16 Leadership qualities: a list of skills to become a good leader

16 Leadership qualities: a list of skills to become a good leader

The concept of leadership and leadership qualities is mostly misunderstood. Many people confuse leadership with the designation or position of a person. Whereas as a true leader you do not need a specific title. You can be a leader, even if you are not in a powerful position.

A leader needs to possess certain skills and qualities to be named a leader. If you think you are a leader just because you are in a position of power, then you may need to think again.

Owning a business or an organization does not make you a leader; you need to possess certain leadership skills that will make people trust and follow you.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
— John C. Maxwell (Leadership expert)

There is an ongoing debate about leadership skills as we speak. Some people believe that leaders are born with the necessary leadership skills and qualities, while others believe that leadership skills can be taught and gained through experience.

Nevertheless, if you are born with leadership skills and qualities, or you have developed them over time. Improving or developing certain skills and qualities in your personality can help you become a great leader. 

Leadership qualities that make you a good leader

Being a good leader contributes significantly to the success of your business since it helps to generate a positive work environment that will translate into better results and more efficient and productive teams.

So, what characteristics should a good leader have? It is clear that there is no single model and that there are different types of leaders, but there are some characteristics, skills, and qualities that great leaders often share.

Let’s look at 16 of the most effective leadership qualities that can make you a great leader.

1. Vision: A leader is a pre-eminent visionary

A person without a vision can never be a leader. Having a short and long term vision is a vital part of leadership. Your team or organization will often follow you if they share or trust your vision.

People don’t just follow the leader; they follow the leader’s vision. As a great leader you will not just have a good vision, but also have the ability to make others follow your footsteps as well as trust and share your vision. 

Every vision requires decisions, but as a leader, before making any decisions, do the homework to first research all the opportunities and outcomes of your vision. It is your role as a leader to make decisions, sometimes difficult ones, and to assume the consequences of the actions.

Don’t let this important task be always subject to your instincts and emotions. While you should trust them, make sure to support them with research, data, and analysis.

A good leader knows how to build his/her vision based on experience and concrete figures that support the actions.

In fact, the difference between good leaders and extraordinary ones is that whatever decisions they make, the latter is supported by facts, figures, and projections. Your opinions and considerations need to always be reinforced with objective points of view.

2. Positivity: A leader is positive and spreads positivity

A leader is always optimistic and positive in his/her actions. This does not mean that he/she ignores the negative aspects of things; it just means that the leader is aware of the surroundings and has a plan for everything.

All in all, leaders have a positive attitude towards life and other people in general. One of the best qualities of a leader is that they instill positivity in other people.

This is how you gain more trust from your fellow members. By making your team members feel positive about themselves and confident in the environment they work in, they will be more productive and comfortable in their roles.

3. Confidence: A leader is always confident

No person has ever achieved success without believing in themselves in the first place. This is why confidence is very important at all moments of your professional path as a leader.

The best part about confidence is that it is contagious. This is why as a leader you need to reflect confidence in all phases of your leadership. You will never be able to lead people if you are not confident and trustworthy.

A true leader is confident and also makes his/her team members feel confident as well. If you are not confident enough, then even the trusting people working under you will not put in the engagement and effort to the full extent.

However, if the opposite is true, if you are confident and your followers aren’t, then you can boost their confidence by being a confident leader.

So it is very important for a leader to always be confident no matter how tough the situation. You don’t have to be positive only when things are going well; as a leader, you will need to accept your mistakes, but that should never make you lose your confidence. 

According to Simon Sinek, through confidence, a good leader makes everybody feel safe. of course, values such as empathy, fostering teamwork, honesty, being fair, or behaving responsibly will undoubtedly improve employee engagement and performance at work. All these attitudes will help to build a bond of confidence and trust with the people.

Your team members will have you, their leader, as a reference within the business, so it is vital that you always set a good example with your actions to become a role model. A good leader is exemplary in his/her behavior and inspires others.

4. Ability to inspire: A leader is an inspirational influencer

You might have heard the words ‘influential leader’. Well, if you try to understand these two words, you would realize that you don’t have to use these words together. The word ‘leader’ would suffice alone. Why is that?

