Important Qualities of a Leader

Good leadership is more important than ever. Technology, globalization, and the introduction of a new generation to the workforce have caused rapid changes in the business world across all industries. The ability to effectively lead a team is more challenging and requires a broader skill set than it did twenty years ago.

With employees looking to new opportunities as soon as they sour on a job, leaders need to make an impression immediately and hold the attention of their team. Management positions are even more stressful due to the pressures of instantaneous responses and easy access to mountains of information.

The good news is that leaders who adapt their skills can thrive in this new world, and inspire others to achieve wonderful things.

What is a Leader?

Leadership is a vital part of any team. One or more people are identified and tasked with guiding the entire team to a shared goal. Leaders are looked up to and followed by other members of a team. They teach, influence, and inspire, depending on what the team needs to succeed.

Every leader approaches their job differently. Several leadership styles achieve varying results, but all leaders tend to share certain qualities that earned them the position in the first place. Understanding the important qualities of a leader means looking at what they are trying to accomplish.

Ultimately, leaders want to see a specific task completed by their team. This can be winning a championship, launching a new product, or hitting a quarterly income goal. They may also work to improve the environment, improve morale, and foster new leaders.

How Do You Become a Leader?

Some argue that there are born leaders, but most leaders are made. While some people may be born with certain personality traits that make them more suited to leadership, it doesn’t mean they are destined to be good leaders. It takes time and effort to become a leader.

What is Your Leadership Style?

It’s essential to determine what type of leader you are. Do you prefer to coach your team, or do you prefer a more strategic approach? Take a quiz to assess your leadership style and learn about your strengths and weaknesses, so you know what areas to focus on developing.

Lead by Example

Practice what you preach to encourage your team to follow in your footsteps. Being a role model is the best way to inspire those around you to act in a certain way. If community outreach is important in your company’s value system, lead the way by giving your time.

Embrace Personal and Professional Development

Even if you’ve mastered your job, you have plenty of room to learn. Exploring new skills and branching out to meet new people is crucial to developing leadership skills. It’s an exercise in creativity and thinking outside the box, which can give you new perspectives.

Mentors are also helpful in developing personal, professional, and leadership skills. Find somebody who you admire and respect. Reach out and ask if they would be willing to mentor you on areas you may be struggling with.

Develop Stellar Communication Skills

Communication may be the most fundamental aspect of any relationship. In the workplace, it means more than open-door policies and internal messaging systems. Communication skills including written, verbal, and nonverbal cues, body language, actions, and appearance.

The greatest world leaders are talented communicators. They can tell stories, show vulnerability, and adapt to different circumstances. One of the modern world’s greatest examples of a leader with exceptional communication skills is Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah is a household name and one of the most well-known leaders of modern times. She is adamant that “great communication begins with connection.” Oprah has built her reputation as a great communicator because she tells a story, addresses deeper emotions, and makes things personal for her audience.

Why is Communication Important?

Good leaders possess well-developed communication skills and use them to motivate, instruct, and discipline their teams. Struggling leaders with undeveloped or poorly developed communication skills appear weak and have difficulty conveying messages to members of their team.

Well-developed communication skills allow you to deliver a clear, concise message to your team. Creating a clear picture helps people understand your goals and how you plan to achieve them. This leads to a shared vision that improves teamwork and, ultimately, the achievement of desired goals.

How to Improve Your Communication Skills

If you’re looking to be a better leader, start with your communication skills. Even if you are knowledgeable and have a flawless plan, you need to know how to relay information properly to achieve your goals.

Educate Yourself

Know what your stuff before taking on a leadership role. Good leaders add value to conversations and deliver credible information. Make sure you know how to address counterarguments and preempt them if you are able. Acquire data from different sources to ensure you have a broad view of your topics.

Mind Your Grammar

Whether you’re speaking or writing, it’s essential to use proper grammar. For example, a series of contractions and slang will weaken your message. On the other hand, if you’re communications are too formal, they will bore your audience or go over their head altogether.

Speak Honestly

Whenever you converse with a member of your team, be concise and consistent. If you say one thing to one person and something different to another, you’ll appear untrustworthy.

