What is leadership?
Leadership can be defined as the ability of an individual (group of individuals) to influence and steer followers or other members of an organization. Leadership is about making decisions (sometimes impossible ones), creating, spreading, and developing a clear vision and mission, setting goals, and granting followers the proper tools to achieve those goals.
A good leader is not a boss. His primary purpose is not to give orders left and right but to empower people to reach their maximum potential and inspire them day by day. A great leader to take up challenges that will generate organizational renewal.
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult." -Warren Bennis, leadership guru
15 leadership qulities
You probably asked yourself, what makes a good leader?
Here is our perspective about this: a good leader should be able to inspire and motivate, have strong communication and interpersonal skills, be able to make decisions and take responsibility for them, be able to delegate and manage tasks, and be willing to learn and adapt. More about these competencies, you can find in the section below.
Integrity is the pillar of all other leadership qualities. You can’t expect your people to be honest if you lack integrity. A good leader leads by example, does what’s right in any situation, and sticks to their word, no matter how hard things become. Integrity is about treating your team right, equally, and advocating for the company’s values. It’s also about apologizing when you make mistakes, offering feedback and appreciation to your team members, and not emphasizing your effort and work too much.
Discover some granularity when it comes to integrity skills:
- Work ethics
“Don't Ever Promise More Than You Can Deliver But Always Deliver More Than You Promise – Lou Holtz”
Excellent communication is crucial to good leadership.
A great leader knows how to deliver a message and how to choose the right words. They are not only good orators but also good listeners because listening is about creating a bond and trust with your people.
Communicating effectively will allow you to express yourself fully and boost empathy with other people, which is an essential trait for leadership.
Other skills that great communicators possess:
- Active listening
- Nonverbal communication
- Written communication
- Public speaking
Here are the top effective communication skills to improve in 2023:
- Be an active listener,
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication,
- Be clear and direct,
- Be relaxed and self-confident,
- Show empathy,
- Give and receive feedback,
- Be a people person.
Learn what communication abilities you need to excel at.
"Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating." - Simon Sinek
Great leaders are highly motivated, proactive and they strongly believe in the company’s vision. It’s a contagious passion, which can only affect others also.
In his 2009 book, "Drive," Daniel Pink proposes a new motivational framework that better fits today's creative and innovative workplaces. The NYTimes bestseller author argues that most businesses have failed to upgrade their ineffective “carrot-and-stick” motivators. Instead, the work poised to take off in tomorrow’s economy—characterized by non-routine and creative activities—can only flourish when people are given autonomy to pursue mastery with a clear purpose of contributing to something larger than themselves.
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” —Lao Tzu, philosopher and writer
Resilience is one of the skills that can be learned from experience and from tough times. A great leader is not seen only in good times, but the one who knows who to surpass the hard ones. When things get complicated, you need to get on board and stand by your team. Resilient leaders can handle themselves in any situation and overcome severe challenges while maintaining their energy levels and positivity.
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
― Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa
A good leader is an empathetic leader.
They are compassionate and have the skills to connect with others in times of wealth and bad times. An empathetic leader cares about their team’s problems, needs, and hopes and comes to the rescue if someone has issues in performance levels. It’s not about agreeing all the time with other people's views, but about being willing to understand them.
How can you be more empathic at work as a leader?
Find below some stepping stones to build a more empathic workplace:
- Check-in regularly - Set up one-on-ones to discuss not only professional work but also personally, ask questions, however, focus on listening. Remember, this feedback meeting is about them, not how important you are.
- Involve employees in the decision-making - think about tasks, upcoming initiatives, team meetings, product roadmaps, and work schedules.
- Show interest in your colleagues' work genuinely - not only delegate the work but help them understand what is required and support their work.
- Invest in team-building activities - Colleagues change, managers change, the way work is done changes, and from time to time, we need to embrace new relationships and see how we can strengthen empathy at work.
- Build a teamwork culture - The fact that you have an open office doesn't mean that employees work collaboratively, that you are transparent about where the company is heading, and what are the key priorities within your team today.
