Humble and willful leaders understand the fact that leadership is all about working for the greater good. They lead to transform, not dominate. They are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and always yearn to learn and contribute more.
The Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader
When thinking about the concept of leadership, many individuals assume that it is the same thing as management. This couldn’t be further from the truth – a leader is anyone who wants to be, regardless of their position with an organization. Similarly, many managers do not actually possess the leadership qualities that would make them true leaders.
Perhaps the greatest quality any leader can have is vision – the ability to see the big picture of where the organization or team they are working within is headed, what it’s capable of, and what it will take to get there.
Equally as important as having a vision is the ability to convey that vision to others, and get them excited about it. This means maintaining a positive yet realistic presence within the organization helping team members stay motivated and engaged, and remember what it is that they are working for.
3. Strategic & Critical Thinking
A good leader will be able to think critically about the organization or team they work within, and develop a clear understanding of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (and how they as an individual can work to support or overcome these). They’ll be able to course-correct when necessary, and be able to assess the work they do to determine how it fits into overall organizational strategy and goals.
4. Interpersonal Communication
Good leaders must be able to interact with other people in a way that feels genuine. This does not mean you have to be an extrovert or a people-person to be a leader – there are many excellent leaders who self-identify as introverts! Rather, it means being able to demonstrate empathy, engaging in active listening, and building meaningful working relationships with those around you, whether they are a peer or a direct report.
5. Authenticity & Self-Awareness
One of the key ways to become a great leader is to be self-aware enough to understand your strengths and your flaws, and to build an authentic leadership style that’s true to who you are and how you do your best work. You want to be the best possible leader you can be, not try to fit into a mold set by someone else. Try to embrace the things that make you who you are, and that will naturally translate into you developing an authentic leadership style.
6. Open-Mindedness & Creativity
Being a good leader means being open to new ideas, possibilities, and perspectives, and understanding that there’s no “right” way to do things. Leadership involves the knowledge that success comes with a willingness to change how things are done and to bring in fresh eyes to inspire new ideas, in addition to trying to think outside the box as much as possible. Leaders must be able to listen, observe, and be willing to change course when necessary.
Leadership also means being adaptable and nimble when the situation calls for it. Nothing ever goes according to plan – whether you encounter minor roadblocks or large obstacles, you will need to be prepared to stop, reassess, and determine a new course of action. Good leaders will embrace the ever-changing nature of business and meet challenges with a flexible attitude – and be able to build inspire that same willingness to adapt in those around them.
8. Responsibility & Dependability
One of the most important qualities a leader can have is a sense of responsibility and dependability. This means displaying those traits in your individual work, but also demonstrating them in your interactions with others. Your team members need to know that they can depend on you to take on your fair share of work and follow through, support them through tough times, and help them meet both shared and individual goals.
9. Patience & Tenacity
A good leader knows how to take the long view, whether it’s of a strategy, a situation, or a goal. Being able to take on any bumps in the road and persist on without getting frustrated or defeated is key—from small projects to corporate vision, patience is a trait that is essential to strong leadership.
10. Continuous Improvement
True leaders know that perfection is a myth – there is always room for improvement on all levels, from the personal to the team to the overall organization. They’ll always be willing to help team members find ways to develop new skills or improve upon a weakness, be able to identify and implement strategies for helping the organization as a whole grow, and, perhaps most importantly, be able to look inward and identify the areas they would like to work on – and then act on them.
How to Develop Leadership Skills and Be a Great Leader
Even the most junior members of a team can learn how to be a good leader, if they are using their talents to motivate and assist their teams in moving forward and ultimately accomplishing their goals (individually, on a departmental scale, and organization-wide). And more broadly, one can lead in many contexts beyond the workplace, in any community with which you might be involved (for example, a religious community, a volunteer community, or a neighborhood community). Even if your sphere of influence is relatively small, you can play an integral role in leading the organization to success.
Leadership does not belong to those at the top of the organizational hierarchy, nor does it only apply to people who have what we would commonly consider the qualities of leadership (an outgoing personality, for example). It’s also important to note that though we often refer to leadership as a singular skill, in reality, it’s an accumulation of skills (most of which can be developed through experience and training) that are uniquely influenced by an individual’s personality and background. Think about your own experience: of the leaders you’ve interacted with throughout your life, chances are, there are a number of different leadership styles represented. However, most of them probably possessed a similar set of good leadership qualities that they drew from to be successful.
