Female leader in the workplace listening to colleague

The Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader

Revised: December 8, 2023

Contrary to popular belief, the best leaders are not born with natural leadership skills. The strengths of a leader often develop as a result of hard work and a focused effort to hone those qualities. Good leaders become better when they seek opportunities to test their leadership skills, solicit feedback, and adapt as needed.

If you want to learn to become an effective leader, you need to be aware of the most critical leadership skills and take the steps necessary to cultivate those qualities within you.

What Makes a Good Leader?

There is no one set definition of a good leader. One person with exceptional leadership qualities may differ from another leader, but that doesn't necessarily make one more effective than the other. The mark of a good leader has earned their team's respect and is willing to assist with the workload to accomplish the group's goal.

Strong leaders are vital, particularly in an ever-evolving world. From community organizations and volunteer groups to professional associations and corporations, effective leaders ensure that people work together cohesively to accomplish their goals.

Know Your Leadership Style

There are several distinct leadership styles, and as you begin to focus on developing your own leadership qualities, it's important to be aware of which leadership style best suits your personality and your leadership position. According to IMD, these are the most common leadership styles:

  • Transformational Leadership — If you are a transformational leader, you are likely looking to inspire your team to become the best version of themselves. Transformational leaders emphasize change and positive progress.
  • Delegative Leadership — If you prefer a more hands-off approach to leadership, you are likely a delegative leader. Delegative leaders prefer to assign tasks to the team and give them the space they need to accomplish their goals.
  • Authoritative Leadership — Commonly confused as dictatorial or authoritarian, the authoritative leadership style is actually not as foreboding as it sounds. An authoritative leader serves as a leader or mentor and encourages their team to follow their example.
  • Transactional Leadership — Sometimes referred to as managerial leadership, this leadership style relies heavily on rewarding positive behavior and punishing those who do not meet the mark. It is a structural and organized leadership form commonly used in corporate settings.
  • Participative Leadership — Participative leadership invites all team members to participate in management. As a participative leader, you may be apt to include your team members in the decision-making. You will likely weigh various opinions before you come to a final decision.
  • Servant Leadership — Servant leadership focuses heavily on relationship building. If you have a tendency to put the needs of the group ahead of your own personal preferences or desires, then you are likely going to identify as a servant leader.

You may find that you do not identify with one particular leadership style but rather, a blend of several styles. As you combine elements from one leadership style with another, you will begin to discover who you are as a leader. From there, you can nurture the specific leadership qualities that will allow you to become an effective and impactful leader.

10 Leadership Skills You Should Focus On

As you begin to understand who you are as a leader and who you want to become, you can start to zero in on leadership skills that will transform you into the most effective leader you can be. These are some of the skills sought after in leaders across all fields and industries:

1. Integrity

Naturally, integrity is at the top of the list as one of the most critical leadership qualities. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, integrity is particularly critical for those who wish to serve in an executive leadership position at some point in their career.

A leader with integrity is honest and relies on their own moral compass and values to make decisions for the organization. An individual with a strong sense of integrity is motivated to do what is right simply because it is right. They will make that same decision whether they have an audience in public or whether they are working in private.

People known for having integrity are also generally considered to be respectful, approachable, fair, honest, and trustworthy, which is another reason why it is essential for truly effective leadership.

2. Self-Awareness

BetterUp defines self-awareness as the ability to be aware of how your actions, thoughts, and decisions impact others. A self-aware individual knows that they have a distinct set of strengths and weaknesses. They can rely on their strengths to improve the organization and the team and seek assistance to compensate for their shortcomings.

Self-awareness is essential for anyone in a leadership position because it allows the leader to know their own limitations. As a self-aware leader, you would be able to recognize when you have enough on your plate to manage, and you would subsequently delegate tasks accordingly to the rest of the team.

3. Empathy

Empathy has never been more important, especially in an increasingly diverse multicultural world. An empathetic leader can recognize the feelings of others and will attempt to understand their perspective. According to Indeed, when you try to be an empathetic leader, you will naturally form stronger bonds with your team. Empathy is one of the best ways to nurture professional relationships, as it allows you to be aware of the feelings of others and to recognize how the decisions that leaders make impact the team at large.

