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Management & Leadership

Characteristics and Qualities Every Good Leader Should Possess

Male manager in a button up in a tie standing up demonstrating great leadership skills while meeting with his diverse team

A good leader is someone who can inspire, influence, and guide others to achieve a desired outcome. If you’ve ever had an excellent boss, you’ve experienced the impact of strong leadership skills firsthand. We’ll reveal the most important qualities of a good leader and explain why developing them can benefit you professionally and practically.

Benefits of improving your leadership skills

Professional advancement

The people who are most successful in their careers are usually strong leaders. 

Employers value team members who can take charge, make sound decisions, and inspire others, which usually results in those individuals being given advancement opportunities. Leadership roles also put you in the same circles as other successful, influential people, allowing you to establish professional connections that can benefit you well into the future. 

Better relationships

Many of the qualities of a good leader are also essential ingredients for strong relationships, like communication, conflict resolution and respect. Refining these characteristics will improve your professional interactions and those in all areas of your life. 

Stronger decision-making

Leaders have to make weighty decisions regularly. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at making informed, strategic decisions on everything from financial investments to planning your next vacation. 

Personal growth

While this article focuses primarily on leadership in a professional context, it can also have a meaningful impact on a personal level. Becoming a better leader will help you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, develop greater integrity, feel a sense of fulfillment and leave behind a meaningful legacy. 

Top qualities of a good leader

Communication

Strong, effective communication skills are a cornerstone of good leadership. Without the ability to communicate well, few of the other qualities on this list matter. Leaders rely upon their communication skills to share information, inspire team members, provide coaching, and collaborate with other stakeholders to accomplish their goals. 

Confidence

Confidence is a necessary quality to persuade others to follow your lead. When you genuinely believe in your abilities and decisions, others will trust you and feel comfortable taking your directions. Confidence can be contagious, helping others to feel enthusiasm for the team’s goals. 

Humility 

The best leaders are those who can strike a balance between confidence and humility. Just as they express conviction in their ideas and capabilities, they can recognize their shortcomings, accept feedback, and consistently work to improve their skills. 

Influence

In a business setting, leaders leverage their skills to accomplish organizational goals. They can’t do this without being influential. 

Good leaders can rally groups of people toward shared objectives, inspiring team members to work together cohesively and overcome obstacles. Their opinions are valued highly by those around them, meaning they can sway decisions to achieve their goals.  

Integrity

Individuals with integrity have strong moral principles that are reflected in their actions. When you act with integrity, you prioritize doing what is right over doing what is easy, even when it’s a difficult decision to make. 

When you lead with integrity, team members know they can trust you to follow through on your word. This fosters reliability and trust, both of which positively impact performance. 

Authenticity

Authenticity means being true to yourself rather than trying to act like someone else. It’s an important characteristic to instill trust. 

When your team understands your actions to reflect your true character, they rely on those characteristics and can depend on your actions being consistent in the future. 

Transparency

Without transparency, a leader primarily uses fear to get what they want. This type of leadership won’t be effective for long, leading to distrust and morale loss. 

Instead, good leaders are transparent about their decisions and the factors behind them, even if it means giving the team news they don’t want to hear. When employees know they’re getting the straight story, they feel a sense of trust and confidence in the person providing the message. 

Accountability

Strong leaders empower their team members while understanding that at the end of the day, responsibility falls on them for the results. When leaders take accountability for their successes and failures, they set a positive example that their reports will be more likely to follow.

Good Judgment

Some people seem to be born with this characteristic, but it can also be honed with practice. Leaders are good at following their gut, which is often right. 

Good judgment plays into strong decisions and can make all the difference when a major goal is on the line. 

Creativity

The most prolific leaders throughout history have this in common: they weren’t afraid to try things that had never been done before. Good leaders use creativity to their advantage to find new solutions to persistent challenges and gain the upper hand against competitors.

Consistency

Leadership is a long game. To win the trust and loyalty of a team, you have to show that your leadership will be unwavering through good times and bad. 

Strong leaders prove themselves by showing consistency and perseverance even under the most challenging circumstances. 

