If you type “good leadership qualities” into Google, you’ll find a slew of articles arguing that practically every leadership quality is the “most important.”
I’m not here to argue that creativity or communication is the be-all and end-all of leadership traits. Rather, I’ve put together a list of 11 qualities of leadership that are all equally important and illustrate the impact they can have on both employees and overall business. Each of them will help you on your journey as a leader.
A leader with integrity is a leader who values consistency in all their decisions. It means doing the right thing regardless of the circumstances. Teams count on leaders to have integrity. It not only assures them that they are making the right decision but also provides them with a stable direction as a team.
Leaders without integrity are unpredictable in the worst way. Ultimately, their teams can’t be sure they can count on them.
According to a study performed by Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and Green Peak Partners, leadership training courses often downplay the importance of self-awareness. Yet, high self-awareness scores are strong predictors of overall success as a business.
Leaders who are aware of their weaknesses are not only able to address them. They’re also able to hire and work with people those who make up for their deficits, which strengthens the overall team. Self-awareness also allows leaders to realize that the best idea may not be their own but someone else’s. Such awareness allows the team to move forward on the best path rather than the leader’s path alone.
Empathy is often said to be related to weakness. Yet, leaders who lack empathy are those who end up wreaking havoc across their domains. It’s not hard to think of a time when a leader who cared little for the lived experiences of others didn’t have to be toppled.
Empathetic leaders are more courageous than their counterparts because they promote well-being across their team while simultaneously driving forward to achieve positive results.
Insightful leaders avoid several of the greatest pitfalls a leader can face. They don’t advocate strictly for their own ideas. Instead, they keep an open mind to better ideas.
What is more, they don’t let their past get them down. Insightfulness also allows a leader to learn from past failures to forge a new and better path forward.
Generosity is a key and undervalued characteristic of a leader. Being generous doesn’t only mean being generous with money. It also means being generous with time, intent, and information.
Being generous makes a leader more supportive. Moreover, it inspires their team and other leaders to also give what they have to the team. Without a generous leader, you may end up with a team where everyone is out for themselves. It’s almost impossible to reach a goal on time and on budget if the whole team is only worried about themselves.
Being innovative is a multifaceted characteristic. It requires having a strong focus, as just mentioned, building trust, and having excellent vision. These characteristics and abilities together allow a leader to be innovative in thought and deed. Most of all, they all allow for leadership that inspires innovation across the team.
Persistence is complemented by insightfulness because it also allows leaders to push forward even after failure.
This trait is often associated with never giving up. But it doesn’t necessarily correlate with it. It’s also about knowing when to give up on one strategy and pivot to a new strategy. Persisting is a mode of overcoming that is essential whenever you run into a problem.
A transparent leader is someone who is open and honest about their ethical intentions.
Transparency solves problems faster. It builds teams and fosters authentic relationships. People know they can trust their leader even when circumstances are dire. Ultimately, transparency pushes performance to its highest levels. And true leaders can’t operate without it.
Think of something more exhausting than dealing with a manager or colleague whose enthusiasm is inauthentic. Pseudo-authenticity builds pseudo-relationships that not only fail to serve the team but eventually drive them mad.
Authenticity means being truthful and open while remaining positive. It’s a skill that requires practice and commitment, but it always pays dividends.
With all this talk about authenticity and transparency, it seems strange to consider stoicism as an important leadership quality. But stoicism doesn’t mean perfecting a poker face even in the face of danger. This position can be too easily misinterpreted as standoffishness or arrogance.
Rather, stoicism is more akin to the practice of self-control. Stoicism doesn’t need to be used every day. But it is an imperative in the most difficult of times.
3 Bad Leadership Qualities to Avoid
The art of deception may take you to where you need to go, but it will never get you where you want to be.
Lying in any shape or form undermines confidence in you as a leader. And some leaders believe that’s fine as long as they stay in power. But how much power can you really have if your whole team goes out of their way to avoid or undermine your leadership?
Deception is a long and winding road to a loss of credibility and in some cases, the loss of your position.
Being manipulative should always be avoided. Resorting to these tactics suggests that you have neither the confidence among your team to lead them nor the ability to lead them using positive techniques – even if you tried.
Manipulation doesn’t inspire or empower employees. All it does is foster resentment and create atrophy. And atrophied teams get nothing done.
So, if you’re ever inspired to manipulate a group to get them going, remember, it is far better to persuade employees.
Manipulation is for managers who think about the now. Persuasion is for leaders who can see the big picture.
Intimidation seems like a useful way to light a fire under the bottom of a lazy employee. But have you ever thought about what goes through the head of an employee who is working not because they’re inspired but because they’re scared?
They’re partly focused on their work. But they’re more focused on the threat. They’re not doing their best work, and all you’ve done is finished a task and damaged a relationship.
Remember, it’s all about the big picture. These tactics may work once, but they ultimately destroy your ability to lead. Instead, you become just another faceless manager.
If you’ve been paying attention, you noticed that these leadership qualities aren’t single qualities. They interact in ways that support your leadership abilities as a whole. Ultimately, leadership requires a dynamic of different traits that will help you meet every challenge that comes your way.