“Leadership is about empathy. It it about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” - Oprah Winfrey
We provide a set of 70+ inspiring teamwork quotes that you can share with your team-members when you believe they need a bit of support.
Delegation is a sensitive topic for most leaders. They have to switch from doing to delegating. Doing it all by yourself is not an option. Delegation is the key to boosting productivity and team performance. A good leader has to be less involved but always aware of what is going on in their organization. Delegation is also important because it is a method of empowering your employees and therefore making them feel part of the team and of the mission and vision of the company. Trust your employees to handle the tasks they have to complete, and they’ll trust you to be in charge of vision and strategy.
When it comes to delegating skills, we highlight the following:
- Providing and accepting feedback to employees
- Offering the necessary resources to the coworkers
- Evaluating strengths and weaknesses
- Clarifying expectations
- Setting smart goals
- Time management
- Evaluating employee performance.
Related: How to delegate tasks efficiently.
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Tip: To take better decisions when delegating, you might use the Situational Leadership Framework. This tool has been created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard enables your managers to diagnose the development level of an employee for a task:
- D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner;
- D2 – Disillusioned Learner;
- D3 – Capable, but Cautious, Contributor; and
- D4 – Self-Reliant Achiever.
The framework helps leaders to match their leadership style to the needs of those they attempt to influence:
- S1 – Directing;
- S2 – Coaching;
- S3 – Supporting; and
- S4 – Delegating.
A visionary leader has an expanded sight and is driven about what can make the company better. They always keep the team updated about the organization’s progress and are not afraid of taking risks if they are key to improvement.
“Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there - setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks.” Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence
If you are looking to sharpen your visionary leadership skills, here are some characteristics which you can get inspired from:
- Set realistic visions - As a visionary, you will shape the big picture of the business venture by conveying ambitious, however achievable perspectives
- Enthusiastic goals driver - In the team, they set innovation goals and inspire employees to be creative
- Future-oriented - The change catalysts can bring people toughener around a better future
- Actively involved - Leaders mobilize and motivate staff to participate in the innovation process and work on something bigger, where they have an active role.
- Recognize opportunities - Leaders stay up to date with the latest trends/analysis seeking opportunities for innovation
- Show optimism and confidence - Visionaries stimulate enthusiasm and commitment within the workforce.
Well, these bulets sounds great, however what are some examples of visionary leaders? Just think about Henry Ford - who changed the auto industry forever by introducing the moving assembly line to car production, believing that a car should be in front of every house or Elon Musk, who has electrified the car industry with Tesla and revolutionized space exploration with SpaceX.
You might be interested in how to set your company vision statement. Additionally we provide 25 examples to get you inspired.
Just having a title will not ensure a leader has influence. Leaders must earn respect at all times. A good leader will improve his level of influence by clearly communicating his desires and objectives, connecting with the team on a more emotional level, or asking for feedback and considering it.
In his classical book Influence, Professor Robert Cialdini says specific triggers can automatically influence human decisions. The six principles are reciprocity, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. We recomend to read this book if you want to master this quality.
Leaders with influence:
- GIVE when they don’t have
- CARE for others
- GROW continuously
- LIVE authentically
- EMPOWER others
- MANAGE hardship
- SERVE with humility.
Honesty may be one of the most valued attributes in leaders, regardless of the industry they activate in. A good leader has to be honest with others, but also with himself. People look up to honest leaders who keep their word. You cannot expect your followers to have integrity and honesty if you don’t offer the same back.
Honesty and respect of your peers is one of the most important activity to build trust within the workplace.
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.” William Faulkner
Great leaders have to be confident or to develop a high level of confidence if this is not something they were gifted with. This trait is highly important and very valuable especially when you need to be able to manage stressful, unpredicted situations.
Self-confidence is pivotal for leaders because it gives them wings to take risks, overcome challenges, and accomplish goals.
A true leader will not only speak about problems but quickly find a solution.
How to Build Self-Confidence as a leader?
1. Keep track of your accomplishments
Don’t let one bad day or one colleague that speaks badly about you put you down or break your morale. You know your value has been built over time with hard work and a long list of accomplishments. In a team context, you should celebrate success, also. Having a journal and constantly reflecting on what has been your big wins weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly will definitely build the confidence muscle.
