

He believed in modernisation, which made Turkey free from stringent rules.

14. Peace-Maker

Ataturk adopted the policy of having peace at home and peace in the world.

Additionally, he inspired other leaders who were in other Muslim countries.

In his reign, he established relations with the neighbouring nations to ensure there was harmony amongst them.

More so, he had an enemy, Eleftherios Venizelos, who later became his ally and nominated him for the Nobel Peace award.

He was rational in his decisions and did not take sides at any given moment.

He clearly stated that he did not have a religion.

15. Courageous Guide

Ataturk’s courage is evidently seen from fighting in battle.

He led the Gallipoli campaign. He was always at the front-line wheeling guns, sending his troops to battles which they had little chance of surviving.

To achieve independence Ataturk fought with his army to achieve victory.

More so, he also declined change of army when he was the commander.

He relocated his division to Conkbayiri despite having no approval from the headquarters, which led to military success and his promotion.

16. Strict Morals

Not every decision made by Mustafa Kemal was for his gain but the sake of Turkey.

He was also strict and loyal to his virtues.

Some of the ideas that motivated him to include developing a national power, transforming Turkey into a westernised country, achieving a standard of living and movement to liberal political and economic status.

More so, he was not distracted by the lost provinces of The Ottoman Empire in Asia and Europe as well as provinces of The Russian Empire that had fallen when he was fighting for independence.

17. Unshakeable Confidence

Ataturk described himself as a successful person in his speeches.

He was also determined to ensure that Turkey got her independence when Ataturk came up with a war strategy that balanced military and political aspects in alignment with changing situations.

He created a national assembly and gained nationwide support for fighting for independence.

Despite unfavourable circumstances, he fought for freedom against five established nations simultaneously without being distracted by political or resource limitations and came out victorious.

18. Rational Wisdom

Well-grounded logic and generous patronage were scarce traits at the time.

Ataturk’s wise and philanthropic attitude was rare. He could make a decision from a rational point of view instead of a religious point of view. However, he appreciated the differences that other people had.

Some of his close companions like Ahmet Izzet and Ismet Inonu were confirmed, religious people.

More so, his friends carried a Quran everywhere they went. However, Mustafa Kemal ensured that religion did not get in the way of Turkey’s development.

19. Calculated Strategist

Ataturk outlined clear rules that would govern his nation.

Some of the just, upright and free principles that guided his leadership included a declaration of the public, abolishing of the caliphate, wearing hats, and eliminating the ministry in charge of religious activities.

In terms of organisation he set out both theoretical and practical rules and regulations.

More so, he stated that no opposition could ever affect the fate of the Turkish Republic.

Other principles included the building of infrastructures such as railways, unifying production, modifying the tax of agriculture products, and much more.

20. Enlightened Flexibility

Ataturk’s flexibility could be observed from when he tried to consult his fellow leaders on some reforms.

He did not assume a despot kind of leadership, but a diplomatic attitude with an open mind towards the notions provided by clear resistance.

As the Turkish war of independence was fought, Ataturk clearly supported his troops and encouraged them to win.

He also promoted a way of modernisation in his country that called for everyone to leave their old ways and be more flexible.

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