Well, because in fact, a good leader is always influential. A leader knows how to inspire and influence others to follow him/her or even share his/her vision. Being influential is one of the most important qualities of a leader. You can never be a leader if you are not influential.

In some cases, influence does not come naturally, and you have to work hard to increase your influence over others. 

5. Motivation: A true leader motivates others

Think of any popular leader you can think of, and you would find ‘being motivational’ is without doubts one of their important leadership qualities. A leader is someone who always motivates others.

If you don’t have the power to motivate others, then you may not be suited to be a leader. Since the dawn of humanity up till now, every good leader has been motivational to some extent.

Whether you are running a business, political campaign, or any other movement, you need strong motivational skills. As Abhishek Gopalka tells us in the TED talk below, motivation has the power to fix and transform public systems.

No one will follow you if you don’t motivate them to do so. Leaders are highly motivated personnel themselves, and they use their motivation and optimism to motivate others. Being motivational is such a strong leadership quality that leaders can use it to bring about revolutions.

6. Team player: A leader believes in his/her team

Leaders aren’t jack of all trades. People who think they know it all and try to perform all actions themselves (because they don’t believe in their subordinates) are not true leaders at all.

Good leaders often have an idea about how they want to achieve a certain objective. But they are also sensible enough to realize that they cannot achieve their objective alone.

A person might be a good leader, and he/she may know what technology and processes to use to execute their plans; however, they would still need an experienced person to operate that technology and a skilled manager to walk the path.

So a leader may not know how to perform a certain task, but they would surely know which person can do that specific job in the best and the most effective way possible.

This is why a good leader will always believe in his/her people and delegate tasks to the correct people. Even if the leader knows how to perform a particular task, delegating it to a more skillful and specialized person is what a leader should do to achieve the best success.

7. Leadership flaws: A leader accept his/her flaws

Accepting your flaws will make you a better leader. If you think you are flawless and can do it all on your own and frown upon delegating tasks to your subordinates, then it would be no less than arrogance and insensible. This also means that you are not a good leader and cannot influence or motivate others to perform their tasks in an ideal way.

It’s time for you to admit that you can’t control all of the factors that surround you and that you don’t have all the skills alone to do everything better than others.

Don’t fear exposing your flaws. You, like everybody else, have your flaws and you need to accept and review your mistakes and uncertainties whenever you are in the wrong.

Perhaps you can request feedback from the people your working with on a yearly basis to make sure you are providing the best leadership your team demand.

The best way to deal with your flaws lies in the power of your mind. Starting from the reality that you cannot control everything, the mental strength you have will be essential to stay calm and make the right decisions in these types of scenarios.

Leadership isn’t about you being perfect. In fact, as a leader, it’s essential you don’t anticipate perfection of yourself or your team. What is important hereabouts is for you to trust your team and for them to believe and trust you equally.

So, in order to achieve this, allow your people to engage more, to develop processes, make decisions, and trust them to act under their criteria. Be a good leader and give them the freedom to proceed, and in case they make mistakes, let them take the necessary corrections themselves.

Your role is to enhance their skills and knowledge, as well as interfere when you consider it appropriate.

8. Integrity: Integrity is necessary for leaders

You might have read stories in the history books about how leaders with a small army defeated larger armies. This is because the leader’s bravery, courage, wisdom, and confidence had an effect on his/her people.

The same is the case with integrity. If the person at the top is honest and has immense integrity, then people below him can never think about being dishonest. However, if the person at the top does not have integrity, then you can be sure of a chaotic situation on lower levels. 

A good leader always has integrity. A leader with integrity always encourages other people to be honest and truthful. 

Become the leader your team members want you to be, and for this, there is no better example than your own actions.

Based on this, you should be very careful about the first impression you leave, since you only have one chance to establish a leadership image.

To go from follower to leader there must be congruence between what you say, do, and think. Otherwise, people won’t be able to trust and follow you as a leader.

9. Communication: A leader has good communication skills

Excellent communication skills are imperative for leadership. The main purpose of a leader is to unite people for a common mission and then lead them to achieve their set objectives.

You can never do that if you don’t have good communication skills. The importance of communication and interpersonal skills for leaders cannot be put into words.

