Great leadership

Top 20 Must-Have Qualities of a Great Leader – Secrets to Leadership

Leadership isn’t something you can just pick up in a class or by reading a chapter of a book. Great leaders will draw from both knowledge and experience, as well as their own personality traits.

Some of these qualities may come easy to you, and others you need to constantly focus and work on, however you’ll find that these are the top 20 qualities that the majority of great leaders have.

Great leaders choose their team carefully

There’s an old saying ‘Hire people better than you’, and it’s true. However the same goes for culture fit and personality.

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Great leaders have a clear vision

Whilst a vision will naturally change over time, as a result of the changing marketplace or business model, a great leader will have a clear vision for the future.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.
—Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders listen to their employees

A very healthy sign of an effective team is the transparent communication that everyone in the team, including the managers or leaders, have with everyone.

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Great leaders empower those around them

A quality of a great leader is the ability to avoid micromanagement. Many employees feel  plagued by self-doubt or paralysis-by-analysis. Great leaders work with their teams to  brainstorm methods to improve their skills or challenge their colleagues. The key here is to allow team members to make mistakes and learn from their own results.

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
—Bill Gates

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Great leaders set a good example

I once had a boss who refused to do any office cleaning, stating he was ‘above that’. You can imagine how much respect he lost.

If you aren’t purposely setting a good example to your team, where should they learn the behaviours and expectations that you have for them?

Great leaders understand their own strengths and weaknesses

Anyone who has a good understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses is so much more effective than someone who constantly lies to themselves.

Great leaders effectively delegate

Delegation may seem simple from the outside; ask someone else to do a task, however that is far from true.

The trick with effective delegation is to start by being up-front with your expectations, including timelines and any deliverables, and ensure you give your team members all of the information they need to achieve these goals.

Great leaders care about their health

Physical and emotional health for everyone is important, and equally so for a leader. Without being of sound mind and body, it is harder to make good decisions, and motivate the team around you.

Setting a great example with your own health will encourage those around you to take better care of themselves.

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Image: Moyan Brenn, Flickr

Great leaders make hard decisions

An ineffective manager is one that will not make the hard calls when needed. A great leader realizes their role, and will push through and make decisions that may seem difficult at the time.

Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.
—Peter Drucker

Great leaders have a positive outlook

Nobody enjoys a negative person. These people are complaining every day, blaming others for their predicament and are seemingly never satisfied with anything.

We are big believers that smiling really is infectious – try it with someone today. Take a moment to smile at them whilst making eye contact, and you’ll see the smile reciprocated.

Great leaders take calculated risks

I am not suggesting leaders should make rash decisions that have potentially large consequences. A calculated risk means that a leader (or anyone) has considered all the available options, and understands the reward and risks of both positive and negative outcomes that may result.

Great leaders care for their employees

Great leaders express interest in their team members’ success and personal well-being.

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Great leaders are always learning

There’s an old saying, the older you get the more you realize how little you know. This is especially true of great leaders. A great leader will understand that they must always be consciously collecting knowledge. Leaders are always reading new books, attending conferences, asking advice of colleagues and reading articles such as this very one that you are reading now.

The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.
—Warren Bennis

Great leaders have passion

To do the best work, you need to have a passion for it, and no more important than if you are a leader. If management don’t have passion for the business and the vision, then it shows.

Great leaders are fantastic communicators

A fantastic communicator will actively listen and give great feedback.

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Great leaders learn from their mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. A great leader knows this not just about their team, but themselves as well.

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody.
—Herbert Swope

Great leaders develop their employees

A great leader will help with their employees career development and be a good mentor to those around them.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
—Jack Welch

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Great leaders don’t make excuses

A great leader will accept responsibility for something which they have influenced, positive or negative.

Great leaders are reasonable

Another example of qualities of a great leader is the ability to not make rash, emotional decisions. A great leader should be consistently reasonable in their decisions and interactions with others.

I am not saying they should be devoid of any personality, however they need to be constantly mindful of their own emotions, and ensure they are both reasonable and consistent.

Great leaders nurture the team mood

Every workplace has a culture, whether meaningful or not. A great leader will do what they can to nurture a very positive company culture, and constantly be aware of team morale.

A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together.
—Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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Great leaders serve their community

Insightful leaders understand that every organization on this planet has a responsibility beyond their profit and loss. They will ensure they spend some of their earnings or time in pursuits for the greater good of their community.

In Summary

Regardless if you are just starting out in a management role, or you have been a leader in your organisation for many years, I trust that you found these top 20 qualities of a great leader worthy of your time.

Those must-have qualities for a great leader are;

  • Great leaders choose their team carefully
  • Great leaders have a clear vision
  • Great leaders listen to their employees
  • Great leaders empower those around them
  • Great leaders set a good example
  • Great leaders understand their own strengths and weaknesses
  • Great leaders effectively delegate
  • Great leaders make hard decisions
  • Great leaders have a positive outlook
  • Great leaders take calculated risks
  • Great leaders care for their employees
  • Great leaders are always learning
  • Great leaders have passion
  • Great leaders are fantastic communicators
  • Great leaders learn from their mistakes
  • Great leaders develop their employees
  • Great leaders don’t make excuses
  • Great leaders are reasonable
  • Great leaders nurture the team mood
  • Great leaders serve their community

Well done to all of those great leaders already displaying these qualities, and best of luck to those who are working to improve their leadership style.