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What qualities must a good leader have?

I’ve talked many times on the subject of leadership, and what successful leaders need to do in order to get the best from their team – and it’s always good insight and advice to repeat.

Angry Boss

I’ve compared styles of leadership, and even leaders themselves, such as Alan Sugar and Nelson Mandela, who have huge variations in their approaches and attitudes.

So what qualities, or aspects of personality, would you imagine a leader should demonstrate or develop?

The art of ‘managing’, not slavishly ‘doing’

I’m the first to recommend any leader should have a good idea of what every individual in their team is responsible for and the brief attributes of their role and day-to-day tasks – sometimes practising these themselves so they have a deeper knowledge and perspective. However, there’s a difference between having an overall understanding, and actually doing your team’s work for them because your delegation skills need sharpening.

Just handing out work to the first person that stops by your desk is not effective delegation either; learning individuals’ strengths and weaknesses is requisite, so that you can offload tasks to the person most suitable to complete it well. The success of your team will be your success too, and the art of delegation is a key element of this.

Good communication

Following on from the last point, delegation won’t work if you’re a poor communicator. Guidance and instruction towards your team will be challenges if you’re not able to talk to people on the same level and your approach to communication is one that infuriates or confuses team members.

Understanding that communication is a two-way street is the first consideration; a successful leader encourages his charges to bring him their problems and ideas. Without interaction and a continual dialogue, it’s hard to believe any leader is effective, with such limited knowledge of their team’s progress or daily duties.


Being responsible for others means you’re automatically held as an example to them. Your team will look to you for direction and, possibly, ethics and advice. Trust is a huge consideration if you’d like your team to follow your lead; if they suspect you’re not honest with them, they’ll disengage and ignore your authority. You’re the motivator, inspiration and steer – set an example that’s something they can aim for, if you want to push the whole team to reach higher and give them something to aim for.

ID-100223620A sunny outlook

As leader and an inspiration, you need to be the one to chivvy along others when life events or office conflict threaten to push their emotions off-balance. You’re the one with the vision to articulate and the energy and commitment to motivate everyone you’re responsible for towards that goal; if you’re not someone who can themselves shake off problems or challenges from outside the workplace, you’re going to struggle to lead your team towards great results. Hone your detachment skills and work on your positivity; the energy and productivity of your team are easily influenced by your demeanour. Remember: enthusiasm is infectious.

The ability to adapt and think ahead

As leader, you’re the first to traverse new paths and stormy seas. If your team see that you adapt well to challenges or changes, they’ll follow suit. Your intuition and lack of indecision when progressing with projects will cement your authority and credibility as leader, and the ability to think a few steps ahead will not only reduce risk for the team but also the amount of time wasted as solutions are found.

Your confidence that the outcome of any task will be a good or beneficial one will further fuel the efforts of your team, underpinning their security and giving reassurance.

Tolerance and detachment

Though, as a human being, it’s likely you will have ‘favourites’ or members of the team that you engage with more than others, it’s important you treat all team members the same. Not getting personally involved with office disputes and keeping a professional distance in social settings will ensure the set-up of your relationship as leader to individual team members will not be compromised.

Tolerating your team’s weaknesses and keeping a cool head whilst all around you are losing theirs are both good reasons why you’re the leader. Turning failures into learning opportunities and encouraging unity within the team will ultimately help their overall success. Never should the vision or goal be forgotten because of petty squabbles between the team; the leader is the one that, under any circumstances, always keeps focus.

So, is leadership a state of mind, or can it be taught? Looking at the qualities above, I’d say that it’s a mix of the two. All are important if you’re to encourage others to further their commitment, effort and abilities towards a shared goal – few people want to remain autonomous for eight hours a day, five (or more) days a week.

As a leadership coach, this is only a brief overview of the qualities a good leader should hold. I can help you develop a raft of competencies and traits that will push you and your team towards better results. Contact me on 01302 220021 or email angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

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