What Makes A Good Leader? 11+ Critical Qualities To Have

What Makes A Good Leader

Are you wondering what makes a good leader? No need for guesswork because this guide will help you learn and embody all the critical qualities of a good leader.

I’ve had my fair share of working with ineffective business leaders. That’s one reason I’ve decided to start a business and become my own boss.

Over a decade of managing my team members, I’ve learned from experience the essential qualities that every effective leader should have. I’ll share the top 11+ qualities, including their benefits to help you improve your leadership style.

Let’s begin.

12 Important Leadership Qualities Of Great Leaders

Leadership and teamwork go hand-in-hand. To ensure you can lead your team in the right direction, here are 11+ leadership characteristics you should imbibe within yourself.

1. Confidence

Business leaders are experts in their field. So, there’s no doubt they can open new doors for growth, progress, and success using their talent, skills, and industry experiences.

However, leaders cannot execute their plans well if they have low self-confidence. They can’t even manage their teams efficiently simply because they lack the mindset to motivate each member and strategize effective improvement plans to advance their careers.

As a result, team members will lose their trust and even attempt to undermine their superior’s leadership.

This is how important confidence is in achieving success. It provides assurance that you can constantly take decisive action leading to great results. Not to mention build long-lasting relationships with the team members and stakeholders.

Since change is inevitable, confidence can help you face all situations calmly while maintaining an optimistic vision. Self-confidence is one quality that you can build and improve.

Setting goals, recognizing what you are good at, and embracing your failures are a few things you can do to improve your self-confidence. You can also give yourself various challenges to help you become wiser and stronger.

Pro Advice: Put Your Ego In Check

There’s a thin line between confidence and ego. Though both can create tremendous achievements and success, an inflated ego can also cause destruction – your life, team relationships, and business success.

Ensure to balance your confidence with humility.

You can start by admitting your mistakes or acknowledging you do not know everything. For the latter, never be afraid to ask for help or feedback to fill the knowledge gaps.

2. Positive Attitude

Self-confidence allows leaders to trust their skills and abilities to get a job well done. However, they may suffer confidence drops in times of crisis and uncertainty. That’s why it’s essential to keep a positive attitude.

A positive attitude will help you build your confidence to cope with the challenges better. It also makes you more resilient.

No matter how complicated the situation is, you can remain calm and focused on finding the best solutions rather than giving in to negative emotions.

There are different methods to train yourself to have a positive attitude daily. The most practical method is surrounding yourself with a positive group of people.

Positivity is contagious. If you regularly hang out with happy and positive people, they will inspire you to bring out the best in you. Meditation would also do wonders to train your mind to stay grounded at all times.

What Makes A Good Leader: Meditation

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Grounding is an effective mental exercise to prevent your anxiety, worries, and other negative emotions from controlling you.

I’ve listed other methods you can do for your reference. Choose what works for you and strictly implement them every day.

  • Create a morning ritual to start your day strong
  • Get inspiration from established world leaders like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and more
  • Get inspired with motivational books, videos, and podcasts
  • Make a priority list for each day
  • Allot a schedule for “me time”
  • Avoid or limit your gossiping tendencies

Pro Advice: Match Your Attitude With Your Actions

Changing your attitude into a positive one is helpful, but it isn’t enough. You and your team will benefit more if you embrace positivity in your attitude and actions.

Showing appreciation towards your team is an excellent way to boost their morale and stay motivated to work hard.

Do not forget to give your most sincere smile. Smiling is also contagious, so it’s an effective tool for building a healthier work environment.

3. Strong Ethical Principles

Anyone can take a leadership role, but only a true leader will make an effort to become a positive role model. You can be one by possessing strong ethical principles.

Trust and respect are the leadership traits to prioritize. Treating your team members with trust and respect provides them a sense of security. It means you allow them to do their jobs the best way they know how, instead of micromanaging them.

Fairness is another strong quality of a good manager. You go the extra mile to learn and understand each member’s strengths and talents. Doing so helps you smartly assign workloads and projects they’re good at.

There are more leadership qualities to become an ethical leader, and all of them aim to inspire your employees.

Pro Advice: Successful Leaders Inspire People, They Do Not Force Them

One thing is certain – you cannot force people to follow something they don’t believe or care about. Threatening them will not do any good either; you will just lose them.

The best thing you can do is to inspire them by sharing your passion for the business’ vision and goals.

Make them feel that all their hard work has a purpose and meaning. Giving out rewards or recognitions are also a great way to show your gratitude for a job well done.

Another approach you can use is inclusion. People want to feel included. So, ensure to listen to their feedback/suggestions during the planning, decision-making, and other processes that lead to the accomplishment.

4. Sense Of Humor

The workplace can be an intense place. Toxic culture and burnout are the major problems that drive most employees to quit their jobs.

What Makes A Good Leader: Reason Employees Quit

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That’s why some business leaders use humor to relieve tension, relax, and simply connect with their team members. Having a sense of humor isn’t a common quality of great leadership.

