Leaders shape our nations, communities, and organizations.

We need good leaders to help guide us and make the essential large-scale decisions that 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?

The Characteristics & Qualities of a Good Leader

Infographic: The Qualities & Characteristics of a Good Leader

Based on our research, we’ve found that great leaders consistently possess these 10 core leadership skills:

  • Integrity
  • Ability to delegate
  • Communication
  • Self-awareness
  • Gratitude
  • Learning agility
  • Influence
  • Empathy
  • Courage
  • Respect

Integrity

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. Our research show that integrity may actually be a potential blind spot for organizations. Make sure your organization reinforces the importance of integrity to leaders at various levels.

Ability to Delegate

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.

Communication

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 listen to, and communicate with, a wide range of people across roles, social identities, and more. The quality and effectiveness of communication across your organization directly affects the success of your business strategy, too. Learn how better conversations can actually improve your organizational culture.

Self-Awareness

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? Take the time to learn about the 4 aspects of self-awareness, and how you can dig into each component.

frontline leader impact

Almost 60% of frontline managers never receive training for their first leadership role. Our online program, Frontline Leader Impact, develops the 6 essential leadership skills needed to succeed, in just 30 minutes a day over 6 weeks.

  • 90% of participants found Frontline Leader Impact easy to access and navigate
  • 99% of participants said the course positively impacted their leadership skills

Learn more about our Frontline Leader Impact virtual program today.

Gratitude

Being thankful can 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. Learn how to give thanks and practice more gratitude in the workplace.

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. Explore how great leaders are great learners, with strong learning agility to get started.

Influence

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. Find out how the 4 keys to influencing others.

Empathy

Empathy is correlated with job performance and a critical part of emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness. 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

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. A psychologically safe workplace culture encourages speaking the truth.

Respect

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. Explore how you can cultivate a climate of respect at work.

Putting It Together: The Characteristics of a Good Leader

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.

If you don’t feel like these characteristics of a good leader adequately describe you, don’t panic — there are ways for you to improve on your leadership capabilities, including all 10 of these core skills. At CCL, we believe that leadership is a skill that can be developed and that leaders are molded through experience, continued study, and adaptation.

In other words, you can strengthen any of these 10 characteristics and qualities of a good leader if you’re open to growth and you put in the time and effort towards self-improvement. Similarly, organizations can help their people hone these skills through leadership development training and real-world experience.

Disruptive Trends Report: Talent Reimagined 2020 - Leadership Never Stops by the Center for Creative Leadership

It’s also essential to realize that leadership is a social process. If you demonstrate several of the characteristics of a good leader but fail to grasp this, chances are you won’t get very far on your own. You may be well liked and respected, but it will be challenging to accomplish team or organizational goals.

Also, 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.

Develop the Qualities of a Good Leader

Organizations can strengthen leadership skills and foster deeper levels of engagement at work through providing a variety of development opportunities, ranging from on-the-job learning and mentoring, to more formal virtual executive coaching or leadership development programs.

But individuals don’t have to wait to begin strengthening these characteristics and qualities of a good leader within themselves — you can start today.

First, make sure you subscribe to our newsletters to get our research-backed tips on leading effectively delivered straight to your inbox.

And if you decide you want to work on developing your leadership skills and becoming a more effective leader, explore our virtual leadership programs and then convince your boss to make an investment in you and your future.


Ready to Take the Next Step?

Learn more about our virtual leadership programs and select the right one to help you foster and develop the traits of a good leader.

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