What Makes a Good Leader? Best Tips & Growth Strategies [Video + Transcript]

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated September 6, 2022 | Published December 1, 2021

Updated September 6, 2022

Published December 1, 2021

Jennifer Herrity is a career coach at Indeed who has worked with job seekers from various industries over the last 12 years. She creates resources to help people navigate career challenges with tools and techniques she has refined through practical experience.

Related: What Makes a Good Leader? Best Tips & Growth Strategies

Jenn, a career coach, explains what leadership is, essential leadership behaviors, skills and styles, and how to identify the right approach for your workplace.

10-minute watch

Leadership can make or break a team's success. So how do we lead and lead well? My name's Jenn and I'm a career coach at Indeed with over 10 years of career services experience. Today, I want to share some guidance to help you identify your strengths and areas of growth as a leader and how to evaluate the best leadership style for your workplace.

I'll also touch on specific behaviors you can cultivate to be a good leader and opportunities that can allow you to more formally develop your leadership knowledge and skills. Be sure to stick around to the end, where I'll share my tips on how to display leadership skills on your resume. You don't want to miss this.

What makes a good leader

First, let's define what leadership looks like at work.

A leader can be someone who's been formally appointed to guide a team, project or department. Or they can be somebody who simply sees a need and steps in to deliver the desired results, often helping others do the same. If we think about leadership as a skill set, it would be the ability to inspire others to pursue a goal while offering support in the process. Often, showing natural or unprompted leadership skills leads to more opportunities for you to lead formally.

So how can you become a good leader at work? Let's talk about four important steps you can take to improve your leadership skills in the workplace.

Step 1: Identify leadership skills that you may already possess as well as ones that you want to develop. Here are some essential leadership skills and examples of what they might look like at work.

Communication: This can look like inviting others to voice their suggestions and ideas, engaging in active listening and encouraging consensus and a shared vision.

Team building: Now, this can look like encouraging collaboration among team members, creating opportunities for people to learn and grow and modeling the behavior that you hope others will embody.

Problem solving-This can look like advocating for what your team needs to succeed, removing obstacles to your group's success, and identifying resources and systems that work well for everyone.

Emotional intelligence: This can look like building trust and rapport, being available to your team, demonstrating self-awareness and empathy and cultivating inclusion, trust and respect.

One thing to note here: We often think of leaders as standout contributors or maybe even somebody with a lot of charisma. While that can be the case, often strong leadership skills require a willingness to see another's point of view and a desire to understand a team's collective needs and challenges. The characteristic behaviors of leaders that I mentioned—active listening, soliciting ideas and empowering individuals with resources and support—can enable your team to do its best work.

Think about that list of leadership skills as well as leadership skills you may have seen and people you admire. The first step to improving is to identify your areas of growth. What leadership skills do you possess, and where can you focus your effort?

Now, before I move on to the next tip, is this video helpful? Let us know by liking and subscribing below.

All right, next step.

Step 2: Once you've identified your leadership strengths and weaknesses, think about the larger context of what it means to be an effective leader at your workplace. Consider the needs of your specific team and industry. Different leadership styles are more effective in certain environments, and I'll give you a quick overview now.

Coach: This supportive hands-on style focuses on offering guidance instead of commands. And it might be best suited for a smaller team where personal growth is valued. Due to its one-on-one nature, it may not be well-suited for fast-paced environments.

Visionary: This future-focused aspirational style helps that a team's direction, trajectory and sense of unity. Due to its big picture focus, it may not be ideal for a team that requires a lot of supervision or feedback on details.

Servant: This people-focused collaborative leadership style empowers teams to re-engage with their work, and it can help to build morale. Due to the demanding nature of advocating for all team members, servant leaders may find themselves burned out if managing a large team.

Autocratic: This results-driven, structured leadership style emphasizes rapid, efficient decision-making and a high level of supervision. Due to its emphasis on preserving a leader's power, it may not be well-suited for collaborative or highly creative teams.

Democratic: This flexible leadership style focuses on group discussion and unification prior to decision-making and can lead to higher employee satisfaction and engagement. Due to its emphasis on community buy-in, it may not be well suited for a fast-moving environment or for very large teams.

If you'd like to learn more about these leadership styles, check out Top 8 Leadership Styles in Management for a deeper dive.

Related: Top 8 Leadership Styles - Definitions & Examples

Jenn, an Indeed Career Coach, explains the top leadership styles in management and how to identify the one that's right for you and your team.

Let's move on.

