Leaders shape our nation, 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 how to identify a good one? What would most people say makes a good leader?
The Characteristics of a Good Leader
Based on our research, we’ve found that great leaders consistently possess these 10 core leadership traits:
- Ability to delegate
- Sense of humor
- Positive attitude
- Ability to inspire
While many powerful and successful leaders haven’t exhibited all of these character traits, and the definition of a good leader can be quite ambiguous, most good leaders do leverage at least some of these characteristics.
Our research has also found that other important qualities of a good leader include:
Courage: There are two kinds of courage: physical and moral. Leadership character requires moral courage. This means standing up for one’s convictions and values while risking criticism, censure or ridicule. It can also mean risking loss of power, position, or reputation. Moral courage inspires respect for several reasons: it is viewed as being a selfless form of behavior; it is seen as a sign of having overcome fear; and it implies that leaders take responsibility for their own actions.
Caring: Caring means showing sincere interest in and genuine concern for others. It includes consideration, compassion, empathy, sympathy, and nurturing. Caring does not mean tolerating or ignoring shoddy performance, violations of company policies, bad attitudes, or dishonesty. What it does mean is seeing humans as the most important resource in an organization – and the resource with the most overall potential. Leaders who are caring will likely be rewarded with cooperative and supportive behavior in return.
Optimism: This is the tendency to take the most hopeful and cheerful view and to expect the best outcome. Optimists see opportunities, possibilities and silver linings in every situation. They often contend that, with hard work, focus, resilience and a bit of luck, a positive outcome is possible. People are naturally drawn to leaders who are positive, upbeat and cheerful – who have a “We can do this!” type of attitude.
Self-control: Leaders must choose what they will do and not do and then accept the consequences of their choices. This includes personal discipline in behaviors and lifestyle. Self-control implies that as a leader you have sufficient drive and initiative, as well as a clear vision and focus. Self-control keeps a person motivated and focused on goals, and it also contributes to momentum.
Communication: There are, of course, several methods of interpersonal communication – written, verbal, and nonverbal signs, attitudes and body language, as well as communication through actions and appearance. Listening is also an important part of communication. A leader’s communication casts a vision, establishes direction, shapes goals and objectives, reinforces key values and clarifies tasks. Communication makes the emotional connection that is so critical in effective leadership.
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Try sharpening these 5 attributes in your leadership style, and your characteristics as a good leader will soon shine.
But if the characteristics of a good leader above don’t describe you, don’t panic — there are ways for you to improve upon your leadership capabilities. At CCL, we believe that leaders are not born, but made, and are molded through experience, continued study, and adaptation.
Work on improving your communication skills, which are essential for good leadership.
Consider too, whether you have the core leadership skills needed in every role, since everyone – from individual contributors and first-time managers to the most seasoned senior executives – needs these same 4 leadership competencies to be truly effective.
Like any craft, leadership requires that you learn from your mistakes and continually work at strengthening your weaknesses. Seek out a mentor that you admire. Jot down the characteristics that you feel makes them a great leader. Then ask yourself, How do I compare?
Chances are, your role models weren’t always great leaders, so determine what they did along the way to become the leader they are today. And keep working on developing the characteristics of a good leader.
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