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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

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

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 September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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