Learn to Listen

The most critical aspect of good communication is listening. Learning to listen to your team is the best thing you can do to improve your communication skills. Demonstrating that you genuinely care about what an employee is saying will make them feel heard, inspire them, and build trust.

Pay Attention to Your Nonverbal Cues

The prevailing theory is that more than half of communication is nonverbal. Learning how to manage your nonverbal cues is key to developing your communication skills.

  • Practice making good eye contact.
  • Show interest in the conversation.
  • Watch your posture. Folding your arms over your chest and slouching are not signs of confidence or interest.
  • Pay attention to your facial expressions. You want your face to reflect what is being said.

Always Consider Your Audience

Communicating with a date calls for a different approach than speaking to a team at work. However, in both situations, you want to know about the other person to determine how to approach a conversation.

When you have a message to convey, it’s necessary to consider the audience. A clear, concise message is part of that equation, but your delivery is equally important. Too many jokes or reliance on charts or graphs can derail a presentation.

Don’t Neglect Your Appearance

Dress appropriately and groom yourself before a speaking engagement. You’ll feel more powerful and confident if you’re well-groomed and dressed professionally for the occasion.

For written correspondence, remember that nobody can see your emotions or intent, so mind your word usage. Further, be wary of emojis and emoticons in professional correspondence, even with texts and emails.

Exude Confidence

How do you tell the difference between a hero and a sidekick before they even speak? There’s something about the way the hero stands, down to the subtle tilt of their head that projects authority. There’s been research on the “superhero pose” and why it’s effective at conveying power.

Superhero pose is an open posture that allows an individual to appear as if they are filling more space. This pose is simple yet effective. Place your hands on your hips and spread your legs, so your feet are in line with your shoulders. Though superhero pose is not the only power pose, it is often portrayed in mainstream media.

Why Confidence is Important

In order for your team to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself and your actions. Good leaders have confidence in their product, their team, and themselves. Inspiring others to believe in you and your actions is critical to achieving your goals.

Successful leaders are confident in their own skin and embrace the contributions of those around them. They set aside their own egos to build up the people around them and encourage the exchange of new ideas for the greater good. People who lack confidence in themselves will struggle to lead because they easily feel threatened and value themselves over the company.

How to Improve Confidence

When it comes to confidence, good leaders need to approach it from two angles. First, you need to believe in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish. Then, you need to convey your beliefs to your team.

If you’re feeling a little low on self-confidence, there are steps you can take for a confidence boost. Think about who you want to be, address your doubts, and battle your inner fears until you find that place of power inside.

To convey confidence, pay attention to your nonverbal cues. Practice good posture, facial expressions, and gestures until they become a habit. It takes time to fine-tune nonverbal cues, so they come across as natural.

Learn to be Charismatic

Many people think you are born charismatic, or you’re not. According to psychologists, charisma is a process more than an innate characteristic. It is possible to learn to be charismatic by developing specific skills to communicate, inspire, influence, and persuade others.

Why Is Charisma Important?

What names come to mind when you think of charismatic leaders? Think about what those leaders have in common and why they made your list at all. Would you describe the people on your list as dynamic, inspiring, and stimulating? Are they capable of commanding the attention of a room full of people?

One of the best examples of a leader leveraging charisma is the 1960 Presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. This election saw the first televised debates in American history and the emergence of a new approach to building public image. JFK appeared stylish and relaxed while Nixon struggled to impress.

Aside from earning the nickname “Tricky Dick” during the 1960 debates, Nixon failed to impress voters following a series of missteps during the debates. He lost the election by a narrow margin, just two-tenths of a percent. With the race as close as it was, could Nixon have won if he’d been more charismatic during the televised debates?

How to Be More Charismatic

The 1960 Presidential election changed the face of politics in America. Charisma is now a defining characteristic of political candidates. Many leaders follow the examples of politicians to inspire and influence others.

A good leader in any industry can appropriately leverage the six elements of charisma. It is possible to develop these skills and use them effectively. Practicing in a variety of social settings will help until it becomes natural for you.

