There’s a lot of talk in business and leadership circles alike on exactly what qualities make a good leader.
And no wonder! A quick search through the Internet can easily produce over a hundred articles on different leadership qualities. And with so many advisory forums, it can get tricky identifying the absolute key qualities of a good leader. Everyone has their own unique leadership style, after all!
So, let’s turn to the experts and the ever-reliable data.
Leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman recently published the results of a study conducted on leadership qualities. The study asked more than 300,000 business leaders to rank their top leadership competencies from a list of 16 key leadership skills.
And with data culled from one million 360-degree feedback assessments, the results are in! Let’s run through the study’s top ten ranking leadership qualities.
Leadership Quality #1 Inspire Others
Inspiration, the number one leadership quality for your hit-list
No one follows a leader for the leader. They follow a leader for themselves. And so, inspiration (not motivation… yes there’s a difference!) is the most important leadership quality. Basically, great leaders know how to inspire.
Great leaders fuel followers with passion, purpose and meaning. They inspire their employees in a way that moves them into action. And they do this by communicating a shared vision.
The best leadership strategies incorporate the value systems that drive their followers to align and propel them towards their vision.
Because when followers can see themselves in the leader’s vision, they are inspired. Aka, they don’t require external motivation to move towards that end state.
Leadership Quality #2 Integrity
Great leaders have the quality of transparency. They are honest in that they do what they say they’re going to do. In other words, they walk the talk.
People want to work for those who are ethical. No buts about it. If their leader acts with integrity, they can trust that they too will be treated with respect.
Basically, integrity is the gateway to trust and inspiration. So, leaders with the quality of integrity will garner a loyal band of followers.
Leadership Quality #3 Problem Solving
Good leaders are quality problem solvers
Ultimately, leaders are recruited, trained and chosen to solve organisational problems and to take advantage of marketplace opportunities. In which case, above standard-fare analytical skills are crucial for good leadership.
Acknowledging and effectively dealing with an issue is a core quality found in good leaders. They have the ability to analyse, diagnose and deal with problems.
And they don’t exclusively problem-solve. Good leaders facilitate collaborative problem-solving. Say goodbye to the outdated vision of the solitary genius forging their own path and taking no-one with them.
Problem-solving leaders use participative models that encourage conceptual thinking, planning, organisation and creativity to overcome challenges and achieve outcomes.
Leadership Quality #4 Perseverance
If leaders can’t persevere in the face of challenges, they won’t have much luck encouraging followers to do so. In other words, great leaders have the unshakable quality of perseverance. What’s more, their own persistence carries their team with them through the challenge.
Essentially, good leaders are goal oriented.
After all, they are the ones who need to make things happen in their organisation. And in order to get things done, they must have a higher level of perseverance and drive for results.
Using their analytical skills, they examine the underlying cause of the thing preventing their team from reaching its goals. They then identify potential solutions and set about implementing methods to allow the team (as a whole) to persevere through that obstacle.
Leadership Quality #5 Communication Skills
Be it one-on-one conversations, team meetings, emails, phone or Skype calls, leaders must handle the rapid flow of information within (and outside of) an organisation.
Leading comes vis-à-vis with communication. Which makes good communication skills are an inherent quality of good leaders It is how they drive productivity and inspire followers to work towards a common goal.
Most importantly, good leaders know that effective communication is a two-way process. The days of top-down leadership are gone. The best leaders don’t talk at their employees but interact with them. They express thoughts and ideas with clarity, encourage followers to contribute, and create opportunities for feedback.
Leadership Quality #6 Build Relationships and Trust
The best quality leaders are the ones people trust
In order to lead effectively, leaders need to build good relationships. And the basis for all good relationships is trust. Without trust, you simply can’t lead successfully.
So, building relationships and trust are key qualities found in good leaders. Good leaders lead by example. They take (more than) their fair share of responsibility. And they’re transparent in their opinions, advice and support (don’t forget about integrity!)
The best leaders invest in their followers, support their team, mentor, coach and build relationships of mutual respect. They include followers in the decision-making process and create feedback loops so that followers feel like they are being involved and heard.
Leadership Quality #7 Expertise
Leaders don’t pop up out of thin air. Most leaders start out in business with a specific skill or skillset. Then they work their way up, building professional leadership skills to become valuable experts in their field.
Ultimately, expertise is the quality that qualifies a good leader. Leaders have expertise and knowledge in the field that they are leading. And then they develop “deep expertise” of the business itself.
Good leaders have a deep judgement, market know-how, and technical and/or professional skills to know what will ultimately work in strategic planning. This quality of expertise ensures that leaders make much better decisions, for their employees and company.
Leadership Quality #8 Vision
Good leaders have the quality of vision, they know what the aim of the game is
Good leadership is not a case of the more confident blind leading the less confident blind. Good leaders know exactly where they’re going. And how they’re going to get there.
Leaders prioritise the big picture. They have a long-term vision of the future and create strategic objectives that prioritise this vision. They don’t get bogged down by the little details.
Creating and communicating a compelling vision is the primary quality of good leaders. It’s how they engage, inspire and rally their followers towards a common goal.
Effective leaders create a clear purpose that aligns with the company’s and/or followers core beliefs, delegate activities and inspires team members to achieve the desired end goal.
Leadership Quality #9 Develop Leaders
Great leaders don’t create more followers. They create more leaders. And so, the best leaders set aside time to develop their workforce.
This leadership quality is crucial given that leadership isn’t solely based on positional power. Coaching and mentoring are, arguably, the most important duties of a leader.
And so, good leaders seek to grow their employees. They adjust their leadership style according to the needs of their followers, build their skills, motivate them to achieve goals, and find ways to identify and unlock inner potential.
Leadership Quality #10 Innovation
The ability to innovate is a key quality of every great leader. They step outside their “comfort zone” and prioritise growth through innovation.
Innovation is inherently associated with change, which makes this leadership quality crucial in driving growth and meeting strategic objectives.
The best leaders take risks to beat their competition, encourage creative solutions, and imagine new (and more effective) ways of achieving results. So don’t be afraid to embrace and test new ideas on how to meet your business goals!
When curveballs are sent their way, good leaders simply re-think their strategies and best practice to generate results.
Ultimately, and unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all template on how to become a truly inspirational leader. Depending on your unique leadership style, you might favour several of these traits over others.
Get in touch with us today to discover how we can assist you on your leadership journey! Or for more advice on how to develop your leadership skills, don’t miss our article with advice from 6 successful leaders on stepping up.