However, Stanford experts prove that leaders sharing laughs with team members can strengthen their bond and connection.

The logic is simple – laughter floods the brains with the same hormones commonly associated with love. Therefore, the team members will feel more energetic, joyous, and trusting.

Like confidence, you must use humor properly. Delivering too much of it will make you lose your credibility. As an inspiration, you can follow the world-renowned industry leaders’ method, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. They’re just a few best leaders who use light humor and humility to make themselves more approachable.

If not, you must remember to incorporate relatable humor and can improve employee engagement, productivity, and morale.

5. Effective Communication

What Makes A Good Leader: Effective Communication

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An essential part of what makes a good leader is good communication skills.

Good communication allows you to convey any information effectively. You can even straightforwardly explain complex issues with utmost clarity.

It won’t just provide better outcomes, it will also lessen the potential of workplace disputes.

The company typically provides training for all its employees to improve business communication. But if your company is not providing one, you can improve your communication skills by following the best practices.

I’ve listed some of the most important practices, and it’s up to you which one to master first. All practices are proven effective, so ease your mind and everything will provide excellent results.

  • Engage in honest and straightforward communication
  • Know your audience to provide a personalized response
  • Utilize your intuition, feelings, and emotional intelligence to understand your audience
  • Provide sufficient time for your employee to respond
  • Always keep an open mind

Pro Advice: Practice Effective Cross-Cultural Communication

One thing every company has is a diverse team. Each has a unique set of personalities, cultures, expertise, and more.

You must add cross-cultural communication to your skill set to ensure you can bring out the best in them.

You can start by researching information about your team members’ specific cultures. For example, Koreans don’t speak casually to someone they just met.

So, it would be best to make them feel comfortable speaking to you first and gain their full confidence.

I’ve listed other best practices for your reference. All practices are easy to follow and remember. Also, it’s recommended to implement them every day to get the best results.

  • Follow proper etiquette for the target culture
  • Learn their native language or speak slowly for non-English speakers
  • Don’t use slang words and abbreviations (TTYS, AFAIK, etc.)
  • Ask open-ended questions

6. Hone Your Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Becoming a great communicator is indeed essential to convey your message right. But don’t forget to hone your non-verbal communication skills too.

What Makes A Good Leader: Non-Verbal Communication

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Non-verbal communication refers to all the unspoken messages of people, including facial expressions and body gestures. You should observe it well to ensure you understand the true meaning of their message.

It would be best if you also observed their tone of voice. Some people may say good words, but the emotion and energy in their tone can give a different meaning.

When observing your employees, ensure that you are not overwhelmed by stress or anger because it can compromise your judgment.

It’s best to step back and calm down. Continue your conversation once you feel better and your emotional awareness is at its peak.

Pro Advice: Employees Also Observe Their Leaders

Employees observe their leaders to detect whether they will receive good or bad news. So, it’s important to act positively at all times.

You must reflect your positive actions with your facial expressions, tone of voice, and body gestures.

For the latter, you can use different body language tricks to be instantly likable. Vixen Daily highlighted 27 of them, which you can see in the screenshot below.

What Makes A Good Leader: Body Language Tricks By Vixen Daily

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You can practice one at a time, or more, to see how it impacts your relationship with your team, customers, and clients.

7. Active Listening

Listening is just as important as verbal communication. So, improve your listening skills to provide stronger communication between you and your team.

How do leaders develop active listening skills?

There are four qualities you need to learn to become an active listener. The first step is to observe all your team members’ verbal and non-verbal gestures.

Read back #6 to know what body language you must prioritize to observe.

The next step is focus. Active listening can help you foster loyalty and build trust only if you give your undivided attention to your team members.

Therefore, ensure that you are not doing anything else and that the room is free from distractions before starting the conversation.

Assuming the conversation proceeds, you must respect your team members by letting them finish speaking. There are times when you can’t help but voice your opinion. However, they will only view you as inconsiderate or rude if you cut them off from finishing a sentence. Ensure to provide ample time for you to hear what they have to say.

Lastly, provide appropriate acknowledgment.

Allowing your team members to speak uninterruptedly is good, but you still need to acknowledge the message they’re conveying. Your silence may be interpreted as showing a lack of interest or lack of understanding about the context of their message.

There are some instances in which you don’t know how to respond. It’s acceptable to say short words like “uh huh” and “yes”. Or, you can choose to make non-verbal gestures like nodding your head.

8. Learning Agility

The workplace can bring new challenges and uncertainties every day.

If you want to keep up with these changes, you need to develop your learning agility. Learning agility is learning something from your experiences and applying it in new situations.

It also enhances your flexibility to unlearn industry practices that are no longer relevant and adapt to new ones. This leadership quality provides you speed to identify which piece of information is related and what’s not. It also gives you the confidence to try new concepts and see which solution is more effective.

