Good leaders are, quite simply, good for business. Indeed, they’re the key to a positive working environment, a productive team and, as such, a profitable company.
While some are born leaders, others are made. Whatever the case (whether you’ve been appointed as your team’s leader or you want to prove your worth to your company for an upcoming promotion), there are some essential characteristics that you need to possess in order to succeed.
So, what are they?
Keep reading for a list of the top qualities that every great leader should have.
Without confidence in your abilities as a leader, you may find yourself lacking followers – which is kind of an essential component of leadership. After all, it’s easier to trust someone who exhibits confidence (not to be confused with arrogance) than someone who has a history of panicking and giving up at the first sign of struggle.
No one in their right mind would follow someone who is unable to make decisions and who hesitates to act in tough situations. They follow those who commit and who are unafraid of making difficult decisions.
A courageous leader is one who is prepared to take risks, share unpopular opinions, give difficult feedback and raise hard issues. Often, they are also someone who is able to admit to their own mistakes. And although fearlessness is a rare trait, it’s not impossible to develop a habit of showing enormous courage at crucial moments.
Great leaders think outside the box. They challenge the status quo, and they come up with unconventional ideas and concepts that others consider too risky or absurd. They’re imaginative, and they’re able to quickly and efficiently analyse problems and offer solutions.
Where others might think a project or task is too difficult or impossible, a good leader faces those challenges with enthusiasm and positive energy. By being a source of positivity and creating a culture of optimism in the workplace, you effectively help your team adopt a similar approach to their work. Even in difficult situations, a great leader figures out ways to solve problems and keep the team motivated.
What do Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Hillary Clinton and Richard Branson all have in common? They have a clear idea of where they’re going and what they’re trying to accomplish. And that’s exactly what makes a great business leader: they have a vivid picture of where their company is headed, they articulate those goals to others (this is kind of essential if you want the entire to work towards a common goal) and they commit to achieving them.
Effective communication in the workplace is what, really, makes team members feel appreciated – and a good manager knows (and practises) this. They encourage communication between team members (both in person and virtually), they listen to them and their ideas, and they clearly and succinctly present expectations, explain circumstances and justify decisions taken.
To be successful in your endeavours, as any CEO will tell you, is to remain focused on the goals of your team and organisation. Life is full of distractions, so it’s essential that you always remain on track. You can achieve this by planning ahead, staying organised and establishing processes and routines to maintain high performance and meet your goals.
Passion and enthusiasm are contagious in the workplace. In other words, when a leader is passionate about a project or task, so too will be the team they lead. Whatever it is that you care about, whether it’s writing or conducting scientific experiments, make sure that your team knows about it. Inspire your people and empower them.
If you’ve ever worked under a manager who was nervous, frantic or angry, the last thing you’d probably describe them as is ‘a good leader’. In real terms, a good leader is someone who remains calm, composed and steadfast in even the most stressful situations, and it is this that commands respect and admiration from others.
A humble leader can recognise the value of others. They can put their ego aside and accept criticism as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. A leader who encourages a flat hierarchy and open dialogue, and who can shift attention away from themselves, can create a truly collaborative environment within their company. In other words, their position doesn’t affect their judgement, and they’re well aware of their own limits and mistakes.
People respect those who are honest and have integrity. A good leader fits the bill perfectly here: they are ethical and believe that honesty, effort, transparency and reliability are what makes a team, department or, especially, a whole company successful. In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated.
One of the most valuable traits a leader can have is the ability to understand people and empathise with them. Being compassionate, and understanding how your actions and decisions affect people will, in turn, generate a huge amount of loyalty, as well as productivity and engagement from your team.
Although imitation is said to be the greatest form of flattery, there’s no room for it in leadership. While you should strive to learn from others and be inspired by them, it’s equally important that your ideas are authentic. Leaders need to set their own trends and remain true to themselves, their beliefs and their values, as well as those of the organisation.
Holding yourself accountable for your decisions and mistakes helps others do the same. This, in effect, helps create an efficient and productive team. Essentially, a leader needs to be able to own up to their mistakes and take responsibility for them without blaming others or circumstances that were out of their control.
Intuition is a great source of knowledge that can inform your business decisions. A skilled leader can make quick decisions by using their learned experience to assess a situation and the risks involved before making any final decisions.
In order to climb to the top of the career ladder, you need to be dedicated to the cause. This allows you to overcome obstacles and stay on course, regardless of the difficulties you may face. Your dedication is also likely to inspire the same commitment from others.
Leaders set good examples for their teams through their actions, ideas and abilities. For others to follow your lead, you need to be able to inspire them with your ideas and commitment to the company.
While it’s important that you oversee and guide your team, you must also be able to delegate tasks to them and trust that they will carry them out efficiently. In other words, you need to be able to give up control and share responsibilities with others.
Patience is an important quality for great leaders. They need to be able to deal with daily frustrations calmly, persist at the sight of obstacles and wait for the right opportunities to come by.
21. Emotionally Intelligent
Human interaction is a crucial aspect of leadership. Being able to understand the actions and behaviours of others, and having a high degree of emotional intelligence allows leaders to manage their team effectively and create trusting relationships with them.
Transparency is essential for the success of any organisation. A leader that involves their team in the process and who is upfront about important matters is one that employees can respect and trust. By giving them ownership over their work and involving them in important decisions, this allows leaders to build a concrete relationship with their team.
Having a sense of humour is a winning quality for any leader. In fact, according to research conducted by Harvard Business School, humour, when used appropriately, can mediate ‘perceptions of confidence and competence’. Plus, some light-hearted humour can create a more uplifting and less stressful work environment.
To be impartial, you need to be able to recognise your own prejudices and biases as well as those of others. A true leader has an ethical character and can judge equitably, remain objective and stay unaffected by favouritisms or their ego.
Flexibility and adaptability are crucial when you’re leading a team. When things don’t go as planned, leaders must be able to adapt to the circumstances and come up with a new course of actions.
Great leaders have no trouble standing out from the crowd. Their drive and dedication to their teams and organisations is often the reason behind their success. In order to attain the same status, you need to be steadfast, focused and committed to your goals and your team.
What do you think makes a great leader? Can you think of any other essential qualities and traits? Join the conversation down below and let us know!
This article is an updated version of an earlier article that was originally published on 11 December 2017.
Melina Theodorou also contributed to this article.