Empathy

Empathetic leaders are skilled at understanding the thoughts and feelings of their team members. This enables them to provide more effective coaching, tailoring their communication messages to be more relatable and personalized to the recipient. 

When employees feel that their leader understands and genuinely cares about their concerns, it boosts morale and job satisfaction. This can increase motivation and a stronger sense of commitment to the organization.

Proactiveness

Good leaders don’t sit back and wait for things to happen. They take calculated action to help move them closer to the desired outcomes. 

This is especially important in tough times or moments of uncertainty. Rather than becoming immobilized under pressure, a person with strong leadership skills has the courage to decide and take accountability for the outcome. 

Flexibility

Strong leaders aren’t married to one rigid plan. They’re flexible, switching to a new approach when necessary based on the circumstances. This also means being adaptable to the changing needs of team members, which can help everyone perform their best. 

Positivity

Though a leader must be pragmatic, it helps immensely also to be a ‘glass half full’ kind of person. 

A positive leader can see the potential upside in any situation, which can help keep employee engagement strong and push team members to achieve goals they didn’t think were possible.

Respect

If you want the respect of your team, you must offer it first. Acting with respect means empowering team members to make decisions, work independently, and use their skills to contribute in their own unique way. 

Tips for developing the qualities of a good leader

Developing strong leadership skills is an ongoing process that requires self-awareness and commitment. Here are some steps that can help you refine your leadership characteristics. 

1. Practice self-reflection

Self-awareness is a cornerstone of effective leadership. The ability to look inward, analyze one’s own actions and motivations, and understand how they impact others is invaluable in a leadership role. It’s not just about recognizing your achievements and areas of expertise; it’s also about acknowledging areas that require improvement. By taking time to reflect on your decisions, actions, and interactions, you create an avenue for personal growth. Through such introspection, leaders can build a genuine connection with their teams and generate trust.

Assessing one’s strengths, weaknesses, personal values, and leadership style is a continuous journey, not a one-time event. This knowledge forms the foundation for targeted self-improvement. Understanding where to channel efforts ensures that a leader is always evolving and adapting to the changing dynamics of the workplace and team needs.

2. Set goals

Leadership can mean different things to different people. What leadership goals are most important to you? Which ones will help you in pursuit of your larger career goals?

Some examples could include:

  • Taking the lead on a team project
  • Landing a promotion
  • Training new team members
  • Becoming a department or committee chair
  • Being elected to an industry board
  • Organizing a group for a good cause

Setting clear career goals will help you take more deliberate action and keep you going when you feel low on motivation. 

3. Ask for help

No great leader arrived at their position completely on their own. An essential trait of impactful leadership is recognizing one’s limitations and vulnerabilities. The best leaders understand that they don’t have answers to all problems and that leaning on others is not a sign of weakness but rather one of strength. The willingness to seek out feedback is a testament to a leader’s commitment to self-improvement and organizational growth. By actively asking questions and inviting input, a leader demonstrates humility and a genuine desire to grow and evolve in their role.

Tapping into the insights of bosses, colleagues, mentors, and trusted friends can offer a wealth of knowledge and diverse perspectives. Constructive criticism can be a transformative tool when given with the right intent and received with an open mind. These feedback loops can spotlight blind spots, suggest new strategies, or reinforce positive behaviors. Regularly seeking advice and feedback fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning. A leader who embraces this approach amplifies their capabilities and nurtures a community where everyone feels valued and heard.

4. Be a lifelong learner

The process of refining your leadership skills will never truly be “done.” One of the hallmarks of a genuine leader is the acknowledgment that there’s always something new to learn and understand. In today’s fast-paced world, knowledge and methods evolve unprecedentedly. Committing to the ongoing strengthening of your capabilities is crucial. This can be done by reading enlightening books, attending insightful events, participating in beneficial training programs, and seeking out many other educational opportunities. Each endeavor provides a unique avenue for growth and a fresh perspective on leadership.

Because of the digital age, online courses have emerged as a significant resource for leadership development. Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn Learning offer various courses tailored for aspiring leaders, ranging from strategic thinking to effective communication and conflict resolution. Examples of online courses you can take: