In 2020, being a good leader is more important than ever. Whether you're dealing with difficult economic times, the need to diversify your workforce, or another pressing issue, the way you lead your company makes a huge difference to employees' motivation and your future success.
According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, 64% of people expect CEOs to take the lead on policy rather than wait for governments. But how can you lead effectively if you don't feel confident as a leader? A good leader makes a good team, so it's important to develop leadership qualities.
The good news is that leadership skills can be learned. In this guide, I'll share ten top attributes of a great leader that entrepreneurs, managers and business leaders should work on.
Why It Pays to Develop a Good Leadership Style
Before we get into the key characteristics of a leader, let's look at why it matters to your business. One of the key words to describe a great leader is inspirational—someone who excels at motivating others to take responsibility and to excel.
Good leadership sets an example that others in the organization will follow. That's why Inspirational leaders get more from their employees. And that, in turn, makes for a happier and more productive workplace.
Some of the key qualities of a good leader include communication, social responsibility, integrity, empathy and vision. In the rest of this guide, I'll explore these and other leadership qualifications, outlining what they are, why they're important and how you can improve or develop these skills.
Communication is the act of, or ability to, give and get information. Communication isn't just about listening and speaking, or reading and writing, but also about observing non-verbal cues.
Unsurprisingly, good communication is one of the most important qualities of a leader. Being able to communicate well means everyone on the team will understand your expectations. Equally important, you'll understand what matters to employees and what's happening in any interaction.
Some ways to improve your communication skills include:
- Learn to read body language and other forms of non-verbal communication.
- Ask questions to encourage team members and employees to share their thoughts.
- Focus on key points to avoid wasting time.
Learn more about improving communication skills in the following articles:
- CommunicationHow to Improve Remote Team Communication With monday.comAlexis (Lexi) Rodrigo
- Microsoft PowerPoint7 Interactive Presentation Ideas to Engage Your AudienceAndrew Childress
When thinking about what makes a great leader, the ability to connect with people throughout the organization in a genuine way is another important quality. When people feel connected to you, then you've got a stronger company that's better able to cope with whatever situations it finds.
T-Three Consultancy says you can become a more connected leader by:
- learning more about your employees
- helping them to deal with challenges and develop skills
- being vulnerable, and asking for help when you need it
According to Edelman, 56% of people don't trust those who stay silent on important issues. More than ever, customers expect businesses to show their ethics—and abide by them. In other words, companies and their leaders must do the right thing.
One key reason to do this is to safeguard your reputation. Ethical businesses also result in better employee performance and retention. If you're going to show your integrity as a leader, it makes sense to:
- Define your values and the company's values.
- Create a code of conduct or code of ethics.
- Make ethics part of performance evaluations.
- Live by the code you've set out.
Find other resources on how to be an ethical leader in:
- ManagementWhat Is Ethical Leadership? How to Be a More Ethical LeaderAndrew Blackman
- ManagementHow to Build Employee Loyalty (And Why It Matters)Andrew Blackman
4. Social Responsibility
Some people see big business as having a "take, take, take" attitude. But what they want to see, especially young consumers, is businesses that put something back.
Like integrity, showing corporate social responsibility can help your brand get known for the right reasons. And you can help people, too. So, consider:
- purchasing resources for a charitable organization
- donating money for a good cause
- encouraging employees to raise funds for a good cause
Learn some other ways to give back to your community in the following article:
At some point, a leader's got to lead. A big part of that is making timely, well-informed decisions. Get it right, and your business will thrive, but even a decision that later turns out to be wrong can provide valuable information.
While decisiveness is one of the key qualities of a leader, you'll need to develop this skill by:
- creating mechanisms for collecting key business information
- communicating regularly with executives and employees
- using dashboards and tools to help you to understand and evaluate information
- having a clear perspective on your business goals
Get more tips on making decisions in the following articles:
- ManagementWhat Are the Problems With Groupthink? +How to Avoid ThemAndrew Blackman
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Quickly Make a Decision Tree in PowerPoint By Customizing Templates (+ Video)Alexis (Lexi) Rodrigo
Empowerment is all about helping people in your company to grow and succeed. It's important because people who feel stuck or unhappy will want to leave. In contrast, those who feel empowered will stick around. That gives your business the benefit of their experience.
