Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader
What Are the Qualities of a Good Leader?
Successful managers, team leaders and supervisors typically possess ten traits and skills that make them superior leaders. The first five on the list are emotional and attitudinal. The other five concern intellectual abilities and learned skills.
People may be born with some of these traits and skills or come by them through life experiences, but to become great leaders, most people need to learn the missing skills.
- Enthusiasm – Leaders should be passionate about their jobs and enthusiastic about working toward the team’s goals. They must lead by example because enthusiasm is contagious, but so is apathy. A manager who leads without enthusiasm encourages complacency and mediocrity in those they manage.
- Courage – Some decisions are difficult, and business pressures can weigh heavy on a leader's shoulders. Courageously working through difficulties inspires confidence in both leaders and followers. The most daunting fear a leader faces is a fear of failure. A good leader dares to make decisions even when the outcome isn't certain.
- Confidence – Like courage, confidence inspires employees to trust a leader’s decisions. Managers and supervisors who seem unsure of their abilities encourage their team members to question and balk at orders and instructions. Leaders who speak with conviction, whether real or pretended, convince those around them that they know what they are doing.
- Humility & Gratitude – Each member of a group brings knowledge and skills. No one knows everything. Everyone has flaws. A good leader understands his own limitations and accepts and appreciates help when he or she needs it. A strong ego supports confidence and courage, but overconfidence, self-belief beyond reason, can be destructive. A leader’s humility encourages others to suggest new ideas and propose solutions to problems. The other side of humility is gratitude. Leaders who show appreciation for help team members give make members feel valued and important. Team building demands humility and gratitude.
- Empathy – Being able to stand in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective is essential for good leadership. Successful people have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish and know what they need everyone on the team to do. Understanding how members of the group see their part in the plan can prevent discord and misunderstandings. If someone feels their efforts are unimportant or unappreciated, enthusiasm for accomplishment dims.
- Honesty and Integrity – Hiding information or telling half-truths to make life easier can be tempting when pressure is on. Leaders must have the courage to be truthful, even when it’s uncomfortable. If a manager makes a mistake, employees can forgive an error more easily than they can forgive a lie. Acting with integrity promotes trust and respect. When a leader chooses one team member over another, for example, it should be for reasons of skill or experience. Dishonesty or unethical behavior can sink a leader fast because followers must trust their leaders.
- Verbal Communication – By organizing one’s thoughts and explaining them clearly to everyone involved, a leader paves the way for successful progress while making people feel included. Team members who understand what's expected and why, follow their leader and diligently work towards goals. Conversely, giving unclear, incomplete or conflicting instructions or not talking to all individuals involved can cripple the workflow and damage team morale.
- Written Communication – Speaking directly to everyone isn’t always possible. Today’s communication often involves texts and emails. Badly written emails have derailed many previously smooth-running operations. Good leaders take care when communicating in writing. If an email needs to share new information, leaders who express themselves well in writing avoid confusion and mistakes. Leaders who don’t have great writing skills but communicate well verbally are wise to enlist help from better writers on the staff. That brings us to delegating.
- Ability to Delegate – This skill makes every leadership list. Managers like control and sometimes would rather avoid explaining and assigning work to others. A good leader uses good judgment in delegating. Taking the time and making the effort to choose the best person for a task can be counterintuitive when there’s too much to do. It may seem more efficient and faster just to get something done, but managing doesn't mean doing all the work; it means dividing the work and tracking it to make sure it gets done.
- Analytical Thinking – This leadership skill can be easy to overlook. Leaders must know how to take information at their disposal and make the best decisions from it. Delegating takes analytical thinking, for example. A manager needs to evaluate a team member’s skills and match them with tasks that need to be done. If some process or procedure isn’t working, analytical thought can help discover why. Analytical thinking leads to better strategies, new ideas and more accurate projections.
Becoming a great leader starts with knowing your strengths and shortfalls. Few leaders start with all ten attributes or skills. Some confident people naturally have enthusiasm and have always been courageous.
More timid, reserved individuals can still be good leaders by learning to believe in themselves, acting enthusiastically, and addressing fears. Empathy, humility, and gratitude come naturally for some because of background or culture, but leaders can learn to incorporate these characteristics into their leadership styles by developing self-awareness.
There are management courses and books that teach communication skills, analytical thinking and delegation. The more of the ten skills a leader masters, the better they will lead.