The Roman poet Horace once wrote, “He gains everyone’s approval who mixes the pleasant with the useful.” A good team leader is pleasant, as well as productive. They have the knowledge and skills to get the job done and can rally people around a common goal, but in the pursuit of that goal, a good leader doesn’t lose sight of the people that make it possible.
Another way to put it would be to say; a good team leader possesses book smarts, street smarts, and person smarts. They can navigate the party scene and the paperwork, the boardroom, and the lunchroom with equal confidence and flexibility.
While this may seem like a lot to do, cultivating specific team leadership qualities within yourself will go a long way in helping you to manage a team and achieve your goals. The critical thing to remember is that a good leader isn’t born but built, no super-powers necessary. The only thing a team leader needs to possess at the start is a sincere willingness to learn.
What’s the Difference Between Leadership Skills and Leadership Qualities?
Leadership skills are not the same as leadership qualities. While leadership skills are needed to perform specific tasks, for example, running a meeting in an organized manner, leadership qualities are more internalized.
A quality leader will be able to accomplish what needs to be at the meeting and do so in a way that everyone else is on board and feeling confident that they fully understand and can complete the task at hand.
Simply put, leadership skills assure a task gets done while the quality of the leader will affect how. While both are important and necessary for successful leadership, neither are enough to lead a team on their own.
What Are the Necessary Qualities in a Team Leader?
Some people believe that team leaders possess natural talents. They think a team leader is born with leadership instincts. While this is true, it’s worth noting that those leadership instincts are present in all of us. Everyone has the potential to become a great leader. Those who do rise to leadership positions have simply sharpened those instincts by using them regularly.
Below is a list of some essential qualities that a team leader must possess to lead a team successfully. Although different groups and organizations may apply different names or phrases to these qualities or break them down in various ways, the core concepts behind them remain the same.
A team leader needs to be productive. They need to understand the task and how to do it. To be productive, a team leader needs to have a big picture in mind and a plan of action. The design of the human brain allows it to take information in and organize it and create meaning. A strong leader can take in information about goals and objectives and break those things down into their essential parts.
Good team leaders are able to prioritize goals and objectives of the business or organization and figure out a time frame to complete tasks. They also need to have a basic strategy for successful completion. Productive leaders can also delegate tasks to achieve the overall objective with efficiency and speed without sacrificing quality.
An important factor in productivity is the ability to read and interpret data to see what’s working and not working with the way things are currently operating. A team leader puts aside their personal beliefs and opinions and focuses only on facts to judge whether a practice is effective or not.
Good Communication Skills
A team leader doesn’t just understand goals themselves, but also helps those under them to understand the goals. They need to know the philosophies adhered too and what their mission is and remind others of that mission. By doing this, they assure everyone is onboard and understands the goals and objectives of the group.
If they are running a business, they need to know the detailed ins and outs of the company, not merely possess a surface understanding. If they’re running a club or other organization, they need to know why the group exists and what it stands for. Only by possessing a clear understanding can they communicate to others what is required and expected.
Powerful communication isn’t just about what is said, but how it is said. A good team leader speaks in a way that is respectful and shows regard for those to whom they are speaking. They don’t bark orders at people, nor do they talk down to them. They also don’t speak in a way that is degrading or insulting or use a lot of technical words that others will have trouble understanding.
A good team leader will answer questions clearly and address any concerns brought to the table rather than dismissing them or belittling those with the issues or concerns. However, speaking is only half of communication. Excellent communication also means a leader needs to have good listening skills.
An excellent communicator is patient and takes time to listen and understand other people’s perspectives. They value other people’s insights and encourage them to share those insights. If a conflict arises, they can hear different arguments and negotiate to solve problems in a way that is best for everyone involved.
Team leaders should be able to inspire others in their team with their words and actions. A good leader is a role model for those who follow them. They should be able to encourage other team members to align themselves to a specific goal or course of action by showing their commitment to it.
Team leaders need to be enthusiastic and sincere in that enthusiasm. To do this, they should show why something matters instead of just saying it does. Team leaders should remember to share positive feedback about past accomplishments and not only negative criticism of where previous efforts have fallen short. Team leaders should offer sincere praise for both group and individual efforts and celebrate the achievements of others.
To be an inspiration, team leaders can also try to paint a picture of future possibilities for positive growth not just for the organization but for those individuals involved in it. According to the Harvard Business Review, a leader can inspire others by empowering them to take up challenges and hold themselves accountable for the results.
However, to get team members to be willing to take up challenges, a leader needs first to empower those around them. They should help their team members develop inner resources. They need to educate them by teaching them self-help skills and be willing to share leadership responsibilities.
In the pursuit of inspiring others, a leader needs to keep in mind that they aren’t the only ones to have inspirations. A good leader needs to be open to experiments, taking risks, and surrendering a little control to let others shine. They also need to show their team members that they are confident in their abilities.
Along with being inspirational, a good leader is also empathetic. They are willing and able to show compassion for others and put themselves in another person’s shoes. Facilitating empathy helps build trust between a leader and those that follow them. Team members feel safer and more comfortable resulting in a more positive and open environment.
