10 qualities of a good leader
10 qualities of a good leader
It’s easy to think that some individuals are just natural-born leaders, but leadership qualities are learnable skills that you can acquire.
If you’re progressing through your career, you’ll start to enter roles with a level of seniority that demands the presence of leadership skills. If you bring the right skillset when managing people, you will become highly valued for the positive influence you can bring to an organisation, as well as beneficial to overall performance and culture.
Whether you’re progressing into a managerial role or want to start upskilling early, the essential leadership qualities can all be learnt.
Crucial leadership attributes
What develops successful leaders? There are certain skills that high-performing leaders consistently use. To help you achieve success, here are ten leadership qualities to build:
1. Become self-assured in your decisions
It’s estimated that adults make roughly 35,000 decisions a day, but the decisions that leaders need to make day to day require a distinct way of thinking. In the work environment, leaders are typically striving to determine the best course of action to solve a problem that’s a bit more complex than what to make for dinner.
The stakes can be high and potentially affect the business’ bottom line or the many people that work for them. Leaders displaying crucial leadership qualities are able to make decisions efficiently, even under immense pressure.
It’s lonely at the top is a phrase many leaders throw around, but there’s a reason for this. Great decision making cannot happen through consensus seeking. Not only do you end up with a choice that everyone can live with, but it takes considerable time to seek the opinions of everyone involved.
That doesn’t mean you should act independently, good leaders know how seek consultation from the right people with the right knowledge to help shape your evaluation of the problem and ensure you’re addressing the root cause, not just the symptoms. Don’t shy away from robust conversations during this process, it can only lead to better understanding and better solutions, i.e., decisions.
Also, try practicing balancing the risks and rewards of the outcome of your decision. Very often there is no one right way to move forward, but there will be better ways with less inherent risk.
2. Settling disputes
Conflict in the workplace can’t be avoided and can even encouraged when accomplished in a way that’s respectful of other people’s opinions. But when it tips over to disrespectful, or hurtful, the best leaders will need the emotional intelligence and listening skills to manage it effectively.
The key leadership quality for you to develop here is active listening. In its simplest terms, active listening is being truly present in the conversation. It involves all the senses so you can pick up verbal and non-verbal signals and take them into account when mediating.
As a good leader, you will consider all viewpoints and collaborate around the points that those involved agree on, the strengths and weaknesses of all points they disagree on and then design a common goal. With encouragement, effective leaders then help all parties think proactively about the most positive role they can play in conflict resolution.
3. Delegating tasks
Good leaders recognise the need for assigning responsibilities to other team members. The ability to recognise that you shouldn’t and simply can’t do everything that needs to be done empowers your team and shows that you trust and value them.
When deciding what to delegate and to who, as a great leader you will consider the strengths and weakness of your team and try to align the task with someone it would offer stretch achievement or a teachable moment too.
While you should be clear about the outcomes you expect, fight the urge to tell them step by step how you would achieve the task while leaving clear communication channels open so they feel they can ask for help if needed. Finally, ensure you acknowledge and reward for a job well done.
4. Offering guidance
People with good leadership skills often act as a point of guidance within their team, wider organisation or industry. Try to be a source of inspiration, help set clear goals, give guidance based on their own personal career progression and experience, and support the progression of new technical and soft skills.
Good leadership qualities inspire the rest of the team and sharing your time and expertise to help others demonstrates an altruistic side.
There are numerous paths towards becoming a mentor. Some organisations have defined mentor/mentee pathways that connect the two groups in a more formal way. Alternatively, there are formal mentoring organisations that exist outside of your current workplace but offer the same formal pathways and could allow you to communicate with people outside of your industry. You could also use LinkedIn to either actively look for people looking for a mentor or mention that you’re open to offering mentoring time slots.
By keeping an eye open to an opportunity to make a positive contribution to someone else’s career, while simultaneously developing your own leadership qualities in the process.
