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The Top Qualities of a Leader and How to Become One

Qualities of a great leader copy

Hall-of-fame American football coach Vince Lombardi famously coined, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. They are made by hard effort, which is the price that all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” He understood that the qualities of a leader are nurtured purposefully and it’s possible to learn how to be a good leader.

Before we wrestle with the ideas around good leadership, we should first get a grasp on the definition of a leader. 

What Defines a Leader?

In this time of social media influencers, our thoughts about the qualities of a leader may be a bit skewed. Leadership is a long game, not filtered snapshots in time. Developing relationships is important to leaders because they understand personal connections are the foundation on which everything else is built. 

Inspiring others, holding a vision, charting a path, and providing the tools and means to achieve that vision is what makes a great leader.

Source: Pexels
  • Integrity: Honesty and integrity should be the hallmark of an organization and its leaders. Without them, team members lose their trust in the vision and it becomes impossible to keep everyone invested in goals. Integrity is the cornerstone of how to be a good leader.
  • Influence: The use of influence is not coercion or manipulation. Emotionally mature leaders know that when they are authentic and transparent, people respond positively. Logic and the spirit of cooperation inspire followers. 
  • Empathy: Understanding other people’s feelings and needs and then responding to them is empathy. Being empathetic towards others doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with them. Instead, you’re acknowledging them and what they are trying to contribute. 
  • Courage: One of the key leadership qualities is courage. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to step up and speak your mind, particularly if what you have to say may be unpopular. Leaders bring about change and they are unafraid of resolving conflict.
  • Respect: Creating an environment where everyone is respected is part of what makes a great leader. This is a culture where each person, from the bottom up, is seen as a valuable member of the team. 
  • Gratitude: Living a life of gratitude is healthy and the benefits creep into every area. A sense of gratefulness reduces depression and anxiety, contributes to better rest, and helps to increase self-esteem. It’s not hard to see how people who believe their leader is grateful for them will reap the benefits in their own lives. 
  • Self-Awareness: If you want to know how to be a good leader, take a look at how the successful ones in your orbit have a solid sense of self-awareness. They have a handle on their strengths and seek to improve their weaknesses. A good leader is cognizant of how others see them.
  • Communication: There’s a tendency to believe that communication is just about speaking, about telling others what needs to be done. But it’s much more than that. A good communicator understands cultures, values, social behaviors, and body language. 
  • Delegation: Leaders understand that even if they could shoulder all the work, they shouldn’t because a job is done better by utilizing the strengths and skills of others. By delegating they know they are helping people to improve and increase overall success. 
  • Innovation: Being an innovator is among the qualities of a leader. If you are the leader, this doesn’t mean that you are constantly the creative genius – that would be exhausting! What it does mean is that you are open to new ideas and dare to help others explore them.
  • Active Listening: There’s nothing worse than being in the presence of a leader who isn’t engaged with you. Good leaders do things like make eye contact, don’t interrupt, ask questions, nod their heads, and lean forward a little when actively listening to others. 
  • Confidence: Having confidence is part and parcel of what makes a great leader. They know that they possess leadership skills and can make a difference. Instead of arrogance that repels people, the confidence of a good leader attracts others and makes them believe that they can reach the goals they’ve set for themselves.
Source: Pexels

What Kind of Skills Do Leaders Possess?

Every organization has a list of skills that they look for in their leaders. If you took those lists and compared them, you would discover that many of those skills are duplicated. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Critical thinking: Leaders have to make a lot of decisions by thinking critically. They can examine the ideas and find the logical links between them. Critical thinkers work well under pressure, are rational, and can be described as analytical people. 
  • Adaptability: A common trait among good leaders is the ability to be adaptable and to pivot quickly when it’s needed. There are times when it’s obvious that a plan isn’t a good one and an effective leader knows when to call it, understanding that doing so isn’t a failure but an opportunity to try something different.
  • Relationship building: Trust lies in healthy relationships and great leaders know how to cultivate those with every member of their team. They also seek out ways to help facilitate relationship-building between the people they lead.
  • Innovation: One of the leadership qualities that great leaders share is their ability to be innovators. They can look at ideas and visualize where each could take them. They are forward-thinkers and value creativity. 
  • Conflict management: Notable leaders aren’t afraid of conflict. You will inevitably have to manage it when you work with people and how you model healthy communication will set you apart from mediocre leaders. A good leader is also able to spot and mitigate conflict before it becomes a distraction.
  • Influence: When you influence people you are steering them in a certain direction. Effective leadership has a positive influence on people whether it’s customers buying your products and services or your employees working to reach the team’s goals. 
  • Learning agility: A good leader has the mindset that learning is a lifelong endeavor. Agile learners keep on top of trends, learn from their mistakes, inspire others to develop new skills, and create a culture of learning. 

Parting Thoughts

Leadership requires sacrifice. Putting the needs of others before yourself is not for everyone. It can be challenging to cultivate the qualities of a leader in yourself but it is rewarding to be able to draw out the best in individuals and bring them together to work toward common goals!

If you’re thinking about taking on a leadership role, start with an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the leadership characteristics of great leaders you’ve worked with and look for opportunities to take on a leadership role, no matter how small, right where you are. The practice will build skills and you will be on your way to inspiring and influencing others!