What Makes a Good (or Bad) Leader?

Theresa Carik, Ph.D. Leadership, Leadership Development, Talent Management

Poor leadership and management can stir up trouble for your organization, leading to low team morale, frustration, lack of effectiveness, higher employee turnover, and ultimately increased costs. In a fast-paced and highly competitive business world, it is more crucial than ever to have effective leaders who are not merely appointed based on their tenure but possess the necessary traits and capabilities to drive success. In this article, we delve into the essential qualities of a good leader and highlight red flags that can hinder management. It’s our goal to help you find (or become) the best leader for your teams.

Qualities of a good leader

While certain individuals may naturally possess qualities that make them well-suited for managerial roles, leadership is not exclusively confined to those with inherent talent. This skill can be cultivated and refined through time and effort. If you aspire to enhance your organization’s managerial team, here are a few key leadership traits you can keep an eye out for:

Vision-focused & goal-oriented

A skilled leader has a clear vision for the organization and sets goals that align with that vision. They inspire their team by actively working towards a brighter future and providing a clear roadmap to achieve it. Leaders foster a strong sense of purpose, motivating their team members to actively contribute and collaborate towards common objectives.

Strong communication skills

Influential leaders possess excellent communication skills in conveying their vision and actively listening to their team. They create an environment that encourages open dialogue, fosters collaboration, and ensures everyone is on the same page. Clear and concise communication avoids misunderstandings and promotes a culture of trust that employees value and respect.

Emotional intelligence

Good leaders understand and connect with their team members on a personal level. They demonstrate empathy, actively listen to concerns, and take appropriate actions to support their team’s well-being. Emotional intelligence enables leaders to navigate conflicts, manage emotions, and build strong relationships based on trust and mutual respect.

Decisiveness & accountability

Leaders need to make tough decisions promptly and take responsibility for the outcomes. A great leader gathers relevant information, weighs options, and confidently chooses the best course of action. They also hold themselves accountable for their decisions and actively seek feedback to learn and improve when things don’t go as planned.

Adaptability & resilience

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, leaders must be able to roll with the punches. What makes a great leader is the ability to embrace change, navigate uncertainties, and inspire their team to embrace new challenges. They stay composed during difficult times, learn from setbacks, and rally the team to persevere despite any obstacles that may arise.

Ethical integrity

Ethical integrity is essential for building trust and maintaining credibility as a leader. Good leaders act with integrity, demonstrating honesty, fairness, and consistency in their actions and decision-making. They set high ethical standards, leading by example and creating a culture of accountability within the organization.

Empowering delegation tactics

Good leaders understand the importance of delegating tasks and encouraging their team members to take ownership of new challenges. Great leadership qualities in this area include an aptitude for recognizing individual strengths, assigning appropriate responsibilities, and providing guidance and support when needed. By entrusting others with responsibilities, leaders not only cultivate the skills and capabilities of their team members but also promote a collaborative and empowered work environment.

Continuous learning & growth mindset

A great leader is committed to regular self-improvement. They actively seek new knowledge, stay updated on industry trends, and encourage a culture of learning within their teams to prevent complacency. Leaders with a growth mindset embrace challenges, view failures as opportunities for growth, and promote innovation, which helps propel their team forward and give their company a competitive edge.

Affinity for team building & collaboration

Success is not an individual pursuit but rather the result of a cohesive and high-performing team. A good leader invests in team-building activities, encourages collaboration, and celebrates collective accomplishments to highlight the work done by individuals. By recognizing and leveraging their team members’ diverse strengths and skills, these leaders drive innovation and create opportunities for growth.

An optimistic & supportive outlook

Great leaders inspire and motivate their team members to perform at their best. They lead by example, embodying the values and behaviors they expect from others. Through effective communication, recognition of hard work, and empowerment, they create an environment where individuals feel valued and motivated to excel.

Traits of someone not ready to lead

While everyone has the potential to become a good leader, certain characteristics can hinder organizational progress. Identifying these red flags early on can help managers improve and develop their leadership skills. Here are some bad leadership qualities that may require attention:

Micromanagement tendencies

Leaders with micromanagement tendencies struggle to delegate tasks and trust their team members to take ownership of their responsibilities. They have a strong desire to control every aspect of a project or task, which leads to decreased autonomy and motivation among team members. However, by relinquishing control and building a culture of empowerment, individuals can overcome micromanagement tendencies and develop more effective leadership styles.

Arrogance or close-mindedness

While there’s nothing wrong with being confident, showcasing arrogant behavior can damage working relationships. Those who are overly confident in their abilities often dismiss others’ opinions and ideas. They may also be emotionally closed off and struggle to connect with team members on a deeper, more human level. This behavior creates a negative and alienating work environment, hindering collaboration, innovation, and open communication. Actively seeking diverse perspectives from everyday conversations and honing in on listening skills can help managers overcome this narrow mindset and foster a more inclusive and collaborative leadership strategy.

Lack of self-awareness

Leaders who fail to take responsibility for their actions and decisions perpetuate a culture of blame and mistrust. They may avoid accountability, shifting blame onto others or making excuses, which undermines team morale and hampers productivity. Developing a sense of ownership and promoting accountability is essential to not only nurture a better managerial mindset but also influence others to be open and honest about their mistakes. Leaders need to make it easier for employees to approach them and be honest about mishaps by responding from a place of calm and understanding rather than out of emotion.

Improve the quality and impact of your leadership

For some, great leadership qualities come naturally, but for others, they may take some practical application and time to refine. Going through the above leadership qualities list is an excellent start in understanding and nurturing traits that are beneficial to your managerial approach and addressing those that can have negative repercussions within your organization.

With 40 years of experience and expertise across various industries, Keystone Partners can help you unlock your full potential for long-term success. We offer tailored programs and solutions to enhance your leadership capabilities, talent development processes, and overall organizational effectiveness. 
Contact us today to learn how you can polish your leadership qualities for a more healthy, productive, and thriving workplace!

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