What are leadership qualities?
The question of what makes a great leader is as old as history itself. In general, the characteristics of a good leader are the traits authority figures show that help them make shrewd decisions and motivate others to give their best.
As the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato put it, “Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.” The first step to being a good leader is having the ability to make decisions based on extensive knowledge and experience in your field. Once they master their craft, a great leader inspires others to do the same.
Awareness of what makes an effective authority figure has taken shape on battlefields and in great institutions and offices over many generations. In recent decades, the internet has empowered people to share ideas, learn and collaborate on an unprecedented scale. As such, we have a clearer idea about what makes a great leader and why than ever.
Leadership qualities list
Whether you’re cultivating your leadership skills or hiring new managers, learning about what qualities make a good leader is essential. Here are the top 20 qualities of a good leader:
- Able to delegate
This one might be the most important of all leadership attributes. A hard-working leader always gets the most out of people.
It’s important to note that being hard-working doesn’t necessarily mean taking on as much work as possible. Being a hard worker means using time effectively and efficiently to get as much done as possible while on the clock, while also remaining adaptable enough to re-prioritize and tackle issues as they arise without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Leaders should be ready and willing to listen to new ideas and implement novel processes and procedures to improve workflow and performance. Great leaders truly consider other people’s ideas rather than automatically assuming their own ideas are the best. Collaboration gives way to discussion and refinement of ideas, so keeping an open mind is essential for effective teamwork.
All leadership roles require regular interaction with other people, from clients to suppliers and employees. Showing empathy is crucial in any public-facing role, but it’s also vital for managers for whom customer service or sales isn’t a priority.
Leaders should make an effort to identify with their employees’ feelings. And while they should hold employees to a high performance standard, they should recognize the challenges and hardships they may face and take steps to help them where appropriate.
Leaders should have a clear and achievable vision for the future. Employees cannot perform at their highest level if they don’t know what they’re working towards. Managers must communicate their vision and goals clearly and effectively so employees can work to achieve them. Not only that, but leaders should get the workforce excited about meeting goals and see the value in bringing the organization’s vision to life.
As a leader, you set the tone for the workplace. This influences how employees behave and has a tangible effect on how the public perceives your business.
A confident manager cultivates a confident team, which is evident to anyone who interacts with them. If a person walks into a business and feels a sense of uncertainty in the atmosphere, it can negatively impact their entire experience. Likewise, an atmosphere of calm confidence inspires people to feel comfortable, relaxed and likely to spend more.
What’s more, employees are more likely to listen to and respect a leader who demonstrates confidence. An air of self-assurance puts people at ease and gives them a sense that you know what you’re doing and will make the right decisions.
Excellent leaders have a strong moral code which they adhere to at all times. Their respect for rules and regulations sets a standard for ethical work from all employees. It’s extraordinarily important that decision-makers are seen to be true to their word. If employees or customers catch on that a leader says one thing and does another, it’ll be much harder for them to respect that individual or trust that they’ll deliver on what they say.
Not only should leaders abide by set rules and procedures, but they should admit when they have made an error and do what they can to rectify the situation. Excellent leaders model integrity for their employees consistently and act in the way they expect others to behave.
In today’s consumer-led marketplace, it’s more important than ever than business goes hand-in-hand with purpose. By helping your employees understand the principles that govern your company and the values that drive your vision, they’ll be able to communicate this in their work and to customers.
Leaders should maintain a positive attitude even in the face of hardship. Leaders are role models for their employees. Demonstrating positivity and joy at work motivates employees to do the same and ensures morale in the workplace stays high. People who believe they have the ability to succeed and push through adversity are much more effective at getting a job done.
Despite their responsibilities and position, leaders should strive to remain focused and level-headed and continually demonstrate respect and gratitude to their employees. Getting too comfortable and complacent as a leader is a recipe for disaster, so you should always strive to keep improving and never see yourself as the finished article.
Leaders should ensure that their employees understand why processes and procedures are in place, how to achieve team goals and what the work expectations are. Communication is a two-way street, and listening is just as important as being able to clearly and effectively express yourself. Being a great listener will give you a better overview of your company and prevent you from failing to see burgeoning issues before they become serious problems.
