What Does It Mean To Be A Good Leader

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Good leadership. Countless books, seminars, TED Talks, and articles have attempted to explain what it is and how to emulate it. But what does it really mean on a day-to-day basis?

You’ve probably heard the expression “born leader.” The phrase implies that the qualities that make a good leader are innate—you’re either born with the skills it takes to be a leader, or you’re not. And it’s true that certain traits tend to be innate—such as charisma, humility, and a sense of humor.

However, two research studies—one study with male twins and another with female twins—found that only one-third of the variance in leadership qualities is associated with heredity.

In other words, many over time, such as effective communication, goal-setting, and strategic thinking.

What defines good leaders then?

They are self-aware and prioritize personal development.

Effective leaders focus on developing their emotional intelligence, Goode says. Leaders that work to refine this quality are more adaptive, resilient, and accepting of feedback from others. They are also effective listeners and open to change.  They also Set goals, prioritize goals, and take responsibility for accomplishing them. Also, take responsibility for falling short of your stated goals or making mistakes along the way.

Successful leaders focus on the big picture, avoid distractions, and don’t get bogged down by small, tactical details. Practice these behaviors to promote effective management of your time and attention.

They focus on developing others.

This leadership quality builds on the principles of the situational leadership theory, which suggests that effective leaders adapt to whether an individual or group is ready, willing, and able to take specific action. Delegating, coaching, and mentoring are important tasks for situational leadership.

Recruit and develop a team with diverse skills and backgrounds, and give the team members both the tools and the space to build trust among each other.

Delegating responsibility can be harder than completing the task yourself, but this allows you to see what a team is capable of doing. Accomplishing difficult tasks helps a team build confidence and continue its path to growth.

Make genuine connections with those outside your organization. Actively seek out people who will make your team stronger, even if their expertise doesn’t perfectly match the needs you have at the moment.

3. They encourage strategic thinking, innovation, and action.

“As a leader, you have to look forward. You have to think about where the organization is going,” Goode says.

Leaders must consider internal organizational factors, such as product roadmaps and staffing needs, as well as external factors, including government regulations and technology advancement, when making strategic business decisions.

4. They are ethical and civic-minded.

Strong leaders consider the ethical consequences of the decisions that they make—for both their customers and their teams.

How You Can Improve:

Taking these behaviors into account will increase your awareness of ethical practice and civic-mindedness, which reflects personal concern for the benefit of your entire organization and the community as a whole.

  • Use your power and authority appropriately. Remember the old saying: Honesty is the best policy. When  leaders are honest with employees , they reciprocate this trust, and the entire organization operates with integrity.
  • Be open, transparent, and authentic. Your team should know what it is getting from you no matter the circumstances.
  • Recognize the emotions that your team members are experiencing. Praise those who are succeeding and encourage those who are struggling. Never berate team members, publicly or privately.
  • Take responsibility for your mistakes, and expect that of others on your team. But don’t stop there. Take the next step and make things right, even if it will hurt your organization’s bottom line. In the long run, the benefits of protecting your organization’s integrity and reputation will outweigh any short-term costs you might incur.

5. They practice effective cross-cultural communication.

Respected leaders are able to clearly communicate with individuals, business units, the entire company, and to stakeholders outside the organization. In an increasingly global economy, leaders must also acknowledge and respect different communication traditions.

So what makes a good leader? All of the above, and probably more. You just have to figure out what works for you, your team and the industry you are in. 

Want more actionable tips on how to improve these and other leadership skills?

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