Step 3: Once you've identified your leadership skills and the leadership style best suited for success at your company, put that information to use by identifying ways to lead at work:

  1. Offer to train a new staff member or peer. Encourage them to learn and expand their skill set to be of greater value to the organization.

  2. Take a lead role on a work project and guide the project team to the desired goal while delivering results on time and on budget.

  3. Step up to join a committee, task force or work group. This offers opportunities to work in partnership with peers while developing respect and rapport.

  4. Facilitate conversations, brainstorming sessions and innovative approaches to overcome obstacles and challenges at work. This can send a strong message of leadership to your coworkers and management.

  5. Become a mentor through informal collaborations or formal mentoring programs. Remember that leaders willingly share their knowledge, skills and resources to encourage others, benefit the team and enhance the culture.

  6. Lead by example. Show your peers in management that you continually embrace professional development, like conferences, seminars, webinars and workshops, all to learn, grow and contribute to the organization.

If you don't see a way to take these steps or having a hard time identifying the way to lead at work, that's OK. Remember that leadership manifests when you're solving a problem or cultivating an opportunity. Just look for ways to remove barriers and create benefits when possible.

Finally, embrace a growth mindset and look for ways to learn. Explore degree programs or professional development courses to enhance your leadership credentials and skills.

These can include:

For a college student, talk to an advisor about leadership development courses that you can select as part of your degree plan. Some universities offer a minor or undergraduate certificate in leadership that can be completed as part of a bachelor's degree program.

If you're considering grad school, look for a graduate certificate or master's degree in leadership. Often, a completed graduate certificate of 12 to 15 credit hours can later be applied to a full master's degree program.

If you're mid-career, think about joining one or more professional associations that represent your discipline or sector in the workforce. These memberships often have seminars, webinars, workshops, boot camps or even conferences on select topics including leadership.

And also, professional associations often endorse or offer professional certifications that can allow you to demonstrate expertise in your industry or field. These associations can also offer opportunities to serve in a leadership role on either a committee or the executive board at the state, regional or national level.

By participating in an annual professional development offering, earning a professional certification or serving on an association's committee or board, you're leading the way for your peers.

And keep in mind that professional development activities in the form of online courses don't have to carry a big price tag. In fact, a simple internet search for online professional development courses will point you to several popular trusted providers of short courses on targeted subjects like leadership development.

And don't forget about the low cost or free Massive Open Online Courses, also called MOOCs, that are offered by prominent colleges and universities. These often contain several modules of weekly or self-paced learning material and a certificate of completion carrying the university's name.

Now, listen carefully here. As you're doing all of this work to demonstrate and communicate your ability to be a leader at work, be sure that you're promoting all of your efforts. List of your accomplishments such as “successfully led teams and projects” as bullet points under each professional experience on your resume. Be sure to mention concrete details, like the number of people that you led or the results that your team achieved in order to give an employer a deep sense of your experience.

And remember to add any formal learning program, like a degree, certificate or professional development activity to your resume and your online professional profiles. You're going to list degrees under the “Education” heading and activities through professional associations under a separate heading called “Professional Affiliations and Development Activity”.

And you don't have to wait until the degree or the activity is completed to include this information on your resume. Simply include a statement such as “in-process” or “expected date of completion” and then the date.

Recap of what makes a good leader

So there you have it. As a recap, consider four crucial areas when focusing on being a good leader at work:

First, identify informal and formal activities to demonstrate and grow leadership behaviors and skills.

Second, seek out input from peers and managers on desirable leadership styles to adopt and to model at your workplace.

Third, explore ways to step up and grow as a leader at work.

And fourth, pursue learning like degree programs or professional development courses to add leadership credentials and skills to your resume or your professional profile.

Here's some final advice. Each time you complete a learning activity focused on leadership, show your employer that you're an emerging leader by applying your new skills to any work assignments. And be sure to include your leadership-based learning and accomplishments on your resume and your online professional profiles.

Now, if you found this video helpful, please hit the like button down below. Subscribe to our channel right here. And for more tips on interviewing, I recommend checking out this playlist:

Related: Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years? 4 Secrets to BEST Answer

Holl shares 4 interview tips on how you can prepare to deliver a strategic statement that shows you are an excellent candidate for the company.

Or watch our video on how to improve communication in the workplace that you can find right here:

Related: Communication Skills at Work: 4 Key Tips

In this video, Jenn, a career coach at Indeed, discusses 4 important questions that will help you improve your communication skills at work.

Thank you so much for watching, and we'll see you next time.

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