  • Emotional expressiveness is the ability to genuinely express your feelings and affect the moods and emotions of others.
  • Emotional sensitivity allows you to read the emotions of others and respond appropriately to make an emotional connection.
  • Emotional control enables you to regulate the emotions you’re projecting to others. It’s the ability to manage your emotions, like crying at an appropriate time or yelling to emphasize a specific point.
  • Social expressiveness is simply the way you interact with others. It goes back to having excellent communication skills.
  • Social sensitivity, or your ability to read social cues, relies on excellent listening skills and the ability to interpret what others are telling you.
  • Social control is the most challenging for many people because it relies heavily on appearance and nonverbal cues.

Demonstrate Integrity

Though it’s often tossed around as a buzzword, integrity is one of the most important qualities of a good leader. How can you lead a team if they don’t believe in you?

Why Integrity is Important

Motivational speaker and humorist, Charles Marshall, defined integrity as “doing the right thing when you don’t have to – when no one else is looking or will ever know – when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so.”

In his book, Shattering the Glass Slipper: Destroying Fairy-tale Thinking Before It Destroys You, Marshall discussed ethics and reputations versus integrity. Marshall used humor and wit to ask how much a person would be willing to sacrifice to stay true to their morals and values.

Good leaders who continually do the right thing build loyalty, earn respect, and are more successful than those willing to sacrifice their integrity. People want to follow somebody they can believe in and respect. It can be difficult to impossible for any leader to recover from actions that compromise their integrity.

How to Demonstrate Integrity

The good news is that it’s not difficult to show that you have integrity. There is a good chance that you have opportunities every day to demonstrate that you live by your morals and values, both personally and professionally.

  • If you make a mistake, apologize for the error.
  • Show appreciation for contributions from members of your team.
  • Be present and follow the company rules.
  • Respect your team.
  • Be positive and set a good example.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt when conflicts arise.

Make the Tough Decisions

Leaders have the power to make decisions. Some decisions are easily made while others take more consideration, but in the end, good leaders are capable of committing to a choice. Decisiveness is about more than making one decision, and good leaders are also consistent with their choices.

The importance of leaders making tough decisions is best illustrated by military officers. During a conflict, leaders need to make split-second decisions that impact an entire squad. Plans can change in an instant as the field of battle shifts, and the enemy makes a different move.

Military training also teaches speedy decision making. Recruits are trained to respect time and make decisions fast. Of course, for the military, making a decision could someday mean a difference between life and death. Still, many leaders from all industries take note of military approaches to decision-making.

Why is Decisiveness Important?

It’s not easy to lead a team. Making decisions, especially the hard ones, can be difficult. There is often risk involved in making a decision, and some leaders spend too much time trying to appease everybody. Problems also arise when a leader overanalyzes an issue; it can lead to indecisiveness and missed opportunities.

How to Be More Decisive

Good leaders need to be decisive even if it means they are held accountable for failures. This makes decision-making more difficult because the fear of failure is terrifying for many people.

Believe it or not, practicing decision-making is possible and can improve your decisiveness.

  • Learn to quickly assess your priorities by practicing urgency. Timeliness is a critical aspect of effective decision-making.
  • Determine how much information you require to make a decision. Keep in mind, you usually will not have all possible information at your fingertips.
  • Embrace the fact that you’ll make a wrong decision at some point and accept that a wrong decision is better than no decision at all.

Be Passionate About What You Do

There are dozens of quotes about doing a job you love. When you are enthusiastic about your work, it becomes enjoyable and even fun. Feeling passion for your work encourages you to give your best effort every day.

Some of the most successful businesses in the world were built from nothing but passion. One of the best examples is Walt Disney, whose perseverance, optimism, and innovation literally changed the world.

Disney started drawing to ease the stress of his home life as a child. He went bankrupt, was robbed of his first major success, and even had a mental breakdown. Still, Disney’s passion allowed him to overcome every hurdle he faced to build a successful venture that brought joy to millions of people.