I cannot emphasize enough how crucial good communication skills are for a leader. It is simply the lifeline of any leadership. You may possess a range of other leadership qualities, but if your communication skills are weak, leadership may not be the best role for you.

Also, being a good leader means always listening to what your team has to say, take note of their concerns and make sure to follow their requests as well as keeping them informed of the process.

To learn how to be a good leader you must listen to criticism, feedback, and bad comments, these must become a source of personal development for your path as a successful leader.

Additionally, make clear what your expectations and goals are for your team on good terms and on an ongoing basis.

If you want to go from follower to leader, you must be explicit with what you want to say. This way, there will be no room for misunderstandings and interpretations.

Also, learn when to be silent, silence is a virtue, so sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say anything simply to comply. Good leaders know when to keep quiet so that other people have room to talk.

10. Accountability: A leader holds himself/herself accountable

One of the biggest differences between a boss and a leader is that a boss will never accept his/her mistake. Leaders, on the other hand, don’t shy away from taking responsibility or blame where it is required.

As the great leadership phrases state, there is nothing wrong with being wrong, the wrong thing is not learning from mistakes and not gaining the necessary experience.

Therefore, after you have overcome a mistake, learn to forgive yourself, and work to correct it. Guilt will not make you solve anything. Taking the consequences and making sure you do not make the same mistake again will.

Additionally, like you, other members of your team will be wrong, so make sure to take these situations calmly, assume the consequences, and work so that the mistake does not recur.

Good leaders have no excuses, so stop looking for the culprits and instead focus on finding the reasons and scenarios for the mistake to not recur and try together with the rest of your team to resolve it as soon as possible.

When your team members see that you don’t treat yourself any less than them and that you involve them in all processes, then that would naturally make your leadership stronger and more credible. Your team will respect you more, have your back, and trust you.

Leaders should always have a share in the success or failure of their teams. However, when it fails, the leader should step up and take responsibility for not being able to communicate or delegate the tasks in the most effective way.

On the other hand, in case of success, the leader should give more credit to the team and appreciate them for working hard and efficiently.

This may sound selfless to some, but this is how leaders influence their followers. They know that achieving objectives isn’t about who gets the credit, but how well does the team collectively work in order to achieve their targets.

Taking credit for the work isn’t that important. The main success is working as a team and achieving the objective for the greater good. 

11. Humility: Leaders are humble

You might have heard the phrase that power corrupts people. This is why humility can be the only difference between a good leader and a bad one.

A good leader always shows humility towards his/her members. They are not arrogant, and their position certainly does not sway them from their objectives. They are more focused on achieving the goal rather than self-praise.

You can get more work done from your team if you are humble. This is why good leaders are always respected behind their backs. In general, people who are not humble don’t get appreciated, and they are usually not respected.

If you think about it, learning how to be a good leader is nothing more than an extension of the good person you are. Commit to being a good person, with integrity, with values and principles.

Be humble and have the humility to have a growth mindset, use your skills to help others, to enhance their growth, and not to impress and give an image of something that you are not.

Many people use their positions as leaders to show their power, influence, and even wealth. Remember that leadership is not a matter of appearances, but of management and results.

12. Empathy: Good leaders are empathetic

There are many qualities that a leader can learn or develop; empathy isn’t one of them. Empathy comes from within a person’s heart. It is natural, and people who are empathetic towards others tend to be better leaders.

An effective leader will always try to understand the situation that any of his team members are going through.

For example, if an employee isn’t showing good results, then a boss would scold that employee. A leader, on the other hand, will try to understand why the employee isn’t performing up to his/her full potential.

This helps in improving the bond between the leader and the team member as both leaders and team members will work effectively and successfully when there is a strong bond between them.

Also, if you want to learn how to be a good leader, you must learn to have fun. Not everything is work in life, you have time to go out and have fun with your work team.

Use tools and exercises to bring your team together. Make up any excuse to hang out, have fun, and bond with your team. This will increase interpersonal relationships, contribute to work motivation, and improve performance.

These types of scenarios will allow you to combat the work stress that occurs at work, which can interfere with the productivity of your team.