Failure is inevitable when taking risks.

It’s best to open a safe working environment where you encourage your team to take risks without fear. You can also provide training to transform your team members into agile learners.

It’s good preparation for them if they want to take a leadership role in the future. When you achieve a high level of learning agility, you can develop new tools and behaviors that can help you make smart decisions on the spot or in a shorter amount of time.

Emotional Intelligence Is What Makes A Good Leader More Effective

Have you ever worked for someone who always needs to be right? If so, you just met the kind of leader with low emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence (EI), popularly known as emotional quotient (EQ), is often described as the ability to understand, manage, and use one’s own emotions while being empathetic with others.

Like most of the qualities I’ve discussed above, emotional intelligence isn’t something you can learn from books and the classroom.

You need to have a deeper connection with your and others’ emotions. This way, you will truly understand the meaning of these emotions and how they can affect others.

Emotional intelligence is usually composed of different qualities.

What Makes A Good Leader: Emotional Intelligence

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I will highlight the most critical EI-related qualities for the rest of the discussion. Develop them so that you can grow as a leader.

9. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one effective leadership quality to have. It strengthens your ability to improve all the aspects of your life – personally and as a leader.

I’ve listed some of the aspects for your reference. Master this quality to guarantee you can constructively handle everything.

  • Get a clear understanding of your strengths
  • Have complete control of your emotions and reactions
  • Recognize your weaknesses/limitations

The last aspect is one of the reasons why self-awareness is often overlooked. It isn’t easy to recognize one’s vulnerabilities without judging themselves.

But don’t hold yourself back and improve it by writing a journal.

Write your daily experiences in your journal, including your feelings (emotionally and physically) and reactions. Be honest when writing your emotions to have a deeper understanding of your emotional triggers. After weeks or months, review everything and see which areas you need to improve.

Another method you can use to boost your leadership skill through self-awareness is asking for feedback.

People can get biased when evaluating their capabilities. To ensure you can uncover the blind spots, seek outside opinion – colleagues, team members, and higher ups that are fully aware of your workplace strengths and limitations.

10. Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is about staying in control of your emotions and desires to ensure you will only produce positive results.

Calming your mind is the first step to learning self-regulation.

What Makes A Good Leader: Practice Being Calm

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A calm mind gives you perspective and depth. There are many techniques to practice being calm, and I’ve shared a screenshot above to help you get started.

The next step is to learn accountability.

Good leaders build accountability within their teams. So, set a good example and practice accountability for yourself.

You can take the below steps to get started. If it doesn’t fit your needs, you can customize.

  • Understand your role and responsibilities
  • Make realistic expectations on how much workload you can handle
  • Prioritize your time wisely to avoid missing a deadline
  • Review your past behaviors (during a crisis, resolving disputes, etc.) and reflect on what could you have done differently to improve yourself

Pro Advice: Know Your Values

Leaders always make difficult ethical decisions. It would be best to understand your values. If you know what’s important to you, you can make the right choice without breaking your code of ethics.

11. Social Skills

Traditionally, human resources are the ones handling and managing workplace disputes diplomatically. But the truth is you can resolve it on your own through good leadership and social skills.

Social skills, also known as interpersonal skills, refer to the ability to interact with others and build healthy relationships effectively.

Leaders, who master this strong leadership quality, can announce bad news and team members accept it wholeheartedly. They can simply make their team members’ life at work simple and stress-free.

Excellent communication skills (verbal, non-verbal, and written) and active listening are the standard qualities you must possess to improve your social skills.

You must also know the best time to motivate and praise your team members to boost their morale and productivity.

12. Relationship Management

A crisis can always test the leader’s core competency and patience. That’s why I’ve included relationship management for emotional intelligence as a bonus.

The reason is simple – clear and trustworthy communication is the best solution to survive a crisis efficiently.

Relationship management quality will help you communicate with your team members assertively and respectfully. Therefore, you can lead your team in your desired direction without instigating conflicts.

How can you improve your relationship management skill?

Possess all the emotional intelligence qualities mentioned earlier, and you can utilize this skill anytime you need it. It may take time to develop these skills, but the rewards you are about to receive are worth the hard work.


Some people are naturally born with good leadership skills, while others must work hard. But there’s nothing to worry about because patience is also what makes a good leader great.

Take all the time you need to understand the goals and expectations for the leadership position you are about to get. Doing so will help you see the big picture of the future you want for yourself and your team.

Having a high level of leadership skills is required, particularly now that we’re living in a digital era.

The workplace environment is constantly changing and full of challenges. It would be best to sharpen these leadership qualities to help you make well-informed decisions and become a better leader.

Do you have more qualities or tips to share? Leave it in the comment section.

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Burkhard Berger

Burkhard Berger

Follow me on my journey from $0 to $100,000 per month. I'm sharing everything I've learned in my income reports here on Novum™ so you can pick up on my mistakes and wins.

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