Chances are you’ve heard the phrase that someone is a “born-leader.” But how true is that statement? Yes, some people are innately extroverted or charismatic, but a good leader is so much more than that.
Fortunately, strong leadership qualities and skills can be learned and developed over time. Whether you’re a first time manager looking for tips on how to be not only a good manager, but a good leader, or a seasoned leader looking to sharpen your leadership skills – you’re in the right place.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” -Ronald Reagan
The best leaders not only strive for their own success, but empower those around them to achieve success as well. While every leader has their own unique leadership style, there are core competencies and common traits we see in effective leaders.
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What is Leadership?
Leadership is the ability to motivate and inspire others to achieve a common vision. Leaders tap into their team member’s strengths and encourage individuals to reach their full potential.
Keep reading to discover the top 20 qualities that make a good leader and how you can develop the skills needed to effectively lead!
Qualities of a Good Leader
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
Good leaders have vision. Great leaders are able to make that vision a reality. Leaders must not only see the big picture and identify how to achieve their vision, but must be able to clearly communicate the what and why of that vision in order to gain buy-in from their team. A clear vision paints a picture of where the company is headed and motivates every employee to contribute along the way.
“The supreme quality of leadership is integrity.” – Dwight Eisenhower
Integrity is a core value of a good leader. Without it, a leader is guaranteed to fail. A leader with integrity is honest, stands by their principles, and encourages others to do the same. A lack of integrity in leadership breeds a culture of distrust and division, which will inevitably result in failure.
3. Effective Communication
“When people talk, listen completely.” – Ernest Hemingway
Effective communication is the ability to clearly convey your ideas and create a mutual understanding between yourself and your audience. Great communicators are not only able to successfully convey their thoughts, but are able to actively listen and understand others as well. As a leader, if you have poor communication skills and can’t communicate clear goals, it will lead to confusion and lack of alignment amongst your team members. A great leader understands different communication styles and can modify the delivery of their messaging accordingly.
4. Prioritizes Personal Development
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy
An effective leader never loses their curiosity or love for learning. Becoming a strong leader doesn’t happen overnight and contrary to popular belief, leaders are not born, but rather made. The most successful leaders push themselves to prioritize their personal and professional development and encourage their team and direct reports to do the same. Leaders who are stagnant or arrogantly believe they know everything they need to know will inevitably fall behind and stunt their company’s growth.
“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi
While confidence sometimes carries with it a negative connotation, let’s be sure we’re not confusing confidence with arrogance. A confident leader is not an arrogant leader, but rather someone who recognizes their value and knows they can guide their team to success. If you’re not confident in yourself and your decisions, your team will see that and lose confidence in your ability to lead.
Pro-Tip from The Assist: Cultivate a confident state of mind. According to SkillsYouNeed.com, “Confidence is not something that can be learned like a set of rules; confidence is a state of mind. Positive thinking, practice, training, knowledge and talking to other people are all useful ways to help improve or boost your confidence levels.” Practice gratitude for your successes and your mistakes. Celebrate your victories and learn from your mistakes.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
From Steve Jobs to Benjamin Franklin, some of the greatest leaders have also been some of the greatest innovators. Maintaining the status-quo can only get you so far. A true leader disrupts and challenges the norm through implementing innovative ideas. An innovator doesn’t settle and continually asks “what’s next?”. If a leader fails to innovate, the company will fail to innovate allowing their competitors to stride past them.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams
As a leader, it’s not your job to merely motivate employees, but you must inspire them as well. Inspired employees equal engaged employees which will result in company success. The best leaders inspire others to action. They inspire others to work towards a common goal while simultaneously tapping into their individual potential. Without an inspirational leader, employee output and happiness levels are very likely to plummet.
8. Ability to Delegate
“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” – Andrew Carnegie
A leader recognizes that they cannot do everything themselves and leans on their team to achieve success. Delegation isn’t just about assigning someone a task; it’s about assigning the right task to the right person who possesses the required skill set. You need to know your team and their individual strengths in order to successfully manage or lead a team. Delegation shows that a leader has confidence in their team’s skills and fosters a sense of ownership and pride in one’s work.
