Great leaders are often credited with the success of their organizations, and leadership is one of the most widely written and researched topics in the business world. However, despite the many books, articles, and studies on the subject, the definitive answer to what makes someone a good leader remains elusive.
" Leadership is not about a particular personality, title, or position. Instead, leadership is hard work, developed over time through intentionality, trial and error, and the study of human nature." ~ American Bar Association
What is Leadership?
Leadership is the ability to influence and motivate a group of people toward achieving a common goal. Leaders must inspire, energize, and guide their employees to set them up for success. A good leader will be able to create an atmosphere that fosters trust, collaboration, and a sense of purpose among their team members.
Good leadership can help a business achieve its goals in several ways. For instance, having a strong leader in place can help employees stay focused and on task, while also fostering an environment where team members are motivated to give their best efforts. Having a good leader can also lead to improved communication, better decision-making, more efficient workflows, and increased morale within the workforce.
According to leadership expert and author Simon Sinek, "A leader's job is not to do the work for others, it's to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible." This highlights the importance of leadership in developing the skills and abilities of team members, rather than simply delegating tasks.
Though different researchers and authors identify many different qualities that make someone a good leader, in general, they come down to the following:
9 Traits of a Good Leader:
Communication- The ability to to communicate effectively with their team, conveying thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely.
Empathy- Able to understand and empathize with team members' perspectives, feelings, and concerns.
Visionary- Have a clear and compelling vision for the future of the organization.
Adaptability- able to adapt and make necessary adjustments to plans and strategies.
decision-making- able to make sound decisions based on knowledge, experience, and intuition, while considering the opinions and perspectives of team members.
integrity- Honest, transparent, and ethical in their actions and decisions, setting a positive example for their team to follow.
accountability- accountable for their own actions and decisions, taking responsibility for their mistakes and ensuring that their team is held to high standards.
confidence- confident in their abilities and decisions, inspiring their team to have faith in them and their vision.
delegation- able to to delegate tasks and responsibilities effectively, trusting their team members to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
Are You a Good Leader?
Here are some questions to help you explore your own leadership qualities. Of course, every organization and situation is different, but reflecting on your answers to these questions can help give you an idea of your leadership strengths and areas for improvement.
- How do you motivate your team to achieve their goals?
Effective leaders motivate their teams by setting clear goals, providing support and resources, and recognizing their accomplishments.
- How often do you ask for feedback from your team?
Good leaders consistently seek feedback from their team to identify areas of improvement and make necessary changes.
- How do you communicate with your team?
Good leaders communicate openly, honestly, and frequently, ensuring that everyone is informed and on the same page.
- How do you manage conflicts within your team?
The best approach is to listen to both sides, remain neutral, and find a resolution that benefits everyone.
- How do you manage failure or mistakes within your team?
Strong leaders view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, providing constructive feedback and support to help their team succeed.
- How do you prioritize tasks and delegate responsibilities within your team?
Effective leaders prioritize tasks based on their importance and delegate responsibilities to team members based on their strengths and expertise.
- How do you manage a team member who is not meeting expectations?
Good leaders address performance issues promptly and constructively, offering support and resources to help the team member improve.
- How do you manage stressful situations or conflicts with external parties?
Effective leaders remain calm, professional, and diplomatic, seeking solutions that benefit everyone involved.
- How do you foster a positive team culture?
Strong leaders create a positive team culture by promoting open communication, collaboration, respect, and recognition.
- How do you continuously develop your own leadership skills?
Good leaders recognize that leadership skills can always be improved and actively seek out opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Can Organizations Help Develop Good Leaders?
Over $60 billion is spent globally on leadership development. However, according to a recent survey of 21,008 employees a shockingly small percentage of employees feel that their leaders possess many of the qualities considered “good.” For example:
- Just 29% of employees say their leaders’ vision is aligned with the organization’s.
- Even fewer (20%) feel that their leader takes an active role in their development.
- Only 16% feel their leader removes roadblocks that prevent them from succeeding.
This suggests that there is a significant gap between the skills that organizations need and the skills that their leaders possess.
A leadership program can help address the gap and provide employees with the necessary skills to become effective leaders within the organization. This can help create a positive work culture, improve employee morale, and ultimately lead to increased productivity and profitability.
To set up a leadership program, employers should first identify the specific leadership skills that are necessary for success within their organization. These skills may include communication, problem-solving, conflict resolution, decision-making, and delegation.
Once the necessary skills have been identified, employers can begin to develop a leadership training program. This may include a combination of in-person training sessions, online courses, mentoring programs, and leadership coaching. It is important to ensure that the program is accessible to all employees and that it is tailored to meet the specific needs of each individual.
An employee assistance program (EAP) can play a crucial role in the success of a leadership program.
- An EAP can help employers identify and address organizational issues that may be impacting leadership development. For example, an EAP can provide feedback on the effectiveness of the leadership program and help identify areas where improvements may be necessary. This can help ensure that the program continues to meet the evolving needs of the organization and its employees.
- EAPs offer a range of services designed to help employees manage work-related and personal issues that might impact their performance. This can include stress management, conflict resolution, and mental health support. By providing employees with access to an EAP, employers can help ensure that they are able to fully participate in the leadership program and maximize their potential.
Overall, a leadership program can be an effective way to develop the skills and abilities of employees, and an EAP can play a critical role in its success.
3 Fallacies About Leadership:
Effective leadership requires that organizations discard any misguided ideas that can get in the way. These fallacies, though widespread, are one of the reasons that some leadership training programs do not achieve success.
good leaders are made, not born- there is sometimes an idea that good leaders are born and not made. This is a fallacy that has been debunked by numerous studies and real-world examples. While it is true that some people may possess innate qualities and traits that make them more predisposed to leadership, such as charisma, confidence, and assertiveness, these characteristics alone do not make a great leader. Instead, leadership is a skill that can be developed and honed over time through education, training, and experience.
management and leadership are not the same- there is sometimes confusion about the difference between management and leadership. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two distinct concepts. Management involves planning, organizing, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals and objectives, while leadership involves inspiring and motivating people to achieve a common vision. Good management skills are necessary for effective leadership, but not all managers are necessarily good leaders.
there is one way to be a good leader- another fallacyabout leadership is that it is a one-size-fits-all approach. The truth is that leadership styles and approaches can (and should) vary greatly depending on the situation and the individuals involved. Some leaders may prefer a more hands-on approach, while others may be more collaborative or prefer to delegate.
The best leaders are those who can adapt their style to meet the needs of their team and the circumstances they face.
Effective leadership is crucial to the success of an organization. It is not a static quality that some people are born with, but rather a dynamic skill that can be learned, developed, and refined over time through dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn and grow.
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10 Qualities of a Good Leader; Dr. Jennifer Varney, Southern New Hampshire University
All Leaders are Managers, but not all Managers are Leaders; Terry Chavez, Penn State Psych 485 Blog
Leadership Development Program Market; Future Market Insights
The Study of Leadership Theories: Great Leaders Are Made, Not Born; Leah W. Teague and Stephen L. Rispoli, American Bar Association; https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications/law_practice_magazine/2021/nd21/teague-rispoli/
The State of Leadership Development, Leadership IQ,https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/leadership-development-state