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The 5 Qualities All Good Leaders Have

October 28, 2020

The 5 Qualities All Good Leaders Have

Updated November 11, 2021

A good leader doesn’t have to be a genius, he or she just needs to be competent — both at their jobs and the leadership aspects of their role. They also need to have intangible qualities all good leaders have – that’s according to business consultant John Spence, who outlined those attributes in a TEDx talk called “The Leader of the Future” in 2019.

By pairing these intangible skills and working on self-improvement, leaders in any industry and at any experience level can make a difference in their organization. 

How Do Leaders Gain New Skills?

Your ability to gain new skills is not limited, so it is up to you to be a lifelong learner. How? Take advantage of the limitless access to information online. 

According to executive coach and CEO of Janson Associates, Dr. Kim Janson in a recent Forbes interview, having a plan for personal development is essential. “To grow as a leader, you have to make learning a priority and have a plan for your professional development.” To do this, Dr. Kim suggests to “Replace 10 minutes of aimless phone scrolling and instead read a book, read articles or watch a video on leadership.” 

Also, seeking mentorship and registering for webinars or workshops are constructive ways you can gain leadership skills in a peer group. 

Identify Your Leadership Style 

In order to improve the skills needed to be a strong leader, understanding your leadership style and potential shortcomings is vital. 

According to an Indeed study, “55% of employers cited asking about leadership skills in an interview as the most accurate evaluation of a candidate’s ability to succeed in a role.” If you don’t have an answer to this question, it could potentially cost you a role in your organization. 

Some common styles as outlined by Indeed include: 

  • The Coach: An important part of leadership is empowering others. The Coach is focused on offering guidance, supporting the team and finding teachable moments to help grow others. While this style is important, it can be time-consuming, which doesn’t always work with deadlines and work initiatives. 
  • The Visionary: These leaders are known for having the “big ideas” and setting the tone for future plans for an organization. They are innovative risk-takers instrumental in organizational growth, but can sometimes miss the little details. 
  • The Team Worker: Being able to delegate work with everyone’s strengths and weaknesses in mind is important to getting work done. The Team Worker focuses on including everyone as opposed to leading the charge at all times. This style can be a challenge when onboarding new staffers who need more guidance. 

A crucial quality of a good leader is understanding that different goals and settings require different styles. Strong leaders can mix these methods as needed, which is why learning and identifying the areas that need work within your own skillset is critical. 

Qualities Top Leaders Have In Common

As mentioned above, leadership styles can be adjusted based on the needs of your organization and the skills of your team. However, there are some qualities all good leaders have, including:

1. Show empathy towards others 

Empathy is a key leadership skill because you cannot lead a team without understanding the people on it. Your ability to build genuine connections with every member of your team will determine the quality of your leadership. 

No one wants to work for someone who is hard to get along with. 

Leadership is less about telling people what to do and more about asking what you can do for them. Knowing how to serve your employees with kindness requires a great deal of emotional intelligence.

[Read more How to use active listening to improve your organizational culture]

2. Focus on your EQ

Even more important than competency is your emotional quotient, or EQ, according to Spence.

Your emotional quotient is your ability to listen, relate, connect and empathize with your employees. Think of it as emotional intelligence. 

Your EQ is not fixed, but improving it is not as simple or straightforward as reading more books or taking online courses. 

For some people, improving emotional intelligence might involve therapy or working with an expert to become better at empathizing with their employees.

For others, it could be a matter of gaining self-awareness through check-ins and journaling. The ability to reflect on constructive feedback and the interactions you have with your employees will help you take your EQ to a higher level. 

3. Be adaptable in changing landscapes   

As we continue to face an ever-changing landscape affected by a pandemic, economic crisis and a volatile work market at best, leaders need to be ready to face any changes head-on. 

Are you able to guide your organization through change so it evolves as quickly as the technology and people it depends on? Can you identify ideas that are no longer relevant or appropriate and have the sense to toss them out and come up with new ones? How quickly are you able to tackle new challenges? Can you recognize when policies and procedures need a makeover?

Adaptability is immensely important because no matter what industry you are in, change is inevitable. It may be slower in some than others, but it is still bound to affect your organization. 

How you tackle generational differences, technological updates and changing industry standards will have a huge impact on your leadership. If you thrive in a fast-paced environment and not only embrace but drive change, you’ll be well-suited to be a leader.

4. Create a culture of innovation

According to Kaihan Krippendorff, “Even the best ideas can get blocked if they appear to conflict with some element of your organization’s existing strategy. Successful internal innovators find ways to present their ideas so they enhance the organization’s current offerings.”

Successful leaders work to remove these barriers and empower members at every level to contribute to the overall success of the organization. They seek out original ideas and reward the thinking that moves the need for innovation. 

5. Empower others 

As organizations continue to invest in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, good leaders naturally embrace this change and do the work. 

In an interview with McKinsey & Company, Indra Nooyi, former CEO of PepsiCo, said that just appointing a D&I head is not enough. Instead, organizations need to ask themselves “Are you diverse? On what metrics are you diverse? Do you have ethnic diversity? Gender diversity? Racial diversity? All that stuff. But inclusiveness is a state of mind. It’s an emotion. Are you going to make everybody feel welcome and included?”

This starts with leaders that are focused on empowering others. An important part of leadership is becoming a mentor, finding those unrepresented staffers in your organization and lending a helping hand. 

Good leaders put in the work

As Vince Lombardi, the iconic Head Coach of the Green Bay Packers once said, “Leaders aren't born, they are made. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal which is worthwhile.”

Not only is leadership a rewarding experience for yourself as a professional, but having the ability to empower others and move your purpose-driven organization forward is a world-changing endeavor. It all starts with cultivating the qualities of good leadership, which is completely in the hand of those looking to be better.

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