Corporations and businesses across all industries are finding that empathetic leaders can create a better workplace culture that is more inclusive and, as a result, more productive. Empathetic leaders allow everyone to feel like they are a valued part of the team.

4. Communication

In order to become an impactful leader, you must also work to become an effective communicator. Communication skills are some of the most sought-after competencies in professionals across all industries because good communicators know how to work well with others. A good communicator is one who:

  • Listens to others and understands their needs.
  • Clearly and effectively states what needs to be completed.
  • Delegates tasks.
  • Relies on appropriate technology to deliver a message in the most effective way.

A leader who has effective communication skills can be clear, concise, and organized in their direction. In addition, they also have an open-door policy, making the team aware that they are available to listen at any time.

5. Active Listening

Active listening is a form of listening that goes beyond simply being willing to hear what someone is saying. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, a leader who is also an active listener can understand what someone is saying, reflect on the points they made, and remember that information in the future.

To be an active listener, you must give the person speaking to you your full attention. You should be entirely present during the conversation and mentally note the points they are sharing with you. When you do this, you will be able to recall what they said in the future, and you will be able to rely on their perspective as you make decisions that will shape your group or organization.

6. Growth Mindset

Leaders who have worked on developing a growth mindset are often more resilient, flexible, and adaptable. In the face of adversity, an individual with a growth mindset does not feel discouraged. Instead, they feel empowered to rise to the challenge and overcome the roadblocks they face.

A growth mindset is the belief that people can change and improve, even when they make a mistake or suffer a setback. An individual with a growth mindset knows they can continue to hone their skills and abilities to become a better version of themselves.

According to Understood, the opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset. An individual with a fixed mindset believes that their abilities — and inabilities — exist and cannot be improved or changed. Noting this, it's clear why the most effective leaders in today's world have adopted a growth mindset, and they encourage those in their teams to attempt to do the same.

A growth mindset is the belief that people can change and improve, even when they make a mistake or suffer a setback. An individual with a growth mindset knows they can continue to hone their skills and abilities to become a better version of themselves.

7. Patient

Patience is more than just a virtue — it's a skill that can be improved upon over time. The best leaders are patient and understanding. They are aware that they are not perfect, and neither are their team members, so they are willing to accept mistakes and encourage growth.

Being a patient leader does not necessarily mean being passive or accepting slow results. Instead, it means that you are willing to gently guide and nurture those around you so that they have the freedom to become the best version of themselves in a positive and uplifting environment.

8. Optimistic

The most admired leaders are known for their optimistic outlook. They can stay positive in the face of adversity, and they genuinely believe that the organization will continue to improve over time.

While optimistic leaders can look on the bright side, it's important to note that they do not necessarily ignore negative experiences or frustrating setbacks. They acknowledge these situations, but they can look at them through a positive lens. They recognize a challenge but view it as an opportunity to grow and improve.

As an optimistic leader, you can inspire your team to adopt a more positive outlook and focus on the best aspects of any situation.

9. Decision-Making

Decision-making is a critical component of leadership, and the best leaders can swiftly make clear and fair decisions. The fact of the matter is when you are in a leadership position, your team is relying on you. You are the person that they look to for guidance. As a result, they expect you to be able to make a decision that will benefit the team and allow the group to accomplish its goals in the shortest amount of time.

Leaders who have honed other leadership qualities, such as integrity, trust, and courage, are generally better decision-makers and feel more confident as they make choices for their organization.

10. Transparent

Transparency has long been an important aspect of leadership. A transparent leader makes decisions without secrecy and is willing to explain why a specific plan has been put into place. In addition, a transparent leader is willing to accept feedback from those around them and take the actions needed to adapt accordingly.

Transparency instills confidence in the team at large, as they know why certain decisions have been made and what the plan is for moving forward. When you try to be transparent, you are more likely to earn the trust and respect of those working under you.

Become an Effective Leader at Champlain College Online

At Champlain College Online, we are proud to offer a wide range of degree programs and certificates designed to allow students to pursue their passions and accomplish their professional goals. Our Master’s in Leadership program is perfect for improving your leadership skills and laying the foundation to become a manager or leader in your organization. Regardless of your career path, it's important to enroll at a college that offers you a values-based education that focuses on the development of leadership qualities.

Request more information about degree programs at Champlain, and learn how to become a valuable team member and effective leader, regardless of your field or profession.


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