2. Get out of your comfort zone
When people tend to do business as usual, then be the one that thinks differently, looks to innovate, and takes smart risks.
3. Know your strengths and your weaknesses
You didn’t become a leader overnight. There had been a lot of projects delivered, successful initiatives, and excellent teamwork. You know where you can add value and where you should have an expert to rely on. If accounting is not your thing, don’t give advice on company taxes - point to the expert who knows the ins and outs of the field.
4. Grow your network, and seek advice on hard problems
You are not the only one facing difficult situations; someone with more experience can elevate your leadership style.
5. Take a look at your priorities
You might feel overwhelmed by various tasks, employee requests, and customer needs, however, when you’re too busy, take some days off, reflect, and come up with a fresh mind to adjust your expectations and approach the existing challenges differently.
6. Connect with your team frequently
The results you get as a leader are a reflection of the dedication of your team. Learn the concerns of your peers and solve them; if there are no concerns, then learn how to be better in feedback sessions.
7. Invest in your look and feel
Look at the leaders of our time. They go to the gym constantly, meditate, and always look sharp. Such investment will provide not only financial benefits but health, trust and respect also.
'Good leaders inspire people to have confidence in their leader. Great leaders inspire people to have confidence in themselves.'—Eleanor Roosevelt
A great leader has to be optimistic, but sometimes the team will go through hard times. Your team will feel demotivated when feeling they cannot achieve some goals. You need to be able to support each one of your coworkers with the right information, connections, and advice so that they will be able to accomplish their job successfully.
We showcase some qualities that responsible leaders convey:
- Open to feedback
- Learn from past mistakes
- Active listening
- Conflict resolution
- Evaluating options
- Decision making
- Project planning.
"Reliability is the fuel for compounding strength of a leader. Loss of reliability results in loss of confidence in one's leadership. - Krishna Saagar Rao"
Being an accountable leader is never easy. It means you take responsibility not only for your actions but also for your team’s actions. A strong leader will be accountable for the team’s performance, regardless of how low or high.
A good leader will give credit when the time is right and will take the blame if it comes to this. It’s the fastest way to gain your people’s trust.
When it comes to accountability, we highlight the following related abilities:
- Following through
- Work ethic
- Keeping promises
- Delivering results timely.
Every employee must be accountable for their actions, behaviors, output, and decisions in the workplace. Learn how you can foster accountability at work and what is the real meaning with several examples and comparisons.
“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”― Courtney Lynch.
Even though we speak about this trait at the end of the list, it's crucial and shouldn't be shadowed by other skills. A good leader must be able to motivate each team member.
Motivation helps each coworker to perform at their full potential by boosting morale and engagement.
'If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.' - John Quincy Adams
Leaders need to be able to motivate the workforce so that they are keener to focus and create great work. Among the soft skills related to motivation, we highlight:
- Providing diverse and challenging work
- The ability to teach and mentor
- The ability to recognize potential
- Understand employee differences
- Providing rewards.
Discover 10 additional ways on how improve employee motivation in your team.
"Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence." - Sheryl Sanberg
A good leader is also one that has a positive attitude. Don’t exaggerate, don’t overdo it, but people like working for cheerful managers. Even the calmest workplace can be in trouble sometimes, and leaders must react well in these cases.
Being positive is a sign of tenacity, and it’s great characteristic to find in a leader.
Some skills that help to create a more social environment:
Great leaders are decisive and know that the organization and their team expect this from them. They have a clear vision and are certain about everything that is in their power and control. They make the best decision by collecting needed data and assessing every situation. A good leader will use this quality and think long and hard before deciding on strategic matters, but they will stand by it once the decision is made. Remember, people management tools can definitely help you in your decision-making.
FAQ Leadership Qualities
How to improve your leadership skills?
To improve your leadership skills, practice the skills mentioned above, such as active listening, implementing strong communication, building relationships with your team members, practicing problem-solving and decision-making skills, learning from mistakes, and embodying the qualities of a strong leader.
We hope you know what makes a good leader and have started to hone your skills. Here you have a list you have to start with.