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Published on September 16, 2020

15 Must-Have Qualities of a Good Leader

15 Must-Have Qualities of a Good Leader
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Think of a great leader, either on the public stage or in your personal life. Why do they stand out to you? It should be fairly easy to come up with qualities that make them a good leader.

Now think about someone who isn’t a great leader. The qualities you just named—honesty, integrity, positivity—perhaps don’t apply to this person.

While skill, knowledge, and talent are necessary to climb to the top, the best leaders exhibit soft skills that help them lead, not just oversee. They’re the people you want to not just work for but also emulate in your leadership journey.

How can you become a great leader yourself? This list contains 15 must-have qualities of a good leader that you should be working on right now.

1. Listening

Too many people in this world talk and talk, hardly catching their breath. They sometimes hear others but only long enough to come up with a reply.

Because they tend to be busy people, leaders are susceptible to this. It can be difficult to listen to others when you’re in a higher position. True leaders are willing to listen to smart people no matter their job title.

Listening also helps solve problems instead of making them worse. Listening to employees when they express concerns can help you address them instead of fabricating an apology that doesn’t help anyone.

2. Teaching

Poor leaders default to punishments when mistakes are made. But this does little to help development and a lot to hurt morale.

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Good leaders are teachers. In a 10-year study, a Dartmouth professor found that one of the biggest things that separated star managers from their peers was their emphasis on training.[1]

Turning a mistake into a teaching experience generates growth. While errors certainly need to be dealt with, helping others understand their mistakes and make necessary changes is a much better way to build a deal.

3. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. It is one of the most important yet overlooked qualities of a good leader.

Empathetic leaders can consider decisions from multiple standpoints, enabling them to make better decisions than those who can’t see things from others’ perspectives.

Leaders with empathy naturally attract talented team members. Everyone wants to work for someone who’ll be supportive and helpful when things don’t go their way. Even when hard decisions have to be made, empathetic leaders ensure nobody feels left out in the cold.

To check your empathy, ask your team. According to an annual research study of small business leaders, just 36% of respondents felt they’re taking “very good” care of their employees—but nearly half of their employees said they felt well cared for.[2] If others think you’re empathetic, then you probably are.

4. Patience

The best decisions are not made in haste. A good leader takes the time to think things through before coming to a decision. A leader that loses their temper will make a bad situation worse almost every time.

To practice patience:

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  • Force yourself to wait. Rather than ordering groceries, go to the store and wait in line. Instead of choosing the restaurant with no line in the drive-thru, go to the one you want—which others probably like as well—and wait for a better meal.
  • Meditate. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, find a quiet space. Simply sit and listen to your breaths. Notice how much more at ease you’ll feel.
  • Start a long-term project. Great accomplishments don’t happen overnight. Begin a passion project that you can watch grow over time.
  • Invest in someone new. Nobody becomes a star employee overnight. For the next open position on your team, choose someone promising you think you can bring out the best in. Enjoy the process of helping them grow.

5. Motivation

Employees are rarely as motivated as managers and business owners. Oftentimes, they need encouragement from their leaders to help them keep going. Otherwise, the stress of work can result in burnout—something more than three-quarters of employees says they struggle with.[3]

A good leader can keep their team motivated even during the toughest of times. They do this by first keeping themselves motivated and then transferring that energy to others. Inspiring motivation in others requires mental endurance, maturity, and poise.

6. Communication

Some leaders are great at one-on-one communication, while others specialize in public appearances. Different situations call for expertise in different types of communication, but all good leaders have mastered at least one of them.

Communication can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Written communication. Explaining details over email or in Slack is an important skill for managers.
  • Public speaking. Being able to speak to a large group is crucial for team meetings, training, and more.
  • One-on-one conversation. How do you handle one-on-one talks with your employees and colleagues? This is where leaders set the tone.
  • Nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions and body language. Often, this form of communication speaks more loudly than any word or phrase ever could.[4]

Communication is how leaders do everything from delegating tasks to inspiring their team members. Whether you want to manage or develop organizational strategy, focus on the form most relevant to you.

7. Integrity

Leaders are influencers. Integrity is one of the vital qualities of a good leader. It can be tempting to use that power for personal gain, but no great team is ever built by a selfish or dishonest leader. A good leader has integrity, meaning they exert control only in ways that benefit the wider team.

People stick by leaders with integrity in good times and bad. They trust the leader to do everything in their power to improve the team’s situation. These leaders understand that trust is tough to build and exceedingly easy to break.

8. Humility

For multiple reasons, humble leaders are hard to come by.[5] All too often, those at the top of the corporate ladder use their standing to degrade others or to boost themselves higher.

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Leaders with humility recognize that everyone has an important role to play in the team’s success. They acknowledge their shortcomings, own up to their mistakes, and do what is necessary to make amends. Humble leaders see even the lowest person on the totem pole as their equal, not as an underling who does their bidding.

9. Social Skills

Because management is a key part of leadership, leaders interact with others frequently. Everywhere from team meetings to corporate boardrooms to casual lunches, great leaders can navigate social settings with grace.

Although everyone has their quirks, a proper leader needs to understand how to act in front of groups of people. There’s a delicate balance between professional and casual behavior that leaders need to master.

10. Problem-Solving

Rather than constantly looking to others for a solution, leaders must be able to solve problems as they arise. This is one of the most important qualities of a good leader. Good leaders recognize they won’t find the right solution every time, but any answer is better than ignoring the problem altogether.

Problem-solving requires hard skills related to the job at hand as well as critical thinking. This is one reason leaders are often chosen for their years in the field: The more experience they have in solving similar issues, the more likely they’ll be able to address new ones well.

11. Work Ethic

While it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to make it to a leadership position, leaders can’t kick back once they’re in the role. Good leaders are willing to put in the hours necessary to get the job done, even if their employees are at home enjoying the evening.

With that said, good leaders know not to work themselves into the ground. They find a happy medium between grinding it out and giving themselves breaks. In fact, research suggests people who take breaks periodically are more productive than those who try to power through.[6]

12. Delegation

Leaders can’t be expected to do everything on their own. By delegating tasks to others on their team, good leaders disperse the workload across the organization. Effective delegation is one of the must-have qualities of a good leader.

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There is such a thing as too much delegation. Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to take on tougher projects that require a manager’s touch. However, they should look for opportunities for others to grow by assigning them projects that stretch their capacities.

13. Vision

Good leaders have direction. They help others move toward that goal through personal or professional development. To check whether the team is on track to fulfill that vision, they identify key performance indicators.

A leader must also be able to paint a picture for others, tying into the motivation and communication aspects of leadership. If others can’t see their vision, leaders will struggle to inspire them to work toward it.

14. Confidence

Leaders have to make tough decisions. When they make those choices, they must be comfortable with the pros and cons. Wavering signals to others that the leader hasn’t done his or her homework.

Beware that confidence can be misplaced. Simply charging ahead with gusto does not make a good leader. Leaders must ground their confidence in data and empathy, not their ego.

15. Competence

Great leaders are more than just figureheads. Their capabilities are evident to everyone around them. That isn’t to say that they are perfect at everything they do, but rather that they’re skilled in the areas they need to be to make good decisions for the team.

Final Thoughts

A good leader makes all the difference on a team. It isn’t easy to develop and master these qualities of a good leader, but being in charge is rarely easy. Do a self-audit: Which of these qualities do you need to work on to be the best leader you can be?

More Qualities of a Good Leader

Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Kimberly Zhang

Kimberly Zhang is the Chief Editor of Under30CEO and has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders to be successful.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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