Great leadership is essential in all walks of life and at every level of society. John Quincy Adams said it best: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” These intangible leadership qualities have been sought after for centuries.
Fortunately, there are several actionable ways to incorporate these qualities into your leadership. In this article, we will cover 16 leadership qualities that are essential to effective leadership.
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Accountability is a two-way street when it comes to great leadership. You’ve probably had a boss that refused to own up to their mistakes. This behavior did not likely inspire respect or willingness to follow.
The truth is, the best leaders are willing to admit to their faults and give credit where it’s due. Holding yourself accountable is one of the most overlooked leadership qualities out there.
On the flip side, great leaders also hold their subordinates accountable. As a leader, you’ll need to ensure that your subordinates understand your expectations.
Provide clear communication and offer advice to those who struggle. Holding your team members accountable will encourage quality results and honest communication.
2. Leads by example
In the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” Leading by example is an invaluable quality for an effective leader.
Expectations won’t be respected unless the authority respects them as well. For example, if you expect your team members to meet certain deadlines, you should be working hard to do the same.
Here are some simple ways to lead by example:
- Take responsibility for your actions.
- Be a team player.
- Respect all levels of leadership.
- Trust your team and avoid micromanagement.
Subordinates work harder when they see their leader getting their hands dirty too. Great leaders earn respect by showing respect to their teammates. Show your subordinates that you trust them to do the work right.
Leading by example is also a great way to communicate your expectations. Providing an example of what you expect will further cement your values.
3. Truthful and honest
Great leaders communicate their values and stick to them. Being truthful and honest are two virtues that can be universally agreed upon.
Sound cliché? It’s not, and here’s why: people don’t want to work for someone who lacks common values. These qualities are ingrained in our social fabric and have a strong effect on people’s perception of others.
At the end of the day, people want to know they’ll be treated right. Your subordinates will be willing to work hard if you have their best interest at heart.
Avoid the common pitfall of preaching integrity with no follow-through. Make values part of your leadership by clearly stating behavioral expectations.
This falls into leading by example. Treat your teammates with respect, don’t be afraid to admit mistakes, and be honest about your successes.
If you’re unsure of how to improve these qualities, ask your team members where you can improve. This is a good way to stay honest, and gain respect. Work on the areas that are lacking.
The ancient Greek phrase, “know thyself,” is not just relevant to self-help books. Having self-awareness is an important leadership quality.
People have been striving to gain self-awareness for millennia– it’s easier said than done. The reality is people trust leaders who showcase this quality. Here are some tips for becoming more self-aware.
- Be humble.
- Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.
- Understand your responsibility.
- Always seek to improve yourself.
- Be accountable for your mistakes.
Being self-aware means being vulnerable and that’s why its a challenge. Great leadership comes with an understanding of how your teammates perceive you.
Asking for feedback should be a routine practice. Great leadership comes with perpetual growth and betterment of yourself.
Nobody’s perfect, and that’s what self-awareness is all about. Realize that you’re not always going to get it right, and neither are your teammates. Work on helping yourself and your team improve.
5. Has empathy
While it’s important to uphold policies, it’s equally important to see your team as human. Practicing empathy is a critical skill for a good leader. Here’s why empathy is important, according to the U.S. Army Leader Development Manual:
“Empathy can allow leaders to understand how their actions will make others feel and react. Empathy can help leaders to understand those that they deal with including other Soldiers, Army Civilians, local populace, and even enemy forces. Being able to see from another’s viewpoint enables a leader to understand those around them better.”
If that’s not clear, I don’t know what is. Empathy is one of the essential leadership qualities you will need to become a good leader. Understand others’ perspectives to better gauge the effect of your actions.
6. Loyal to allies
Just like a good leader, becoming a good ally is something that is earned through action and intention. Let me explain– it doesn’t matter if you call yourself an ally, you’re not an ally until others consider you one. This means you have to prove your loyalty to your teammates.
Websters Dictionary defines an ally as “a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.” To be a great leader, you’ll have to be willing and ready to help further the efforts of the team.
Additionally, it’s your job to be an ally to every person on your team equally. This means making sure everyone is treated with respect. Communicate to your team what is expected to earn your allyship.
7. Challenges others
Great leaders pave the way to success and they do it by challenging others. Author Mikey Myatt says it best: “Leaders deserve the teams they build.”
If you settle for mediocre talent, that’s on you. One of the skills of a leader is to acquire, train, and retain the best people for the job. Here’s how to do that:
- Challenge the acquisition process if you are unable to easily deploy your team to projects.
- Challenge your team to strive for better results.
- Challenge the culture if it does not reflect your values.
- Challenge yourself to uphold integrity, discipline, and organization.
Good leadership requires you to continuously challenge what’s around you. This enables you to build a better team. It’s important to challenge yourself as well. Ask yourself where you can improve and make it happen.
The ability to stay focused on the goal is one of the most important leadership qualities. We’ve all been apart of a project that gets messy and loses sight of the desired result.
As an effective leader, it’s your job to keep the team on task. Staying results-oriented helps your team effectively problem solve and plan. These analytical skills make a great leader.
It’s important to keep in mind the social aspect of productivity as well. The most successful leaders combine two approaches: results-oriented and people-oriented.