The key to empathy is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand our emotions and the emotions of others. Not only does emotional intelligence involve being able to name our feelings, but also know why we’re feeling them, and how to manage them appropriately.
An empathetic leader builds strong relationships with those who follow them. They understand other people’s emotional needs and respond to them by giving that person the support they need to manage or work through that emotion.
To be empathetic, leaders need to avoid judgment. They should not allow themselves to question if an emotion someone is feeling is appropriate and justified. They should simply listen to those feelings and accept that the other person has those feelings.
An empathetic leader sees team members as people rather than just gears in a machine that help keep things operating smoothly. They also understand what drives people to do and say certain things. Besides understanding individual team members, leaders can see the interactions between different personalities. They are aware of the way those dynamics play out within the organization and work with them accordingly.
Showing empathy towards others makes you more approachable and reminds others that you’re human too. When team members feel they can relate to you, it helps form stronger bonds between them and you and gives you higher credibility and respect.
Honesty is one of the most crucial qualities a leader can possess. The fact is an effective leader needs their follower’s trust and confidence. Those that follow you need to feel like you have the bests interests in mind for them and the organization as a whole.
Even if the truth is sometimes unpleasant, you need to communicate it to your team. If the team doesn’t trust the leader, it will fall apart rapidly, and this will result in a lot of problems down the road.
Honesty is also a sign of respect for others. If you don’t have enough faith to be open with them, they won’t have confidence in you or be willing to be transparent with you either. They also might feel like they can’t trust themselves if you don’t trust them. Team members may have too much anxiety to solve problems on their own and may lack the motivation to complete tasks.
A lack of trust can harm productivity and make people less likely to share their ideas and take risks resulting in less creativity and innovative ideas. If this happens, the group will not be able to sustain itself much less grow.
Although honesty is important, it can sometimes be intimidating. Being honest does mean that as a leader, you need to let your guard down and allow a certain amount of vulnerability. If something doesn’t work out the way, you hoped it would, to be honest, means you have to admit failure.
Honesty also means that if someone asks you something you don’t know the answer to, you have to tell them you don’t know and not try to make up an answer. As a leader, it can be unnerving to admit you don’t know something.
A common fear is that if you admit you don’t know something, it damages your credibility, but more often than not, the opposite is true. Those under you will have greater respect for you for admitting your own mistakes and limitations.
How Do I Develop Leadership Qualities?
To develop leadership qualities within yourself, you need to equip yourself with a particular leadership skill set. These skills will serve as a personal leadership toolbox that can be used in a variety of situations to help focus and grow your efforts to become a quality team leader.
Skills Necessary for Productivity
Productive leaders should be able to state goals for the group and be able to take the broader goals and divide them into smaller, more manageable tasks. Once tasks have been set-up, deadlines also need to be put in place, and a project timeline created.
When dividing tasks up among team members, a productive leader makes sure everyone clearly understands what they need to do.
Productive leaders also need to be interpreters. They need to know how to collect data and then interpret that data to measure efficiency, productivity, and other relevant information.
Necessary skills for productivity include:
- Time management
- Task awareness
- Ability to break larger goals into smaller tasks
- Ability to read and interpret data to measure the efficiency
Skills Necessary for Good Communication
Good communicators understand that listening is as critical or even more important than speaking. They practice active listening. When you actively listen to someone, you give them your full attention and try to understand their perspective without making judgments or interrupting.
Good communicators reflect on what the person is saying and offer feedback. They address concerns and questions in ways that are clear, concise, and respectful to the speaker. They also respond to what others say using both verbal and nonverbal cues so that the other person knows they are heard and understood.
Besides being a good listener, team leaders need to know how to negotiate. They have to compromise and teach others to do the same. A team’s leader needs to view an issue from a variety of perspectives and not overlook anyone. They are problem solvers and cultivate the problem-solving capabilities of others.
Necessary skills for excellent communication include:
- Active listening
- Ability to offer feedback
- Ability to answer questions and concerns with clarity and conciseness
- Respect for others
- Ability to negotiate
Skills Necessary for Inspiring Others
A team leader knows their team’s strengths and presents them with opportunities to showcase their talents. They also provide their team with resources to learn new skills. To inspire others, a leader needs to promote growth opportunities for them.
They need to be able to cultivate an environment where team members feel secure enough to take risks. Good leaders have a developed sense of when to intervene and when to take a step back. They are open to allowing those under their leadership have some liberty to make decisions on their own. Team leaders need to honor mistakes and view them as learning opportunities rather than setbacks.
Those who are in charge need to be enthusiastic and happy themselves if they wish those under them to have a positive attitude. Good leaders need to know how to create an environment that is supportive and pleasant for those on their team. Although there is always work to do, an inspirational leader also makes sure their people are having a little fun along the way to keep up morale.
