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We Fools here at Fool HQ love analyzing stocks almost as much as we love our game room -- but that's not all we're about. We're business analysts, too, digging deep to understand what makes a company (not just a stock) special. And one of the most important keys to this analysis is understanding the leaders behind the businesses.

Foolish favorites Costco (Nasdaq: COST) and Whole Foods Market (Nasdaq: WFM) are two excellent examples of companies with great leadership. Costco co-founder and CEO Jim Sinegal attributes his company's success to the people within the company. And Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey believes that the company's philosophy of "Shared Fate" creates a self-fulfilling circle of success where the company benefits from its people and its people benefit from the company.

And look at Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) -- another favorite here in Fooldom. From the beginning, CEO Howard Schultz wanted to build a company where employees were respected. His fights for employee healthcare and stock-option plans helped instill a mutual trust and a belief that everyone wins when Starbucks works together as a team.

Not long ago I had the good fortune to interview Rajeev Peshawaria, author of the book Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders. You can find my three-part series on starting here. If you haven't read them, you should. Mr. Peshawaria has a lot of excellent insight on what makes great leaders.

Last Wednesday, we got an extra treat when he came and spoke to us here at Fool HQ. He talked more about the ideas behind the differences between bosses and leaders and the seven traits leaders possess. According to Peshawaria, great leaders:

  1. Find the energy to create a better future.
  2. Are clear about their purpose at all times.
  3. Lead with values.
  4. Know how to manage grief and learn from their failures.
  5. Forgive and move on.
  6. Are willing to recruit co-leaders and share authority and responsibility.
  7. Successfully move from "I" to "we" thinking and create conditions to maximize collective success.

These are the types of things we can practice as people in our everyday lives to make us better human beings. If the byproduct is learning to become a better leader then hey, that's all the better. I mentioned to Peshawaria (for all the parents out there) that these seem like excellent lessons to teach our children as well. He agreed and it sounds like we shouldn't be surprised to see an adaptation of his book geared toward children somewhere down the road. Who knows, you could be raising the next great leader!

So think of this as a veritable checklist of sorts -- a way that we can learn more about what makes great leaders. Because at the end of the day, great leadership can take an ordinary company to extraordinary new heights.

Stock Advisor analyst Jason Moser owns no shares of any companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Whole Foods, Costco, and Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Costco, Starbucks, and Whole Foods. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.