Ten Characteristics of a Good Leader
Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Jacinda Ardern – there are so many different kinds of leaders in the world, all with so many unique traits. But we do often find characteristics that are comparable in good leaders.
If you’re hoping to take on more of a leadership role at work or hone your craft, this is a great opportunity for self-reflection. Adopting some of these traits can help you to become the good leader you hope to be.
Whether you’re leading your team in a big pitch or trying to motivate your colleagues towards greater successes and progress, it’s important to reflect on how to become a really great leader.
These are some qualities of a good leader that can help you to make great strides towards your leadership success! These include:
Leading by example
Now let's unpack each one of these one by one.
In a complicated professional environment, many people look to their managers and team leaders as their advocate in the workplace. It is up to leaders to represent the needs and successes of their team so that progress can be made, difficulties can be avoided, and successes can be celebrated.
When striving towards or stepping into leadership roles, it’s important to not let your ego get the better of you. By staying connected with what your team need and reflecting this honestly in leadership meetings, as well as bearing them in mind whilst making changes in your team, you can earn the respect of your team and become a trusted adviser, leader, and colleague.
When it comes to what workers value the most in their leaders, according to a Robert Half study, with 75% of respondents saying that integrity is the most important trait. So even if you don’t value it highly – the people working in your team probably do.
The other important side of professional integrity is upholding the values and ethics of your company. If you have been hired into a leadership position, you need to represent the values that your team are expected to adhere to.
Becoming a leader in your professional environment can throw up some concerns – when you’re newly in a leadership position, you might become overly worried about pleasing everybody.
We’ll let you into a business secret – you can’t please everyone!
Being a leader means shaping the conversation, not repeating what others are saying. Indecision caused by trying too hard to please the people in your team can make you come across as a weak leader and might be detrimental to your career progression in the long run.
Being decisive and confident in your skills, expertise, and decisions is important for inspiring confidence from those around you. It is also a surefire way to make progress more efficiently.
In a fast-paced business environment, making strategic decisions quickly is an effective way to lead, and to get work done quickly. Take all the available information into account before making decisions, but don’t agonise unnecessarily over the potential impacts of small decisions.
3. Leading by example
Nothing is worse than a leader who lives by the mantra ‘Do what I say and not as I do’ – it’s just plain hypocritical! This is a perfect way to showcase your integrity, and all it takes is playing by the same rules as everybody else.
If you enforce strict 9-5 office hours, you must also be present and working during this time. If you ask them to book their annual leave a month in advance, you cannot decide on Wednesday to take a sneaky Friday off. If you ask them to do it, you must do it too. This is the simplest, and most effective, way to ensure that your team operates smoothly and successfully.
Leadership isn’t always easy – it can mean having to make difficult decisions and it can also mean not being able to do exactly as you please all the time, but it is essential that if you’re striving towards being a professional leader that you consider how it will be seen by staff members underneath you. If your actions are contradicting your words, or you are failing to live up to standards that you set for them, your team will not trust you or feel they can rely on you – a problem facing almost 1 in 3 employers.
Communicating effectively with your team and managing interpersonal relationships within it are inalienable aspects of leadership, so streamlining your communication is one of the simplest ways to channel key traits of a good leader.
The environment we work and communicate within now is not as simple as going to the office and speaking face-to-face. Remote work has grown 91% over the past 10 years, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and so good leaders must consider how best to communicate with partly or fully remote teams.
Whether it’s 1:1 meetings with your colleagues, weekly catch ups to stay in touch, or simply just sharing a coffee break every once in a while. It’s important to find effective ways to communicate with those you work most closely with so that your hard work is consistent and can lead to real progress.
Think about it – how good does it make you feel when your manager or head of department thanks you for your hard work? This is exactly why it’s so important for you to recognise and be grateful for the hard work of your team when you lead.
According to a survey run by Glassdoor, 81% of employees are more motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. Feeling like your work is meaningful and valued by those above you makes a huge difference. It is a powerful motivator and fosters a real sense of community within your team.
Not only is practicing gratitude at work powerful for those you’re thanking, it can also make a big difference to you! Being grateful for even the little things in your life can lead to an increased feeling of satisfaction, as well as reducing low mood. It never hurts to remember what you’re lucky to have – especially when this is the people you work with.
Leadership means taking ownership of training and developing your team to encourage and invest in new skills. You can only become a good leader in terms of aiding personal development if you are willing to empower and encourage your colleagues.
When your team feels empowered, it means that they feel your confidence in them. Feeling that their leader has faith in their abilities and decision making means that they feel more confident in these things themselves, and are more likely to make good decisions.
Empowering your team to feel confident in their own abilities and choices might not always mean them making the decisions that you would make, but it will usually offer great results for the company, clients, and customers. And without these alternative and unique calls, your team would be less creative and less agile.
You could be forgiven for thinking that people don’t want their leaders to have flaws – it would make sense that we want our leader to be perfect, right? Actually, in professional environments, it can be just as valuable to show your weaknesses and flaws. This honesty is a game-changer and should be extended to all areas of your leadership.
Whether you’re being up-front with team members about areas they need to improve, highlighting potential stumbling blocks in upcoming projects, or even just being honest about having a bad day – honesty is what makes a team run smoothly. And keeping the cogs turning is the most important attribute of a good leader.
A major key to great leadership is fostering a creative and communicative team environment – and encouraging and displaying honesty is an important part of this.
8. Thinking ahead
It might seem obvious, but as a leader, you need to be prepared for the future.
Team leaders, department heads, and managers are the people who shape the future of the company, and of their teams, by making dynamic decisions and considering what will work best for departments, the company, and the client.
Having a clear vision of what your team should look like going forward will make you a more natural leader in the eyes of managers at your company, and may set you in good stead for a promotion in the future. If you’re aspiring towards a more leadership-orientated role, make sure to get involved in discussions about the future of the team and to make any suggestions you might. You never know – putting your vision out there might help it to come true.
When you take on a leadership position in your professional life, stress is part of the contract. But it’s important to know when you are being asked to take on too much, and to know how to cope with workplace stress. For leaders facing stressful meetings, decisions, and deadlines, being resilient towards stress is non-negotiable.
Being a good leader means preparing for the long-term – your promotions should be a part of linear progression. So learning to deal with the stresses and difficulties that come with leadership is essential, as these coping techniques will only grow in importance the more senior you become.
Finding a work/life balance that works for you, and prioritising time to decompress and relax are both really helpful ways to promote resilience. If you go into the office well-rested and content, you are more likely to take problems in your stride when they arise. If you’re under slept and in a bad mood, any little issue might seem much worse, and you won’t respond with calm confidence.
To learn more about professional resilience, read EZRA’s insights on How to be a Resilient Leader.
Now, that’s a fair few qualities of a good leader to keep in mind, so you’re also going to need to set aside time and attention for self-reflection.
We’ve already established how important it is to check in with your team in regular 1:1s to reflect on their progress. For the exact same reasons, you should also regularly make time to reflect on your own progress and ask how you think you’re doing as a leader.
Investing in leadership coaching with EZRA is an intelligent way to make sure that you are reflecting often, reflecting on the right things, and that you are able to establish goals for the future. Positive reflection does not simply look at past behaviors but considers how to instate good ones in the future.
Your EZRA coach will help you to create SMART goals that take your own personal ambitions and traits into account. 72% have observed improvement following leadership coaching, so it’s official. By taking time to reflect with a leadership coach, you can take your future into your own hands and ensure greater success going forward.