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and motivating their lives.” – Oprah Winfrey
Empathy is a critical quality for a good leader to possess. At its core, empathy is the ability to put oneself in another’s shoes in order to understand their perspective. An empathetic leader will be able to form meaningful connections with their team because they seek to truly acknowledge and understand others. Empathy does require a certain level of emotional intelligence. The best leaders have a very high level of EI and use that to relate to their team and understand their needs.
“Men are respectable only as they respect.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many of us grew up with the old adage, or golden rule, to treat others as you’d like to be treated. A good leader is typically respected because they are respectful. Would you follow someone who you don’t respect? …Of course not. Even when navigating disagreements or conflict, a strong leader maintains a high level of respect and inspires their team to do the same.
Pro-Tip from The Assist: R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
R – Respect others.
E – Earn respect your own way.
S – Speak about what speaks to you.
P – Project confidence.
E – Elevate those around you.
C – Change with the times and the needs.
T – Thank everyone for everything.
“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch
In a leadership role, you are accountable for your team’s performance, both the successes and the failures. A strong leader recognizes that and inspires every member of their team to be accountable as well. It’s easy to blame someone else when things go wrong. It’s much harder to take accountability and great leaders do just that, by not shying away from doing the hard thing.
12. Self Aware
“Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles.” – Virginia Woolf
A strong leader possesses a high level of self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Great leaders then use this ability to understand where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Self-awareness also encourages authenticity. If a leader knows who they are, they won’t force themselves to fit into a mold of what others consider a good leader, but rather embrace their unique and authentic leadership style.
“I believe fundamental honesty is the keystone of business.” – Harvey S. Firestone
Honesty is a pillar in both good business practices and good leadership. If a leader is dishonest, their team is extremely unlikely to support or follow them because there is no trust. An honest leader communicates truthfully and conducts business with integrity, which builds mutual trust and understanding.
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt
A leader cannot be paralyzed when it comes to decision-making. A good leader makes decisions confidently and stands behind the decisions made. A leader is faced with tough decisions every day, but cannot and should not avoid making those decisions. When a leader is decisive and strategic in their choices, their team will hopefully not just admire that leadership trait, but begin mirroring it in their work as well.
15. Supports Growth
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch
A leader uplifts their team and encourages their employees to continually grow and reach their highest potential. Supporting growth opportunities is a fantastic way for leaders to improve employee satisfaction levels and retain key talent on their team. Rather than being intimidated by their employee’s growth and success, a strong leader uplifts their team and recognizes that employee growth is crucial for sustained success.
16. Open Minded
“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” – Frank Zappa
The best leaders are ones who are open-minded and not afraid to embrace change or listen to varying opinions. Being open-minded means you welcome new ideas and productive discourse even if those ideas differ from your own. As a leader, this allows you to see others’ unique point of view and can unearth what may be a blindspot for you. A leader with a closed mind is almost guaranteed to fail because they will stop evolving and inevitably fall behind those who are.
17. Encourages Creativity
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein
A great leader is not afraid to challenge the status-quo and think outside of the box. If your team is doing something because ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it,’ it may be time to revisit and fine tune that process. Encouraging your team to think creatively will produce new ideas and sharpen your team’s critical thinking skills. When creativity leads to success, it’s vital to recognize and reward your employees. Celebrate the wins, both big and small!
18. Positive Attitude
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.” – William James
Having a positive attitude means you approach situations with an optimistic mindset. A positive attitude can be contagious. If a leader demonstrates positivity, their team is inclined to follow suit. As a leader, it’s important to provide your employees with positive feedback that shows you value their hard work and contributions to the company’s success. No one can have a positive attitude all the time, but approaching each day with a positive mindset can massively improve your patience and productivity.