While many leaders choose to field suggestions and ideas from their employees when making important team decisions, it is often the leader’s responsibility to make the final decision. Leaders should do so confidently and without demonstrating uncertainty or confusion.
Sometimes leaders must take risks for the betterment of the team or company. Courage is necessary for risk-taking and necessary to inspire a team to follow your lead. Sometimes you need to take a chance on your instincts and demonstrate resolve to get your teammates onside.
13. Able to delegate
Excellent leaders delegate responsibilities to their employees. Leaders should use the talent and skill of their team to accomplish projects and meet goals. Delegation of tasks is key to strong leadership and a stellar team. While it’s often tempting for excellent leaders to try and do everything themselves, this isn’t a strategy that delivers results.
An exceptional leader is a high-level chess player with the ability to construct a team based on skill set, personality and cohesiveness.
Leaders should take responsibility for their actions, both positive and negative. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally, and leaders are not exempt. They should take accountability for any errors they make and model how to professionally recover from mistakes.
With risk-taking comes the chance that an action or plan may not be successful. Resilience is key to moving past failure and striving for success. Resilient leaders show their employees that challenge is normal and manageable.
For example, if the company underperforms in a quarter and the manager gets emotional or panics, the workforce won’t feel confident about making the necessary changes to turn it around. On the other hand, if the manager highlights problems in a calm but concerned manner, the team is more likely to be motivated and listen.
When someone is passionate about something they care about, it’s infectious. A leader who is passionate about their field of expertise is infinitely more influential than someone who doesn’t care. When you’re passionate about something, it feels less like work and more like a mission that you’re truly driven to make succeed.
Leaders should work hard and use their time effectively and efficiently. Employees are more likely to demonstrate discipline if their leader is focused and dedicated to the company’s common goals. If you’re the sort of manager who takes extended lunch breaks and leaves early all the time, it’ll be harder to command discipline from your team.
Leaders must build rapport with their team to influence them as needed to meet company or team goals. Employees are more likely to respond positively to influence if they respect and trust their leader. Motivating leaders come up with innovative ways to reward the team for a job well done and encourage them to keep performing at their best no matter what.
Employees should feel that their leader will protect and support them if needed. Leaders must demonstrate loyalty to their company, customers and employees at all times. Managers who complain or speak badly about people set a negative tone in the workplace and instill the idea that loyalty isn’t a priority.
Managers should be consistent in their approach and should not favor or show bias toward anyone. They should also be consistent when it comes to work, and demonstrate that the procedures and processes in place are there for a reason. Inconsistent leadership leaves too much room for uncertainty and error.
You can use this information about leadership qualities to drive your business forward. If you have employees who demonstrate qualities of a great leader, consider tapping them for promotion. Likewise, pay close attention to management applicants to make sure they demonstrate as many characteristics of a leader as possible.
Lastly, think about your own leadership style and whether it’s in keeping with this leadership qualities list. By being intentional about leading the people in your company and balancing the above list of traits, you’ll get more from employees and managers alike.
Leadership qualities FAQs
Why is leadership so important?
Leadership ensures important decisions are made by qualified individuals and sets the path for employees to follow. When team members have strong leaders to motivate, inspire and teach them about an organization’s mission, they’re more confident and passionate about their work. What’s more, great leaders ensure that a businesses’ resources are used in the most efficient and profitable manner and find new ways to move towards its mission.
What is effective leadership?
Effective leadership is the ability to execute a business’s mission while inspiring employees to do the same. Leaders are able to adapt to the company culture and sell it to customers and team members alike. Being a leader involves being able to plan, sell, troubleshoot and manage resources for the greater good of an organization.
How do managers cultivate good leadership skills?
There are a number of ways an individual can cultivate exceptional leadership qualities. Taking pride in your role and searching for the value in the company’s mission are the first steps. Always ask for feedback from senior managers and analyze constructive criticism without letting it dent your ego. If you strive to lead by example, work hard and be true to your mission, you’ll eventually see the workforce follow in your footsteps.