Good leaders inspire their teams with their enthusiasm for the task at hand. Who doesn’t want to work for somebody who’s openly passionate about their work?

Why Is Passion Important?

Passion drives much of the creativity and out-of-the-box thinking that delivers successful outcomes. It’s also far easier to follow through with a job that you are emotionally and intellectually invested in. When you’re enthusiastic about your work, your energy increases, and it’s easier to inspire those around you to give their best.

Remember, to be effective your enthusiasm must be sincere. If you aren’t truly passionate about what you’re saying and doing, your team will know. False enthusiasm can have the opposite effect on the workforce and deliver negative results.

How to Rediscover Your Passion

Enthusiasm for a project or job isn’t something you can practice. If you’re not especially passionate about your job, there are two paths you can take to change your situation.

First, you can make a career change. For many people, a change in path can reignite passion or allow them to explore a latent passion. You may not be able to quit your job and make a drastic career change overnight. However, you could begin exploring interests in your spare time. Try night classes or expand a beloved hobby on the weekend.

The other option is to reframe your current job to fit something you’re passionate about. If you have a desire to help kids, explore options for sponsoring or coaching a little league team. Get creative and find ways to leverage your job or an aspect of your job to fulfill your passion.

Earn Loyalty by Being Loyal

Loyalty in the workplace means something very different today than it did thirty years ago. People used to join a company and work there until retirement, but today the trend is to switch jobs every three years. Once an employee masters a skill set, they look to move onto a new opportunity that requires new skills or involves more money.

Why is it Important to Build Loyalty?

As the workforce evolves, employees are no longer tied to their jobs for an entire career. This creates a situation for businesses because training new employees is often costly and time-consuming. Loyalty is a gamechanger on this front.

Good leaders today need to be proactive with their most valuable employees if they hope to keep them on the team. Even if promotions are not readily available, there are ways to creatively reward employees and provide opportunities to grow.

In 2015, Dan Price made an unprecedented move. The owner of Gravity Payments committed to paying all of his employees a minimum wage of $70,000. Though some argued the decision would destroy his business, Price stuck with it, and today, the company is going strong.

Price’s move was more than a publicity stunt. Following a conversation with an employee, Price learned that some of his employees needed to take on second jobs or quit because they weren’t making enough money. The company-wide raises increased happiness, 401K contributions, and even a baby boom at the company.

How to Foster Loyalty

If you want somebody to stay at your company, you’ll need to earn their loyalty. However, it takes time to build a relationship. You basically need to inspire loyalty from day one.

  • Be clear and concise about values, roles, goals, and opportunities.
  • Honesty goes a long way. Be transparent about what’s happening because hiding pertinent information drives employees away.
  • Trust your team to do their jobs. Hovering, second-guessing, and micro-managing appear discouraging.
  • Support professional growth by encouraging your employees to explore passions and talents.
  • Establish reasonable boundaries but be aware of significant life events. When you show you care about your team’s personal lives (like births, marriages, or deaths), you’re building loyalty.

Choose to be a Good Leader

When discussing the important qualities of a leader, it’s necessary to address the difference between a good leader and a bad leader. Some additional qualities and actions make a leader good at leading. Learning how to lead is one thing; learning how to be a good leader is another.

  • Work with your team. Get into the middle of the challenge and create a team that collaborates, deals with conflict, and works cohesively.
  • Remain open to input from your team, including criticism. Strong, successful leaders listen to feedback from those around them and grow from it.
  • Hold your focus. In many situations, there can be any number of distractions threatening your team’s work. As a leader, it’s up to you to stay the course and ignore extraneous issues that would derail your project.
  • Know when to delegate tasks. You cannot possibly do everything, which means passing jobs on to employees and trusting them to complete the tasks.

Being a leader comes with a lot of responsibility, but for some people, it is the most fulfilling aspect of a job. From CEOs to coaches, leaders are the foundation of every business model in the world. It’s a role that requires you to adapt to new circumstances, alter your leadership style, and continually sharpen your skills.

For those individuals dedicated enough to lead, these qualities will give you an edge and open doors to new opportunities.

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