So, what is a good leader to do to empower employees? Try:
- understanding what interests them and how they'd like to progress (performance evaluations or informal chats can be a good way to find out)
- giving employees a chance to take responsibility for a project, and supporting their decisions
- providing training and learning opportunities for employees
- mentoring employees to help them to develop their own leadership skills
Learn more about employee training and mentoring in the following articles:
- Management10 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Invest in Employee TrainingAndrew Blackman
- Small BusinessHow to Make a Great Employee Training Plan (For Small Business)Andrew Blackman
- MentoringHow to Be a Mentor in Your Workplace in 2021Andrew Blackman
Empathy is one of the leadership qualities that's sometimes underrated, yet it's one of the most important. It's essential to see your employees as whole people rather than worker drones. And it's also important to understand that their lives outside the office might affect their performance inside it.
As an empathetic leader, you'll develop a deeper, more trusting relationship with your employees. After all, 90% of employees believe empathy is an important workplace value. Often, they'll be inspired to put more into their work, which will be good for business.
To work on empathy, try this:
- Ask more questions.
- Listen attentively to the answers.
- Avoid judgment.
Learn more about developing empathy in the following articles:
- CommunicationHow to Develop & Show More Empathy in Your WorkplaceAndrew Blackman
- Diversity10 Ways Your Business Benefits From Having a More Inclusive Leadership TeamAndrew Blackman
As an employee, one of the most annoying experiences you can have is having a leader who micromanages. It suggests that the leader doesn't trust you and it's a huge disincentive to stick around.
One of the best leadership qualities is knowing how to delegate a task. Successful delegation stops leaders from being overwhelmed and develops employees' skills. To delegate successfully, you must:
- Choose the right person for the job.
- Set out your expectations clearly in terms of outcomes, deadlines and accountability.
- Provide support without taking over.
You can also provide incentives for successful completion of important tasks.
Learn more about leadership and business in the following article:
People work more effectively when they understand what they're working towards. That's why transparency is another of the characteristics of a good leader.
When employees feel that information is hidden, it creates a culture of mistrust, and rumors can run rife. Put everything out in the open, and it quells the rumors and creates an atmosphere of openness.
Some of the ways I've seen leaders cultivate a culture of transparency include:
- creating dashboards with key business metrics that all employees can access
- sharing roadmaps for product development openly
- blogging about the company culture, achievements, and even failures
As a leader you need to know where your business is going. Having vision is all about the big picture about where you want your business to end up. Your vision will incorporate many of the other leadership qualities. You'll think about what your business stands for as well as its products and services.
Having vision as a leader will help you steer your business the right way. Here are some more resources to help you articulate and act on your vision.
- BrandingHow to Write a Great Tagline For Your Business (+Workable Examples)Julia Melymbrose
- Small BusinessHow to Manage the 5 Stages of Small Business Growth SuccessfullyAndrew Blackman
- Small BusinessHow to Plan a Successful Small Business Exit StrategyAndrew Blackman
3 Business Leaders Who Show Leadership Qualities
Wondering who is an example of a good leader? Here are three people who have the attributes of a great leader:
1. Richard Branson
As mentioned earlier, the ability to communicate is one of the fundamental leadership qualifications. Richard Branson really exemplifies communication skills. He's also in touch with world events. Plus, he's quick to give a thoughtful and empathetic response on his personal blog, like his response to the 2020 global pandemic.
2. Ben & Jerry's
This is a recent example of social responsibility and integrity. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, and the resulting protests, many companies struggled to know how to respond. Not so Ben & Jerry's.
The company posted a letter on its blog and shared it widely, titled: "We Must Dismantle White Supremacy." What's more this wasn't just a performative action: racial justice is one of the causes the company cares about, so there's more content and, importantly, more action.
3. Dan Price
For me, the story of Dan Price, founder of a card payments company, highlights the leadership qualities of integrity and empathy. And you can bet his employees felt empowered, too.
He realized that while he himself was a millionaire, a lot of talented employees were struggling to make ends meet. So, he mortgaged his homes, cashed in his stocks and used his savings to offer employees a minimum salary of $70,000 a year. His employees have been able to pay off debts and start families as a result.
Learn More About the Qualities of a Good Leader
To learn more about leadership, corporate social responsibility, and change management, check out the articles below:
- Presentations12 Best TED Talks of All Time (For Business Leaders in 2021)Laura Spencer
- DiversityHow Your Business Can Fight Homophobia and Protect All Employees (IDAHOBIT Day 2020)Daniel Strongin
- Careers10 Tips for Dealing With Difficult Changes in Work & LifeAndrew Blackman
Start Building Your Leadership Qualities Today
I've shared lots of resources on leadership qualities in this article. Now, it's over to you to figure out what will make you a good leader in your company.
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