Great leaders are hard to come by. Being a superior or a boss is not necessarily equivalent to being a good leader. Leaders are able to motivate, inspire and spark enthusiasm in the people they lead. They make the people looking up to them aspire to become better. Not only that, leaders are relatable and willing to invest their time in helping each member in their team succeed. To good leaders, their team is only as strong as the weakest player. Good, effective leaders are important as they shape our nations, communities and organisations.
We need good leaders to help guide us and make the essential large-scale decisions to keep the world moving. Our society is usually quick to identify a bad leader, but do we know how to identify a good one? What would most people say makes a good leader?
What Makes a Good Leader?
A good leader has many characteristics and often, different people will have different prerequisites on what they think are the qualities most important in a good leader. However, here are 10 core leadership skills that are the most popular in all great leaders:
In nations that are struggling with the problem of corruption, the problem actually stems in the lack of integrity of its leaders. When there is lack of integrity in the highest organisational level, the problem will be more prevalent in the lower levels.
2. Ability to Delegate
The importance of integrity should be obvious. Though it may not necessarily be a metric in employee evaluations, integrity is essential for the individual and the organization. It’s especially important for top-level executives who are charting the organization’s course and making countless other significant decisions. Integrity may actually be a potential blind spot for organizations. Make sure your organisation reinforces the importance of integrity to leaders at various levels.
Delegating is one of the core responsibilities of a leader, but it can be tricky to delegate effectively. The goal isn’t just to free yourself up — it’s also to enable your direct reports, facilitate teamwork, provide autonomy, lead to better decision-making, and help your direct reports grow. In order to delegate well, you also need to build trust with your team. Where there is no trust, there will be no cooperation.
Effective leadership and effective communication are intertwined. You need to be able to communicate in a variety of ways, from transmitting information to coaching your people — and you must be able to communicate with a range of people across roles, social identities and more. Good leaders are also transparent leaders who are able to communicate honestly and earnestly with their team.
A little bit of vulnerability is always good, though keep in mind that there should always be a healthy level of boundaries between you as a leader and your subordinates.
While this is a more inwardly focused skill, self-awareness is paramount for leadership. The better you understand yourself, the more effective you can be. Do you know how other people view you, or how you show up at work? Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? If you don’t, learning to be more self-aware is a good place to start in building your leadership skills.
Giving thanks will actually make you a better leader. Gratitude can lead to higher self-esteem, reduced depression and anxiety, and even better sleep. Few people regularly say “thank you” at work, even though most people say they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. Be willing to acknowledge your team’s good effort, even if the results may not be what you desire. Be also willing to encourage others with positive reinforcement at work.
6. Learning Agility
Learning agility is the ability to know what to do when you don’t know what to do. If you’re a “quick study” or are able to excel in unfamiliar circumstances, you might already be learning agile. But anybody can foster learning agility through practice, experience and effort. Although you’re already a leader in your organisation, there’s always room for improvement. Be willing to learn and improve. As you lead by example, your team will also follow suit.
For some people, “influence” feels like a dirty word. But being able to convince people through logical, emotional, or cooperative appeals is a component of being an inspiring, effective leader. Influence is quite different from manipulation, and it needs to be done authentically and transparently. It requires emotional intelligence and trust-building.
Empathy is correlated with job performance. If you show more empathy towards your direct reports, our research shows you’re more likely to be viewed as a better performer by your boss. Empathy can be learned, and in addition to making you more effective, it will also improve work for you and those around you.
Courage can be somewhat linked to integrity. It can be hard to speak up at work, whether you want to voice a new idea, provide feedback to a direct report, or flag a concern for someone above you. That’s part of the reason courage is a key skill for good leaders. Rather than avoiding problems or allowing conflicts to fester, courage enables leaders to step up and move things in the right direction.
Treating people with respect on a daily basis is one of the most important things a leader can do. It will ease tensions and conflict, create trust, and improve effectiveness. Respect is more than the absence of disrespect, and it can be shown in many different ways.
While successful leaders may exhibit these 10 leadership skills to varying degrees, all good leaders leverage at least some — or most — of these characteristics. Together, they make up the backbone of leadership across leader levels, industries and continents. Without these skills, true leadership is impossible.
It’s also essential to realize that leadership is a social process. Leadership isn’t a destination — it’s something that you’ll have to work at regularly throughout your career, regardless of what level you reach in your organization. Leadership is less about a strong or charismatic individual and more about a group of people working together to achieve results. That’s why we say that leadership is a journey — different teams, projects, situations, and organizations will require you to apply these skills in different ways.