Pro-Tip from The Assist: Complete positive affirmations. Reciting affirmations makes it easy to cultivate a positive mindset because you don’t have to spend time wondering what to feel positive about. Using even a canned affirmation might instantly flip on your positivity switch.
“Trust happens when leaders are transparent.” – Jack Welch
Gone are the days where leaders make decisions in a vacuum behind closed doors. Transparency in leadership is crucial to building trust and confidence. Transparency in business establishes trust between a company and its stakeholders, both internal and external. A transparent leader is open and honest in their communications. A lack of transparency can lead to confusion and frustration amongst employees and create the optics that leadership has something to hide.
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.” – Jeff Bezos
No matter how much you plan, stuff happens. A strong leader is able to roll with the punches, reevaluate and shift strategies accordingly. A leader must be flexible, but also remain true to the overall company vision and objectives. It’s easy to get a bit stuck in the mud or set in your ways, but to be a successful leader, it’s key to avoid that trap and remain flexible.
How to Develop Leadership Skills & Qualities
A) Take Initiative
Whether you’re an administrative assistant, a chief of staff, or a CEO, you can further develop your effective leadership skills by simply taking initiative. Rather than waiting for your boss to delegate a task to you, raise your hand and volunteer, even if it falls outside your core responsibilities. Doing this will push you outside of your comfort zone and show your management team that you’re capable of successfully juggling not only your primary duties, but can go above and beyond.
B) Be in a Constant State of Learning
Leaders never lose their love of learning. Maybe your company offers a corporate training program or LinkedIn learning courses. Take advantage of these learning opportunities and use them to further sharpen your leadership skills. Continually learning also helps to curb burnout or drops in engagement levels because you are constantly stimulated and challenged. You don’t know what you don’t know. Keep feeding your brain and professional growth will follow.
C) Get Better at Making Decisions
Decisiveness is a core quality of an exceptional leader. Start practicing this in your everyday work life by making decisions and standing behind them. Don’t avoid conflict or challenges because you’re unsure or scared to fail. Face these scenarios head-on with decisiveness and confidence. The more you make decisions, the easier it will become to confidently and effectively make the right choices.
D) Learn From Failures
You may have heard the phrase ‘fast failure’ or ‘positive failure’. These phrases encourage us to recognize our failures, without dwelling on them, and taking positive learnings from them. As you grow in your career, you’re bound to make mistakes. Rather than letting these missteps discourage you, use them as learning and growth opportunities to improve your performance next time and transform you into a better leader.
Pro-Tip from The Assist: Some scientists call failure “the essential prerequisite for success.” Actively learning from and acting on your failures could increase your chances of success more than dogged persistence. If failure is the prerequisite to success, then risk—or the Art of Risk—is a prerequisite to positive failure.
E) Model Great Leadership From Others
The highest form of flattery is imitation, right? You don’t have to be exactly like someone else, but it does help to surround yourself with business leaders who possess strong leadership skills that you can model. Whether you’re looking to improve your effectiveness, or sharpen your team management skills, look to those who you admire and respect for guidance and motivation. This is also a great way to discover your unique leadership style.
People Also Ask These Questions About Leadership Qualities
Q: Who are some good leaders in business?
- A: Some good leaders in business include Steve Jobs and Tim Cook with Apple, Elon Musk with Tesla, and Jeff Weiner with LinkedIn. They all possess many of the good leadership qualities we discussed above which have led to their immense professional success.
Q: How do I know if I’m a good leader?
- A: You’ll know that you’re a good leader if you’re respected by your team, able to keep them inspired, and maintain a high level of mutual trust.
Q: Why is leadership an important skill?
- A: Leadership is an important skill because it will help you achieve your personal and professional goals. By working on your leadership skills, you’re working to improve yourself, to challenge yourself, and ultimately inspire others to do the same.
Q: What should a leader do?
- A: leader should inspire, motivate, and empower their team to achieve both common goals and unlock their individual potential. They should have a strategic vision for the company and clearly communicate the path towards achieving that vision.