Whether you’re running your own business or leading a team in an office setting, all good leaders require a number of leadership qualities to help them positively interact with their employees, team members, and clients. Behavioral theories suggest that leaders are made not born, which means that people can obtain leadership qualities through teaching and learning a set of skills over time.
“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”
— Steve Jobs
What are the Top Leadership Qualities that Make a Great Leader?
C.S. Lewis said:
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
Without integrity, no real success if possible. You can’t expect your followers to be honest when you lack integrity yourself. Leaders succeed when they stick to their word, live by their core values, lead by example, and follow through.
Integrity is the cornerstone of all other leadership qualities.
There are many things to look for in people with integrity, including:
Apologizing for mistakes
Highlighting the work of their employees and downplaying their own contributions
Giving the benefit of the doubt when circumstances are unclear
Being appreciative of people’s time
For accountability, a leader needs to follow the advice of Arnold Glasow when he said,
“A good leader takes little more than his share of the blame and little less than his share of the credit.”
A strong leader is accountable for their team’s results, good or bad. They hold themselves and their employees accountable for their actions, which creates a sense of responsibility among the team.
They give credit where credit is due, and take responsibility for blame when necessary. Being accountable and leading by example is one of the quickest ways a leader can build trust with their team.
A true leader understands their followers’ motivations, what they like and dislike, and their problems, to forge a personal connection with them.
Empathy is understanding.
It isn’t just being a nice person. It’s a tool that enables leaders to make better predictions, improve strategies, and inspire loyalty among their teams. Understanding where people are coming from helps facilitate a more human environment where team members are more productive and leaders thrive.
For example, if an employee is consistently 15 minutes late, good leaders won’t impute blame on them right away, but solve the why question. Why are they late?
Maybe they’re dealing with a personal struggle at home, health issues, or car troubles. Real leaders are empathetic with their teams and deeply understand their motivations.
A difficult transition for many leaders is the shift from doing to leading.
Many new leaders are accustomed to doing all the work themselves and struggle letting others handle responsibilities on their own. Great leaders must elevate their team members. They must be more essential and less involved.
This requires leaders to shape others’ thoughts and ideas toward a common goal. They give their team members everything they need to be successful and get out of the way, not directing their path, but setting clear expectations and explaining where the finish line is.
They aren’t scared of their subordinates’ successes and don’t feel threatened by them. Through this delegation and elevation teams shine, as they are able to contribute in the most meaningful way.
When it comes to leadership, it can be tempting to become enamored with a new title or status.
However, it is very important that leaders focus on their team more than they focus on themselves. Leaders can’t be effective if they’re more concerned with themselves than with the well-being of their team. As Thomas Merton said,
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
Being humble and vulnerable with their team members will make a leader much more relatable and effective.
The true grit of a leader is not how they perform during good times, but how they roll up their sleeves and produce when times get difficult.
Great leaders lead by example and rally their team no matter the circumstances. They react to situations with a calm, collected manner and focus on solutions rather than on problems.
Resilience is a leadership trait that comes with experience.
Jack Welch said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
A great leader clearly sets organizational direction. Team members can’t succeed if they don’t see the goal in front of them and the steps to get there.
True leaders inspire loyalty, enthusiasm and commitment, help remind everyone of the big picture, and challenge people to outdo themselves.
Sharing this vision and compelling others to act is a secret trait of successful leaders.
Some leaders believe that when they attain a certain level of leadership status, respect will automatically be given to them. This is not the case.
Leadership and influence are not interchangeable and respect has to be earned. Here are some things that leaders can do to increase their influence:
Clearly state what they want
Connect with people emotionally
Make others feel important
Be vulnerable and charismatic
Work toward common shared goals
Ask for suggestions and input
Build real, lasting relationships