Leadership qualities that an effective leader must have aren’t just charisma, intelligence, and a seemingly effortless command of the subject material and skills, although it is certainly all of those as well. Leading men and women effectively requires a deep understanding of human nature and motivation.
It is, of course, impossible to wrap all of those qualities and skills into one description of what makes a good leader. However, many of the most important qualities do rise to the top. Here are eight characteristics that should definitely be on your leadership qualities list.
8 Leadership Qualities To Make A Great Leader
How to Become an Effective Leader
You’ve heard it a million times. In business classes: “You’ll need to cultivate your leadership qualities as well as your academic skills if you want a successful career.” In interviews: “What are your leadership qualities?” In admiring water cooler chat: “He has real leadership qualities. I don’t know how he does it, but I kind of want to kill him, impersonate him, and steal his promotion.”
Perhaps not that last one…but you see where we’re going with this.
Effective leadership entails not just knowing the characteristics of a good leader, but also emulating them in your life. There are various leadership styles you can develop, but you need to have the items in this leadership qualities list to become even more effective.
1. Relationship Mastery
Effective leadership relies on understanding the people around you and forging meaningful relationships with them. Tony Robbins shares a story in which Julius Caesar won back mutinying legions simply by reminding them forcefully of who both he and they were. While you probably won’t be visiting any military camps to shame your soldiers into following you to war anytime soon, leaders do need to understand and master relationships.
Think of any good leader you’ve ever seen. They instinctively maintain the right role in any situation. They are respectful but dominant. They defer to elders, but they balance that with titles and hierarchies. They are never lost in the ranks. Whenever they look at anyone, they understand the balance of power and they behave accordingly.
One of the most indispensable qualities of a leader is the ability to look ahead. Think of your own homework, an internship or a workplace. You must do more than juggle what you’re doing right now. You also need to know what’s coming down the pipeline. That way, you don’t get caught unawares.
As a student, that might only mean a poorly executed final paper. As a business owner, however, it could mean a total lack of clients or projects once you’re through with this one. As an entrepreneur, it could mean a gap in your product line once this product goes to market. None of the above is good; leaders need vision.
Honesty is, let’s face it, sometimes inconvenient. Being honest means having to admit you were wrong. It means facing embarrassing truths, and it means delivering sucky news to others, like the fact that they’re fired or the company has lost a big client. Honesty is not always fun, which is why it’s a virtue, after all. Leaders, though, never shy away from the truth – and that’s why people trust them enough to follow them anywhere.
You probably picked up some of the most effective student leadership qualities back in high school, or even middle school. They honestly haven’t changed that much since your 9th-grade history presentation on the origins of mercantilism.
Confidence is one of these. It is as simple as explaining to your less-motivated report partners what you need them to do on the presentation. It can also be as difficult and awe-inspiring as walking into a crowded auditorium and delivering an address that wows the entire room.
5. Commitment to the Cause
No one likes a leader who’s just there for the paycheck. There’s no hiding such a lack of buy-in. As Tasque points out, you must give something your all if you want other people to commit fully. A leader should be the most committed, and they must accept that others will be less devoted than they are. That acceptance must not lessen their passion, but instead, drive them still farther onward.
6. Leaders Manage Themselves
Leaders never put their stress on other people. Perhaps they complain quietly to a spouse, mother or trusted friend on the sidelines, and that’s okay. We’re all only human here.
But when it comes time to march into a boardroom or big presentation, leaders manage their emotions, stress and the natural negativity we all feel. They never complain, shy away from responsibility, or ask for extra time or special dispensation on the grounds of a sadsack story. They own their side of the street and they stay positive. Which leads us to …
7. Positive Communication
One of the most important good leadership characteristics of a good leader is positive communication. Note the phrase is not good communication or effective communication, although those are important too. According to a CNCB report, positive communication is what makes leaders rise above the rest.
For example, they cite a study that shows Warren Buffet’s communication style is open, honest, and chipper overall. For the most part, he manages to combine optimism with realism. The study demonstrated that in this shareholder letters throughout the year, he was very positive – unless there was a downturn. In that case, his letters turned negative, but only for a good reason.
Want to be a good leader? Cultivate your serenity and your funny bone. People want positivity.
8. Understanding of Nuance
Keep in mind that a thin line divides good and bad leadership qualities. What might be beneficial in one leader with a soft approach can become a set of poor leadership qualities in another and vice versa. If you aren’t forceful enough, you may lose people. That makes it critical to understand nuance.
While people appreciate a guiding hand, they tend to resent a strong one. While they love an earnest listening ear, they dislike a leader who can never take decisive action. Cultivate each quality only to the extent that it serves you and your people.
Use our infographic as you guide. Download it now and reference it later.
At the end of the day, which of these leadership competencies makes the most impact will vary from person to person. If you want to be a good leader, the best approach is to consider these carefully for a while. Don’t dive in. Instead, look for one or two you can begin to work on today. Over time, as those skills naturalize, you can add others.
Do you have the leadership qualities mentioned above? What other qualities do you think a leader should have? Share your thoughts below.