According to Rob Cooke, a relationship manager for high net-worth individuals, if you want to become a good leader, you must act to reduce stress and free yourself and your team from these symptoms (and what is causing it).

13. Gratitude: A good leader shows gratitude

Good leaders always consider themselves as part of the team. They do not think that they are above anyone, and they always show gratitude towards other team members.

If a team member plays an important role in completing a successful venture, then the leader would definitely applaud the team member and show gratitude to both the team member and to everyone else in the team as well.

A good leader would give credit where it is due. Showing gratitude to your team members can motivate them to work even harder. It would also make the employees feel heard and connected to you as a leader.

14. Respect: A good leader is always respectful

Respect is a two-way street. You can’t expect your team members to respect you if you don’t respect them in the first place.

A leader never takes advantage of his/her position or designation in any particular situation, and always shows respect and tolerance to others.

If you can’t respect people who work in your team properly, you are more inclined of being an autocratic boss instead of a motivational leader. In order to be a good leader, respect is one of the most have leadership qualities.

Good leaders always try to understand their followers’ needs and habits. They don’t scold for useless reasons. They try to understand the situation and then respond to the situation accordingly.

For a leader, respecting others is as important as oxygen is for life; if you don’t respect your fellow members, they will no longer follow or trust you.

15. Courage: A good leader is a risk taker

A good leader can be calm and calculated and, at the same time, be a risk-taker. Every team needs a leader who can sometimes hit one out of the park.

A good leader should never shy away from taking risks. It is commonly said, the bigger the risk, the greater the gain. Well, a leader is not greedy for money, but they are definitely passionate about success.

Good leaders want their team to be successful, and sometimes they have to make certain decisions that can be risky. If you keep playing safe, you will never be able to enjoy the big success.

This is why good leaders will always try to push the envelope, take risks, and then stick to their decisions. They wouldn’t be scared or lose self-confidence once they have taken a risky decision. Once the decision has been taken, in accordance with other team members, they will stick by it to the very end. 

16. Resilience: Leaders sail through tough times together

If you believe that being smart, communicative, empathic, and outspoken are the leadership qualities for success as a leader you may need to think twice.

According to Angela Duckworth, an author of an excellent book Grit, a book I really recommend leaders to read, the fundamental key to success is resilience.

According to Angela Duckworth, motivation and skills are not enough to build successful leaders, according to her research and experience, resilience above all, is the deciding factor whether a leader becomes successful or not.

Let’s be serious, your path as a leader will not always be easy. In any business there are good and bad days. And this is where resilience plays such an important role.

Whatever the situation, good leaders keep their work going and motivate their team to keep progressing whatever the situation. Resilience makes leaders understand that setbacks are part of the project and that anything can be resolved.

This is absolutely not an easy path to walk. When the situation is critical, people tend to get frustrated and sometimes lose control of the situation.

Instead, Good leaders understand the situation and calmly take the lead and motivate their fellow members. In simple words, as a good leader, you need to keep control of the situation whatever life throws at you.

Being resilient is an excellent leadership quality that will show your team and organization that when difficulties they can trust and count on your leadership.

When facing a difficult situation, make sure to take a step back and analyze the problem. With the help of your team you can turn a problem into an actionable solution.

Final thoughts

The above mentioned are the main leadership qualities that, according to many experts, a leader should possess. Some people can develop these skills and qualities while others are born with it.

For the most part, being a good leader is something that is learned on a daily basis, a process that never ends, it is an ever going school as you progress in your projects.

It is through experiences, difficulties, efforts, and trials that you will learn how to be a good leader.

There will be mistakes, challenges, and situations when you will not know what to do … these types of situations are what will make you grow as a person, and as a professional leader.

Nevertheless, you don’t need to possess all the above-mentioned leadership qualities to become a good leader; however, certain skills are imperative for a good leader, for example, being respectful, being a good listener, etc.

Consequently, anyone can be a good leader as long as he/she has (or can develop) the necessary leadership qualities. 

Dani Thifa
Dani Thifa
kliwo.com/

My name is Dani Thifa and I am a husband to a clumsy wife, dad to two cute spider babies, uncle to triplets, blogger, and digital lead at #CGI.

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