Almost everyone can be a boss or a manager, at least for a little while. Some can even be a leader. However, if you want to be a good leader, that takes a lot more work and skill. A good leader is often classified as someone who is self-aware, supports their team, and makes good decisions.
Some people are naturally good leaders, but for most, it takes practice. You have to create the characteristics in yourself that make a good leader. This article covers the 5 characteristics of a good leader that are the most important to get you started.
5 Characteristics of a Good Leader
1. Communicates Effectively
Being able to communicate goes hand-in-hand with being a proper leader. If you cannot communicate effectively then you cannot be a good leader. A leader’s job is to communicate what needs to be done and the progress being made. If tasks are being overlooked or done twice, then it shows a problem with your leadership, and likely your communication specifically.
Communication is about more than just talking. You must also be able to listen effectively. You need to understand what those below you are telling you and know what parts of the information they are sharing are important to you or someone else on your team.
It’s also important to remember that communication is more than just words. The way you behave, stand, and make eye contact all are forms of communication as well. What your body language is saying is just as important, if not more so, than what you are saying.
To be able to communicate effectively, you have to know how to focus, listen properly, when to speak, and how to be concise. Keeping your emotions in check and remaining calm and professional is also important. Asking questions at the right time can also show the speaker that you are listening.
It can be a hard skill to master, but there are a few ways to get started. One way is to repeat what you are getting out of the conversation with the speaker, to make sure you are understanding correctly.
For example, if they are complaining about a coworker, you can say, “what I am hearing is that there is a conflict between you and your coworker because they are distracting you from your work,” and see if they agree or not. This lets them know you are truly understanding what they are saying, and lets you know that you aren’t misconstruing the conversation.
You can then ask them for ideas about how they would suggest fixing the problem, as this shows that you are open to further conversation, want to make a change, and are taking their issue seriously.
By using these responses, you are already doing better than many bosses, who often quickly dismiss problems, or tell their workers to handle the issue themselves. There are plenty of guides and videos online on how to improve upon your communication as well if you want to be even better.
2. Can Make Solid Decisions
No one wants a boss that can’t make a solid decision. As the boss of a team, your job is to guide them and take charge. If you get worked up about every change, or decision, you will teach your team not to trust you or look to you for leadership.
Instead, you have to show confidence and make one solid decision. It is alright to ask the person asking the question if you can get back to them later, so you have time to make an educated and fully thought-out decision, but it shouldn’t take too long either.
Additionally, a lot of the questions you will be asked are minor and can probably be answered relatively easily. Don’t overthink or stress out about every question asked, but answer them right then, especially if you know the answer off the top of your head.
Knowing when a question can be given an immediate answer and when one needs to be thought over is part of being a good leader. Some questions are complex and will have multiple factors that need to be considered, while others can have simple answers.
Another part of making solid decisions is knowing when the question is yours to answer and when someone might have better insight. If there is someone on your team that may know an answer better or have more experience in a certain area than you do, it is acceptable to direct someone to that person.
That isn’t a sign of weakness, but instead, a sign that you understand your team well and the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on your team.
To be able to have this level of confidence and be able to make good decisions comes with knowledge of your work and your team.
If you don’t fully understand what everyone on your team is doing and where they excel as well as what projects are being worked on at any given time and the progress of each one, you will end up overpromising, overworking, and making a lot of mistakes.
3. Takes Responsibility
When things go wrong, a poor leader is quick to blame members of their team. To be a good leader, you have to take responsibility, be accountable, and have integrity. This lets your team know that you will admit to your mistakes, and have their back if they ever need it.
Integrity is a huge part of others’ view of you as a good leader. In one survey, 75 percent of employees said that integrity was the most important characteristic of a good leader.
Despite this being a huge part of how workers view their bosses and leaders, many of them tend to place it lower on the priority list than some other characteristics. This leads to a team that won’t put in effort for their company, and who don’t feel valued.
Having a valued team reduces employee turnover, leads to better and faster work, and often entices workers to stay even during rough times, as long as they are being treated fairly the rest of the time. This means they are more likely to work a weekend or two if a deadline comes up suddenly, or stay behind for a particularly tough project.
However, if they know their boss is going to take credit, constantly overwork them, blame them first when something goes wrong, and never stand up for their team against other members of the company or customers, then they are far less likely to put in any extra effort, and employee turnover will likely be much higher.
To show you have integrity and respect your team, you need to have open and honest communication with everyone, keep your promises, and show your support on a daily basis. By letting something slip or reducing your efforts, you will reduce the trust your team has in you.
4. Knows When to Delegate
When you are first starting out as a leader or boss, it can be hard to know how to delegate properly. You may try to assign too much to one worker. Some bosses also have a hard time letting go, still trying to retain a lot of control, which causes delays as everyone has to go through you.
Even if you have a good team, you may find you are always feeling overworked if you don’t know how to let go of control and let your team just do their thing. At some point, everything will depend on you so much that you are unable to take even a day off without someone needing you.
Poor bosses and leaders will often blame their team for this issue, not realizing that by not delegating properly and relinquishing control, they have set their team up to be dependent on them for everything.
Other reasons why someone might not delegate even though they should is guilt that they may be overworking their team, lack of trust in important projects or tasks, want the tasks for themselves, feeling it is more work to delegate than not to, and don’t understand the difficulty of the work when starting it.
However, by delegating, you are saying that you trust your team. Not only to do work properly but to tell you when they can handle a task and when it gets to be too much.
You can’t just delegate everything, though, and hope for the best. You also need to understand that certain people have certain job descriptions and that they should only be delegated work that is along those lines.
If you can start to delegate properly, you will increase your chances for your business to grow, your team to get along better and be able to handle work on their own, and you will be calm enough to make clear-headed decisions when they are necessary.
You must also realize that if you or a previous boss has not been delegating properly for a long time, your team will not be sure what to do right away. There may be some individuals that can quickly pick up what you want them to do, but your team for the most part will need you to break down expectations and have a walk-through the first few times.
This isn’t because your team is bad, but because you are completely changing up the dynamic and they need time and training to understand what is now expected of them.
5. Respects Their Team
Respect tends to go hand-in-hand with many of the other characteristics that make a good leader. For example, if you delegate and are open and honest with your team, it shows a level of respect and trust.
You can also take it a step further, though. Part of being respectful of your team is treating them like the professional and essential workers they are while they are at work. But it also is remembering that they are humans too, and have things that happen outside work.
Sometimes, people need to take off work because they aren’t feeling well, whether mentally or physically. They may have an emergency, or a family member does, or they are just having a bad day.
By showing empathy and respect for their personal as well as professional lives, you can be a great leader.
It may seem counterintuitive to give workers more days off when you are needing more work, but by allowing your team to take the time off they need to get everything sorted and get themselves back on track, you are likely to have a team that works more effectively and productively.
You can even encourage your team to take off when they need to by doing it yourself. While you don’t have to share personal information if you don’t want to, you can bring up if you are taking therapy, that you are taking days off for your mental health, or are going on a vacation to get a break.
By allowing your team to see what you do for your health, and encouraging your team to do the same, you will have a happier and healthier team that will also feel they can come to you with problems when needed.