5. Open connection
Being able to connect to your team effectively is probably one of the most obvious leadership qualities to master. Whether its responding to emails, saying hello to a colleague, producing written information and contributing to discussions in meetings – a great leader will be able to communicate a message in a way that’s understood by the audience you’re delivering it to.
Communication, in a workplace and leadership context, involves a number of capabilities that good leaders draw on including public speaking, collaboration and writing skills.
When you become a highly skilled business communicator, you increase your ability to mitigate conflict, improve internal and external relationships and engage employees – all vital to what makes a good leader.
6. Maintain consistent performance standards
Performing to a standard that meets, or even exceeds, expectations, means principles are kept high for other colleagues and team members to work towards, as well as display the qualities of a good leader to those around you.
To build consistency – and add it to your list of leadership qualities – set goals for certain time periods (weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually) and track against them. You can use project management tools like Trello or Monday to monitor your consistency. If needed, improve your time management skills. Good leaders know how to manage their own time, so they can meet set targets and lead by example.
Trust is key in any successful employment relationship, even more so if you aspire to be a great leader. Leaders must generate trust from their teams, and in turn rely on their teams to be able to get the job done. Great leaders have the self-awareness and authenticity to establish a level of mutual trust between themselves and their team.
To generate trust, a good leader needs to act respectfully towards colleagues and employees. This includes being respectful of time, views, and ideas. They should be honest and share information transparently.
Mistrust in the workplace can be highly toxic and can lead to clear divisions developing, communication breakdown, poor employee morale, low retention, and conflict.
There are three good rules of thumb for good leaders to follow to build trust: over-deliver, but never over-promise; give credit when due; and talk colleagues up.
Being ambitious and always taking the initiative is an important leadership trait that allows you to constantly uncover opportunities to innovate to achieve business goals, good leaders also empower their employees to take the initiative.
If you want to be more proactive in your career and add it to the list of leadership qualities, you want to develop. Recognise your goals, along with those of your team and your organisation, and set measurable steps towards achieving them while considering common problems that need to be overcome and what future requirements there might be. Don’t expect to be spoon-fed tasks or answers – instead, come up with and share ideas.
Leaders demonstrate integrity in the workplace in a variety of ways. They conduct themselves in the right way in all workplace scenarios, both seen and unseen. They show respect, treat people well and collaborate with colleagues to achieve common goals. They are always reliable, trustworthy and do what they say.
Personal integrity is vital and a good leader must have the capabilities required to practice open, productive and respectful communication. As a leader, you must also take time to reflect on the moral and ethical standards of the way you act. Be accountable for your decisions and take responsibility for your mistakes. Always set a good example and be fair. These are strong leadership traits to possess.
10. Objective analysis
Objective analysis is highly valued in the workplace and as a skill that good leaders display, because it supports better decision making and problem solving. However, many employees have a lot of room for improvement as critical thinkers, according to research. Research on the skills employers value found that 61% of employers consider critical thinking to be important.
To improve your critical thinking skills and become an effective leader, consider the issues your organisation is currently trying to resolve, gather information from as many different sources as possible to ensure you’re looking at the problem from various viewpoints. Once you’ve collated the information, try to approach the problem in a different way than has previously been done, and leave your own opinions and biases out of the equation.
You can do online critical thinking courses to build this leadership skill in a professional setting. Start with a free online webinar or short course and then see how far you want to develop as a critical thinker in your organisation.
Good leaders know how significant these traits are
Not every leader will boast all of these leadership qualities, and some of the greatest leaders will also use certain leadership skills more than others. But the best leader will have a strong mix of most of the above qualities and use them to benefit and inspire their team, the organisation's vision and contribute to the overall company success. Truly great leaders lead with honesty, humility, accountability, loyalty, confidence and self-responsibility.
So, if your career goal includes becoming a leader in your chosen field, focus your development on acquiring these skills. Good luck.