Managing, Leading & Personal Effectiveness

Leadership Qualities - What Makes A Good Leader?

Strong leadership skills open the door for progression across a wide range of industries, regardless of whether your role is officially a leadership position or not. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the qualities of a good leader, focusing on the key leadership traits that will help you get the best out of yourself and your team.

There is no single trait that alone will make you a great leader. Leaders encounter a wide range of challenges, obstacles, and personalities, so must possess a wide range of skills to effectively deal with them.

What makes a good leader? 

Take a look at the 15 leadership qualities below – which do you already have, which do you need to develop?

 1. Accountability

Whilst it’s easy to take credit for our successes, being open about how we could have done things differently can be a little more difficult. However, taking accountability is the first step in learning from your mistakes. Plus, if you as a leader have the courage to take accountability, you’ll encourage your team to follow suit.

2. Empathy

Empathy is an important skill to develop not only as a leader, but also in your everyday life. Leading with empathy means that those around you will feel valued, not only for their contribution to the team, but also on a personal level. Feeling valued makes a huge difference to how well teams work together.

3. Decision-making

Strong decision-making skills are vital for effective leadership. Whilst you won’t be making all the decisions, and rightly so, your team may still look to you for direction. If you’re unable to make decisions and provide direction, your team will lose momentum and are more likely to question where they’re going. Ultimately, it’s impossible to secure buy-in from your team if you don’t seem sure yourself.

4. Communication

Without strong communication, you cannot succeed as a leader. You need to be able to express what you want from your team, where the team is going, and why. Effective communication will also help strengthen interpersonal relationships between you and your team members.

5. Reliability

Whether it’s keeping to deadlines, delivering what you say you’ll deliver, or being there for meetings with your team members, showing up consistently is crucial. Without reliability, it’s impossible for people to fully trust in you as leader: if you don’t deliver on a day-to-day basis, will you really be able to deliver the team vision?  

6. Agility

In a rapidly developing professional environment, agility in leadership is crucial. Agility as a leadership quality is all about driving and managing change; giving your team the strength to continuously evolve, innovate, and change direction. Agile leaders don’t get stuck in their ways, they consistently seek better ways of doing things.

If you’re interested in learning more about leadership in an agile setting, take a look at our ‘beginners guide to agile’.

7. Adaptivity

Where agility involves managing and driving change, adaptability involves accepting it, and the best leaders can do both. As a leader, you need to accept and overcome often unforeseen changes, such as new technologies and business redirection. Having an adaptable leader at the helm can be the difference between success and failure.

8. Motivation

A leader must know what their organisation’s purpose is – what its mission is. They must help others understand their mission too, and get them excited about it. Establishing a clear direction, recognising team members’ efforts, and ensuring all team members know their contributions are valuable is a surefire way to galvanise a team’s success.

9. Conflict resolution

Some level of conflict is inevitable in the workplace, and so long as it’s dealt with effectively, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. An effective leader can address conflict calmly and objectively, preventing conflicts from spiralling out of control.

10. Organisation

Demonstrating good organisational skills is vital for effective leadership, as you’ll always have a number of priorities that will compete for your time. Keeping track of your progress with various projects is vital to keep up momentum and avoid missing deadlines.

11. Empowerment

Empowering other people (whether they are your colleagues, peers, or family) is a vital leadership quality. It’s just as important to develop the skills of the people around you – and empower their career – as it is to do these things for yourself. If you can ‘walk the walk’ and lead by example, it will inspire others around you to behave in a similar way and grow their own skills.

12. Delegation

Leaders need to be able to recognise the strengths of their team members and know how to delegate work. However, be aware of the difference between task ‘dumping’ and delegation: to successfully delegate you need to assess an individual’s suitability for the task – do they have the time, resources, and skills to complete it?

13. Positivity

Whilst things may go wrong sometimes, and there’s a balance to be struck between being optimistic and realistic, a positive leader has the ability to get a team back on track when the worst happens. What’s more, positivity is contagious, so the impact on your team can be immeasurable.

14. Emotional intelligence

A leader should be able to deal with challenging conflict situations objectively and calmly – without getting too caught up in the emotions themselves. A strong leader is also able to sense how other people feel and react accordingly, providing support, guidance, and understanding where necessary. Emotional intelligence in leadership also requires you to understand your own emotions, and to be aware of how your actions impact both your work and your working environment. 

15. Integrity

Leading with integrity is fundamental in effective leadership. A lack of integrity will inevitably raise doubts about your reliability and trustworthiness, and undermine your vision for the team. Leading with integrity will inspire those around you to do the same, and leading without integrity is likely to do the same, leading to shortcuts and a lack of effort from your team.

Can you learn to lead?

Leadership skills can be learned, taught, and improved – just like any other skill. As with most non-technical skills, the main challenge is developing the right personal qualities for leadership – and applying these skills – which takes time.

A leader will actively want to take responsibility for making good things happen, by working with others and learning from their own failures. This is why leaders often have the opportunity to learn, see, and do more with their careers. It does take time and effort to improve your leadership skills, but by understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you will focus your approach and begin to grow.

If you’d like to learn more about key working skills, take a look at our problem solving skills blog.

Want to develop your leadership skills?

Take some time to consider the leadership qualities you have read about here and how you could develop these in your own life, in both a professional and personal context.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a better leader, take a look at QA’s course on leadership here: leadership course page.

Related Articles