What makes a good leader?

Leadership - What makes a good leader?

“Inspiring people to accomplish what they thought they couldn’t do”

Effective leadership can make a massive difference to an organisation. It’s the difference between OK and outstanding results. Quick wins versus sustainable, long-term achievements. And in today’s business climate, where things are more dynamic than perhaps we’ve ever known, it’s more important than ever.

So what is a leader? It might seem like a blindingly obvious answer – someone who leads others. But it’s so much more than that. A leader is someone who chooses, trains, mentors and influences others, who has diverse skills and abilities that allow them not only to focus people on the company’s goals, but to connect with their team in a way that makes their employees want to do well. In a nutshell, it’s about the statement above – inspiring people to accomplish what they thought they couldn’t do – a quote from Steve Jobs.

Good leadership is important because it’s a big factor in engaging employees. According to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, just 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace. 15%! Just think what that means – the majority of the global workforce is just going through the motions each day. 

People talk about born leaders, but effective leadership comprises a set of skills that can be learned like any others. Below we look at just some of the qualities of great leaders – all of which can be developed over time.

Demonstrate courage

Leadership is about taking a company forward, and that means having the courage to take the right decisions, not the easy ones. A company’s vision will be challenged all the time – by new competitors, disruptive technologies, recessions or even dare we say, pandemics. As a leader, you need to drive your vision forward by not being afraid to make bold moves that can transform an organisation.

Exude confidence

Having the courage to make the changes needed stems from being confident in your decisions and the path you are taking. And when you exude confidence, your team feels it too. Increase your confidence by ensuring you are as informed as you possibly can be and that your skills are up to date. And practice appearing confident with your body language – standing tall, speaking slowly, making eye contact, addressing any tics or fidgets.

Make timely decisions

Develop your problem solving and planning skills, and it will help you to make fast, informed decisions based on good judgement. This is especially important during difficult times when your team will be looking to you for direction. Showing decisiveness, even if sometimes you need to correct decisions you have made in the light of new information, is far better than sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

Have a positive attitude

When you show enthusiasm, it impacts on the people around you. As a leader, you should seek to energise your team. There will always be challenges, but rather than feeling defeated by them, inspire your people to tackle them with fortitude and see them as opportunities. You’ll not only create a tremendously positive work environment but help your team to be resilient in the face of disappointment.

Trust your people

When you understand the skills your team members bring, it becomes easier to delegate responsibilities to the right people. Good leaders achieve their goals through the people that surround them. Trust your employees to do a good job, to take the right decisions but be there to support them when they meet obstacles. It’s shown that companies with leaders that engender a culture of trust are viewed more highly by their clients, as staff are empowered to do what’s best for the customer. 

Show empathy

Seeing things from the other person’s perspective allows you to judge how to communicate messages and manage situations that arise. Your team will feel you are on their side and understand their concerns, and you’ll build connections that mean people want to do well for you. Without empathy, there’s a danger of alienating the employees and switching off their commitment.

Communicate well

We’re not just talking about cascading information here, although that’s important too, but about communicating your goals and vision. Take time to understand the most effective way to communicate with your team and remember the old adage about two ears and one mouth. Sometimes you need to keep quiet and listen, demonstrating that you value input from your employees.

Be self-aware

If you can embrace your own weaknesses without losing your confidence, you become open to input from others. Showing humility in this way makes you very human and improves genuine relationships with others, making you more approachable and encouraging staff to open up to you. And by acknowledging your own limitations, you can take steps to address them. Continuous self-development should be something all leaders embrace, showing your team that everyone has things to learn and the ability to improve. 

Have we missed anything off our list? Are there any other traits that you would say are essential for good leadership? Join in the conversation by commenting below. 

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