Luckily, unlike some highly specialized or technical skills, leadership is a competency that can be accessible to anyone, regardless of where they fall on an organizational chart, and similarly, anyone can develop leadership skills, whether it’s through formal training or simply through self-education and on-the-job practice.
For example, if you are a relatively junior member of your organization, you might want to look at the qualities of leadership listed above and assess how you do on each of them. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them as traits you possess, and maybe some of them are places you could work on developing. That could mean practicing active listening during meetings with coworkers, being proactive about bringing new ideas to your team, or asking for assistance from a peer or manager in developing one of your weaker areas.
If you are looking to be considered for a promotion or a job change into a higher-level position (or even if you’re already in a management role and are looking to hone your leadership skills to be as successful as possible), you may want to consider a more formal education or training in leadership. There are many programs out there, from short-term leadership seminars to full degree programs, that can help you become a visionary, transformative leader and experience enhanced career success. Obviously, the longer and more in-depth a program is, the deeper the education you receive will be.
A master’s degree program in leadership can be a great option for mid- to senior-level professionals. Today, many there are many fully accredited institutions offering this degree both on-campus and online, which can be a plus for students who must juggle a full-time job, family commitments, and their education.
About the Author
Sonya Krakoff is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist at Champlain College Online, where she is the voice behind the CCO blog and helps tell the school’s story across multiple digital platforms. Sonya has extensive experience in writing, content marketing, and editing for mission-driven businesses and non-profit organizations, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English (with a focus on creative writing) from St. Lawrence University.
What Are the Characteristics of a Good Leader?
The importance of integrity should be obvious. Though it may not necessarily be a metric in employee evaluations, integrity is an essential leadership trait for the individual and the organization. It’s especially important for top-level executives who are charting the organization’s course and making countless other significant decisions. Our research shows that integrity may actually be a potential blind spot for organizations. Make sure your organization reinforces the importance of honesty and integrity to leaders at various levels.
Ability to Delegate
Delegating is one of the core responsibilities of a leader, but it can be tricky to delegate effectively. The goal isn’t just to free yourself up — it’s also to enable your direct reports to grow, facilitate teamwork, provide autonomy, and lead to better decision-making. The best leaders build trust with employees in order to delegate more effectively.
Effective leadership and effective communication are intertwined. The best leaders are skilled communicators who are able to communicate in a variety of ways, from transmitting information to inspiring others to coaching direct reports. And you must be able to listen to, and communicate with, a wide range of people across roles, geographies, social identities, and more. The quality and effectiveness of communication among leaders across your organization directly affects the success of your business strategy, too. Learn how effective communication and better conversations can actually improve your organizational culture.
While this is a more inwardly focused trait, self-awareness and humility are paramount for leadership. The better you understand yourself and recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, the more effective you can be as a leader. Do you know how other people view you or how you show up at work? Take the time to learn about the 4 aspects of self-awareness and how you can strengthen each component.
Develop the Qualities of a Good Leader
Today’s leaders need the ability to address complex challenges in new and innovative ways. Build the traits and characteristics of a good leader with our flagship Leadership Development Program (LDP)®, now available in both face-to-face and online formats.
Being thankful can lead to higher self-esteem, reduced depression and anxiety, and better sleep. Gratitude can even make you a better leader. Yet few people regularly say “thank you” in work settings, even though most people say they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. The best leaders know how to demonstrate sincere gratitude in the workplace.
Learning agility is the ability to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. If you’re a “quick study” or are able to excel in unfamiliar circumstances, you might already be learning agile. But anybody can foster learning agility through practice, experience, and effort. Explore how great leaders are great learners with strong learning agility to get started.
For some people, “influence” feels like a dirty word. But being able to convince people through logical, emotional, or cooperative appeals is an important trait of inspiring, effective leaders. Influence is quite different from manipulation, and it needs to be done authentically and transparently. It requires emotional intelligence and trust. Learn more about how effective influencing can be a game-changer.
Empathy is correlated with job performance and is a critical part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. If you show more inclusive leadership and empathetic behaviors towards your direct reports, our research shows you’re more likely to be viewed as a better performer by your boss. Plus, empathy and inclusion are imperatives for improving workplace conditions for those around you.