Necessary Skills for Inspiring Others include:
- Setting up team members for success
- Providing opportunities for growth
- Allowing others to take the lead in certain circumstances
- Ability to honor mistakes and view them in a more positive light
- Providing a pleasant and positive work environment
Skills Necessary for Building Empathy
To build empathy, a leader needs to acknowledge their feelings and the feelings of others. To do this, they need to know how to ask deeper, more in-depth questions and be comfortable doing so. They should ask questions that require more than a yes or no response. They also need to do more than ask how someone is feeling but why they are feeling that way.
Building empathy requires a leader to walk in their team members’ shoes. They need to understand other people’s perspectives of a shared experience. To cultivate compassion, the person in charge takes time to find out what individual experiences others are bringing with them and how that affects their attitudes and thought processes.
Besides understanding what other people feel and why, good leaders also are open about their own emotions. A good leader will exude warmth and relate to others on a human level. They are aware of their feelings and can explain to others what they feel and why.
Necessary Skills for Building Empathy include:
- Asking more in-depth questions to find out what someone feels and why
- Looking at things from other people’s perspectives
- Understanding other people’s backgrounds and experiences that influence their decision-making and thinking
- Emotional awareness
- Ability to relate to others on a human level
Skills Necessary for Honesty
When a leader is honest, they inspire faith and trust in those they lead. Lying, telling half-truths, and leaving out information all harm others’ perceptions of you. If you are deemed untrustworthy, it’s incredibly difficult to undo the damage.
An honest leader can tell the truth tactfully without being misleading. They also are humble enough to admit they were wrong when mistakes get made and to admit they don’t always know the right answer. Creating an environment that makes people feel safe will also encourage honesty because others will be more willing to share their thoughts and own up to mistakes they have made.
To be an honest leader, a person needs to be reliable. Avoid things like exaggerating an issue or concern. A trustworthy leader speaks plainly and clearly. If a leader makes a claim, they should be able to back up that claim with facts, not opinions or rumors.
Necessary Skills for Honesty include:
- Respecting others enough to tell them the whole truth
- Phrasing issues tactfully
- Avoiding exaggeration in speech
- Creating an environment where people feel safe
- Backing up claims with facts
What Leader Qualities Are the Most Important?
All the qualities discussed above are important for a leader to possess. However, there are two that stand out as the most crucial for every leader to have. In fact, the ability to cultivate honesty and empathy may help you in attaining other leadership qualities with greater ease.
When you are honest people are more likely to trust you. Honest leaders will give credit where credit is due as well as productive criticism when necessary. When others get treated with kindness, fairness, and respect, they are less likely to become defensive during a conversation and be more open and honest themselves.
Honesty also makes a leader more approachable. By showing that they are not perfect and make mistakes, they show that they are also just human and have human limitations. A leader who makes mistakes and admits them, models, that behavior to others and makes them more willing to do the same when they make mistakes.
Empathetic leaders listen to the thoughts and feelings of others in a nonjudgmental way, and they are attentive. Empathy allows leaders to more fully understand other perspectives and clear up misunderstandings before they become problematic. They know where people are coming from and what makes them upset and why. This knowledge helps resolve conflicts more productively and positively.
Empathy also gives leaders insight into the best way to motivate and inspire others. They know what makes people happy or excited and uses that knowledge to build up team members’ confidence. An empathetic leader creates an environment where people get uplifted rather than brought down, creating a more supportive and friendly environment in which team members can flourish.
What Are Some Key Points to Keep In Mind?
Being a team leader is not easy. It involves a lot more than merely telling people what to do and making sure they do it. Team leaders need to be willing to work hard, and while they may be in charge, they cannot put themselves on a pedestal. The most effective leaders are more than just excellent at what they do. They also inspire and cultivate excellence in other people.
Team leaders must hold themselves accountable for both their positive and negative actions. They need to be more than a boss; they need to be a role model. At the same time, they also need to teach others to hold themselves accountable for their actions.
A good team leader possesses specific qualities and is continually working on strengthening those qualities in themselves. To do this, they need to practice these qualities daily. However, when you are in the middle of leading your team, it can sometimes be challenging to keep all the qualities of good leadership in mind. To assist you in remembering, here is a helpful memory device you can use.
Be a “PEACH”
To be a quality team leader:
P – Produce Results
E – Empathize with Others
A – Act as an Inspiration
C – Communicate Effectively
H – Honesty is the Best Policy
What Are Some Final Thoughts?
The ability to successfully lead a team requires leaders to build relationships with those they lead. You should never, in trying to get results, forget those that help you get those results. A product is only as good as the people who produce it, and positive results are the result of positive people.
A good team leader doesn’t separate themselves from their team but acts as part of that team. A team works as one unit. Leaders must be willing and able to roll up their sleeves and work alongside those they are leading. There needs to be a sense of community among a team and the job of a team leader is to build that sense of community and make sure everyone feels appreciated, needed, and respected.
People are naturally social creatures, and we have a natural ability to relate to others. From the earliest days of humanity, people have worked together to achieve common goals. Those who have taken on leadership roles know how best to understand, respond to, and support others.
All the qualities that make for a good team leader relate to being a good human being. By following your natural human inclinations, you set yourself and others up for success and prove that anybody with a sincere desire to put in the effort has the potential for being a great leader.