Case in point: a 2009 study by James Zenger found that leaders who are solely focus-driven are perceived as good leaders 14% of the time. Leaders who focused on strong social skills were seen as great leaders just 12% of the time.
Here’s where it gets interesting–leaders who exhibited strong focus and social skills were seen as great leaders 72% of the time. Good leaders have to be great at both focusing on the results and using social skills to gain better results.
9. Assertive decisions
Being assertive is the sign of a good leader for one simple reason– it makes your opinion clear. The last thing you want as a leader is to leave your team confused.
Your challenge will be to employ this skill in balance with other leadership qualities. If you can successfully push for better resources for your team, you’ll be seen as bold and confident.
Part of being assertive means making assertive decisions. This means knowing your stuff. Do the proper research, understand the data, and know the ins and outs of every project. This will allow you to make confident, assertive decisions. This shows that you have good judgment– one of the most important leadership qualities.
Ultimately, your own assertive decision making will encourage your team to do the same. Healthy discussion regarding important decisions will lead to more thoughtful, informed results.
10. Has integrity
I’ve already talked about important values to hold as a good leader. The question is, how do you maintain these values? It’s not unusual for a company to make value statements but few uphold said principals.
The ability to hold true to these statements is perceived as integrity. So how to do you uphold integrity? Here are some basics:
- Be true to promises: leaders who go back on their word or take too long to come through, lose the trust of their team.
- Pay equal respect: be fair in your assessments and do not play favorites.
- Credit your team: don’t take full credit for others’ accomplishments.
- Be clear: respect your team by being honest– even when it’s bad news.
At the end of the day, a good leader will uphold their values through actions. This encourages your team to do the same, which fosters a culture of integrity.
11. Reliable word
Speaking of integrity, being reliable is one of the leadership skills that should not be overlooked. When you are true to your word, your team can trust you. Why is trust important? People who trust their leader are more motivated to succeed.
In a study by Dale Carnegie, it was discovered that trust is the biggest emotional factor in employee drive. They also found that only 40% of employees trust their management. So how can you gain trust as a leader?
Good business leaders start by creating a culture of trust between all facets of the team. This is where you incorporate your values, uphold your integrity and keep your word.
A foundation of trust will allow for more effective communication, better decision making, and higher motivation.
12. Inspires and motivates
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” —General Dwight Eisenhower
This quote sums it up quite nicely. Your leadership skills should enable you to motivate your team. The best results come when your subordinates want to get the job done. This can only be achieved through inspiration and motivation.
Inspire your team with actions. If you show drive and passion in your actions, it will inspire others to do the same. Treat others with respect and they will be motivated to improve. Your job as a great leader will be to remind your team of the big picture to keep everyone motivated.
It’s also essential to form a team that shares your vision and passion. Hiring people who are passionate about the vision is essential for success.
13. Positive attitude
Negative environments do not foster quality performance. Part of that self-awareness I talked about means understanding how your attitude affects your team. Staying positive isn’t always easy, but that’s your challenge as a good leader.
Positive leadership can greatly improve your team’s productivity. Here’s the deal: a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions is key to motivation. A study conducted by Stephen Flora found that this “magic-ratio” is one of the most powerful tools for motivation.
Enacting this ratio is simple to do– make sure your team gets small encouragements and positive interactions regularly. You don’t have to count each interaction, just know, positive interactions should far outweigh the negative.
14. Empowers others
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” — Bill Gates
Across all walks of life, true leaders are the people who help others succeed. Good leaders take the initiative to advocate for their team. Empowering your team encourages independence and self-motivation.
Here a few simple ways to empower your team:
- Recognize strengths and accomplishments.
- Encourage open and honest communication.
- Give tasks to team members with the appropriate skills.
- Don’t micromanage your team.
Empowering your team means recognizing skills, assigning tasks to those with the skill level, and giving them the space to accomplish the task.
15. Consistent mindset
A great leader is consistent in mindset, actions, and technique. Find the leadership style that works for you and stick to it. Leaders who make erratic decisions are not perceived as trustworthy.
Consistency on your part communicates exactly what you expect from your team, and garners more consistent results.
Be consistent in your expectations. If you want regular updates from your team, make sure that it’s expected and encouraged. If this is a priority, the last thing you want is a team that’s afraid to bother you.
Understand the expectations you put on your team and do your part on the receiving end. If you tell your employees you always have an “open door,” you have to keep that promise. Make time for the expectations that you set.
16. Appreciates others
Showing appreciation is a win-win situation. Showing encouragement not only makes your subordinate feel recognized, but it also makes you feel good. This behavior fosters a culture of empowerment that is so important for success.
Good leaders show appreciation to their team in several ways:
- Tell your team members why you value them.
- Say “thank you,” more often.
- Show your trust by assigning important tasks.
- Give formal recognition for great results.
- Value your team member’s opinions.
The qualities of a good leader include recognition of your teams’ hard work. As a leader, your team will look to you for guidance. Let them know when they’re on track and how much you appreciate it.
No two leaders are the same, but one thing is certain– the above qualities make great leaders. Not all of these qualities may resonate with you, but be sure to incorporate the ones that do, and be consistent. Find your leadership style and pay close attention to what works.
Great leaders are made from hard work, dedication and the drive to be better. With great leadership, you can earn success, break new grounds, and inspire future leaders.