It can be hard to speak up at work, whether you want to voice a new idea, provide feedback to a direct report, or flag a concern for someone above you. That’s part of the reason courage is a key trait of good leaders. Rather than avoiding problems or allowing conflicts to fester, courage enables leaders to step up and move things in the right direction. A workplace with high levels of psychological safety and a strong coaching culture will further support truth and courage.
Putting It All Together: The Characteristics of a Good Leader
While successful leaders may exhibit these 10 leadership qualities to varying degrees, all good leaders leverage at least some of these characteristics. Together, they make up the backbone of strong leadership across organizations, industries, and continents. Without these qualities, true leadership is impossible.
If you fear that you lack some of these characteristics of a good leader, don’t panic — there are ways for you to improve on your leadership capabilities, including all 10 of these core traits. At CCL, we believe that leadership is a skill that can be developed and that leaders are molded through experience, continued study, and adaptation.
In other words, you can strengthen any of these 10 characteristics of a good leader if you’re open to growth and you put in the time and effort towards self-improvement. Similarly, organizations can help their people hone these leadership qualities through development and real-world experiences.
It’s also essential to realize that leadership is a social process. It’s less about a strong or charismatic individual, and more about a group of people working collectively to achieve results together. If you demonstrate several of the characteristics of a good leader but fail to grasp this, chances are you won’t get very far on your own. You may be well-liked and respected, but it will be challenging to accomplish team or organizational goals.
That’s why at CCL, we say that leadership is a journey — different teams, projects, situations, and organizations will require you to apply these leadership characteristics in different ways throughout your career.
Here is the list of 25 essential leadership qualities that help leaders to achieve greater success
Integrity is a core quality that every leader must possess. You cannot run any business successfully if you lack integrity. Self-development author Brian Tracy says that whenever he holds a strategic business meeting, the first value every executive agrees on is integrity.
Business leaders know- Integrity is the foundation of good leadership, and one must stand for their beliefs. No matter how hard a situation, a good leader inspires with his principles without compromising; they refrain from making false promises or take shortcuts, choosing thoughts and action over personal gain. Delivering the said promises as ethically and morally grounded is necessary to pay the dividend in the long run.
An innovative leader is not a creative genius with thought-provoking ideas but gives others the freedom to develop their ideas. You would always find people with great ideas who lack the will, determination, and fear of taking any actions. But innovative leaders are not one of them.
Innovative people are always open to new ideas and discussions. They listen to everyone actively and also motivate others to think out of the box. This quality gives them an edge over others since they are always hunting for creativity and innovations. As the innovative leader, Steve Jobs himself said, ‘Innovations distinguish between a leader and a follower.’
One of the essential leadership qualities is the possession of honesty. Honesty is expected from leaders to garner trust and respect from people for reliability. Moreover, we look upto people who are loyal to their words and are accountable. Thus, honesty is the most valued trait for any business leader or any leader in general.
4. Active Listening
The roots of effective leadership lie in simple things, one of which is listening. Listening to someone demonstrates respect; it shows that you value their ideas and are willing to hear them. ~John Baldoni
Active listening is an excellent quality to have when it comes to leadership. Good leaders listen to people with great attention and sincerity. It helps them understand people and their perspectives. Active listening builds trust and relationships in the long run. Good leaders communicate with care, focus on the person and the message; they don’t interrupt and acknowledge what is being said. And that is what the world needs; leaders who listen to its people. Acquiring this skill is not easy; it needs self-awareness and humility to respect others’ thoughts.
Self-confidence is found abundantly amidst true leaders; hence they know about their competencies and leadership qualities. They are sure about their competencies and leadership skills. They have a sense of self-assurance and self-esteem and, most importantly, believe that they can make a difference. As Rosalynn Carter rightly said, ‘You have to have confidence in your ability and be tough enough to follow through.’
Self-confidence is critical for leadership because it gives them wings to take risks, accomplish goals, and fly high. Organizational leaders take charge themselves and march with positivity and confidence. It allows them to make immediate decisions, solve organizational problems and conflicts. Good leaders take full responsibility and quick actions without passing on issues, ignoring, or procrastinating.