What Leadership Qualities Make a Great Leader?

When you work in a management position, you have to keep trying to improve your leadership skills. It’s always possible for a team to work better together and, as their leader, it’s up to you to show them how. If you want people to follow you, take a tip from other leaders who have been successful in the past, such as Nelson Mandela, Henry Ford, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

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These leaders all worked in different fields and lived at different times. However, leadership qualities are independent of time and place. If you have what it takes to be a leader, you will be able to lead people no matter what the situation. So why not take a tip from what leaders have said in the past about what leadership means to them?


Leaders Have Humility

Nowadays, humility is not in fashion. Instead, it’s supposed to be better to be the type of person who demands their rights. People talk a lot of about “speaking up for yourself,” “putting yourself first” etc. There’s nothing wrong with telling others what’s on your mind or making sure that you are comfortable in your own skin. However, there’s also a certain way of dealing with others which will ensure that they appreciate you and listen to what you have to say.

Nelson Mandela said, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  Take a tip from this great leader and don’t try to hog the limelight all the time. Let others take credit too. If all the members of a team were responsible for a certain victory, make sure that you tell people this. Let them take a bow.

Why do you think so many Oscar winners go up on stage and take out a list of people they want to thank? This is their way of displaying humility and letting their teams know that that they couldn’t have done it without them.

Leaders Are Proactive

Don’t you hate people who are whining all the time? What about people who never have anything positive to say? Criticism can become a way of life for many people who don’t even realize what exactly they’re doing wrong.

Leaders never give in to the lure of criticism for the sake of criticism. Sure, it might sometimes be necessary to criticize things which are really wrong. But this needs to be done with the aim of finding a solution. Henry Ford said, “Don’t find fault, find a remedy.”  Leaders take this to heart and are constantly looking for solutions.

Leaders know that the first step is to identify the problem. The second is to consider all possible solutions. The third is to try out the ones that seem most likely to work. Once your team sees that you encourage and appreciate proactive behavior, they will also start doing the same. And a proactive team is much more likely to find solutions than one which is constantly discussing what’s to be done next and rejecting solutions because of minor reasons.

Leaders Never Stop Learning

The world is constantly changing nowadays. The internet has gained popularity only in the last quarter century. Cell phones have also become all the rage during that period. If you grew up in the 80s, then you know how much things have changed during this short period of time. The world is constantly growing and developing and human beings are coming up with ways to make life better and simpler.

Of course, technological advances do bring their own set of problems. However, leaders who are positive tend to see the glass as half full and not half empty. As a result, they embrace all types of changes and try to remain on the cutting edge themselves.

They learn what they can about the changes taking place in the world and in their field. And they apply what they learn to their work environments. This is why John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”.

Additionally, leaders who never stop learning are better at ensuring their team does not suffer from the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. How? They take it as their own responsibility to ensure their team members trust one another, are not afraid of conflict, are committed, do not avoid holding one another acountable, and focus on results.

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Leaders Are Persuasive

Some people think that persuasion is not a good thing. This is because they have confused persuasion with coercion. Those who coerce others are doing so with a certain amount of force or intimidation. They essentially threaten others to make them agree. This is obviously not a quality of a good leader. But a good leader is able to persuade others to his/her point of view.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”. There are many ways of molding consensus. Some leaders are good public speakers; their speeches electrify their audiences. Others are good at communicating with people one-on-one. Yet others may be great writers who seek to persuade others to their point of view via writing.

Either way, good leaders are able to get others to see their point of view. They can bring the majority of people over to their side. This is necessary if you want to make decisions and move ahead as a company.

Becoming a Leader

Different leaders possess different leadership qualities. But the mark of a good leader is that they can take what they have and make it into a vehicle to help others. Good leaders always put the needs of the team first. They do whatever is in their power to make sure that the teams reach their goals.

Humility, proactiveness, a thirst for learning and a talent for persuasion are some of the qualities that can help a good leader thrive. And the good news is that these qualities can be developed over time. If you can even take one step a day to further the development of these qualities within yourself, you can become a great leader in the long run.

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Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici

Ryan Bonnici is the Senior Director of Global Marketing at HubSpot. He’s an experienced digital marketing leader having held roles previously at Salesforce, ExactTarget, Microsoft and Qantas Airways. He's an experienced digital marketing consultant having worked with a wide range of businesses from thermal clothing sales to executive coaching services. For more frequent updates, follow him on Facebook (@growthguy) or Twitter (@ryanbonnici)