The 10 qualities of a good leader (2023)

What I’ve observed from effective leaders and tried to keep in mind as a CEO these past fewyears…

The 10 qualities of a good leader (1)

“This is somewhat terrifying.”

I remember thinking this when I became the CEO of Know Your Team back in January 2014. Sure, I’d started two companies beforehand — but one was with close friends, and the other was by myself. With Know Your Team, it was the first time I was to lead a team of people who weren’t friends of mine.

At the time, I hired one programmer part-time to help me out at Know Your Team. And while he was just “one direct report,” it was imperative to me to be the best manager and leader to him, as possible.

Here’s the first thing I noticed in this process: Being a manager feels different than being an employee. And, it feels very different than working by yourself.

Your words carry more weight than before. Your actions are watched more closely. You aren’t accountable just for your own results, but also the results of others. How you handle tough decisions sets the tone for “This is How We Do Things.”

It can be a bit terrifying. If you’re currently a manager, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re a new manager, brace yourself🙂

Now, I share this not to overwhelm you! Rather, it’s to underscore how hard this is for all leaders, whether you’re new to the role or not. Personally, with almost four years as a CEO under my belt, I still consider myself a “work-in-progress,” and constantly aspire to be a better leader.

Where to start? Over the past few years, here are ten things I’ve learned from observations and conversations with hundreds of managers and CEOs. It’s what I try to keep in mind each day as I lead, and what I believe the best managers do…

Know the purpose of your role: It’s NOT tomanage.

As a manager, you may think your job is to manage others. Sounds straightforward enough. However, the word “manage” is misleading. By definition, it means to “run, control or supervise”… which isn’t what I see as the role of a manager at all.

I believe the best managers focus on doing one thing: They try to understand what intrinsically motivates people, and create an environment that allows people to tap into that intrinsic motivation themselves. You’re not telling anyone what to do. You’re not controlling anyone or exerting influence on anyone. You’re not even trying to empower anyone.

Instead, you assume that people already have innate talents, gifts, and capabilities within them. Your job as a leader is merely to provide anenvironment for those inherent qualities to come to light.

How do you create such an environment? Read on…

Create clarity.

To create the best working environment for your team, you must create clarity. Do people know what needs to happen, why the work is important, and what success looks like? Do people know how their work fits into the bigger picture? Do people know what standard of quality needs to be met before their work is shipped or goes live? The best managers constantly clarify these things — in meetings, in emails, during one-on-ones. They also ask their team, “What isn’t clear?” or “What’s confusing?” or “What am I not explaining enough?”. Without clarity around the work, the work can’t get done well.There is literally no one else on the team whose job it is to create this clarity.It’s is solely up to you, as a manager, to make things as clear as possible.

Use our One-on-Ones Tool to create clarity ✨

Get 100’s of questions and agenda templates.

Learn more

Provide context.

Once you’ve made it clear what needs to happen and why, you have to make sure your staff has enough training, historical background, tools, and understanding of the stakeholders to make informed decisions. In other words, they need context. If you don’t give them context, you’re leaving them out to dry. As an employee, there’s nothing more frustrating than being expected to execute on something when you don’t have enough context to execute it well. As a manager, asking the question, “How am I getting in the way?” or “What do you need from me to be successful?” can help you uncover what context you need to give your team so they feel supported.

Ensure psychological safety.

Your success as a manager is contingent on how honest people are willing to be with you. Without people shooting you straight as a leader, you won’t be able to course-correct should things start to go wrong. For example, if a project starts to run behind, will someone bring that up proactively to you so you can take immediate action? Or will you only find out about it when the client is furiously emailing you after business hours?

Creating a safe environment for your team to speak up starts with going firstand showing vulnerability as a leader. For instance, do you admit when you’re struggling with something as a manager? If so, that will give others permission to admit where they’re struggling too. Or, when an employee points out a mistake, do you thank them for being forthcoming and commend their honesty? If so, you reinforce that you want to hear the truth. Consider how every action you take as a manager is an opportunity to show your team that it’s safe to say what’s on their minds.

Ask meaningful questions.

We’re predisposed to believe that leaders must have all the answers in order to do their jobs well. As a whole, our society praises people who have the right answers: We give gold stars and A’s to students in school who have the right answer. We award thousands if not millions of dollars to game show winners who have the right answer.

Our society never seems to reward people who ask the right questions. It’s unfortunate, because I believe asking meaningful questions is a core tenant of what makes a manager good at her job.

When you ask questions as a manager, you do two things: (1) You show you care and have deep interest in learning more about your team. As a result, you foster a sense of psychological safety in the workplace. (2) You give yourself the opportunity to unlock valuable information that you might not have known about before.

As a leader, never forget these benefits of asking questions, and how helpful they can be for you. Not sure what to ask your team? Here are some questions you can start with.

(You may want to use Know Your Team to continually ask the right, meaningful employee pulse questions.)

Use our 300+ Culture Questions 💙

Uncover insights that you may have never known before.

Learn more

Respond within 24hours.

About five years ago, I was an employee at another company. During that time, my coworker vented to me one day: “I asked our boss if I could take a 3-day vacation this summer…. It’s been several weeks, and I still haven’t heard back from him.” I’ll never forget how livid she was. For her, it was a sign of disrespect for her manager not to respond. Take note of this. Your team’s engagement is directly tied to how responsive you are to their ideas, comments, and requests.

In fact, a recent Gallup study shows how much responsiveness matters. They found that the most engaged employees said that their managers returned calls or messages within 24 hours. Keep this in mind the next time you receive an email with a question from an employee, or a suggestion that an employee mentions to you in-person. Let it disappear into a black hole without any response and it will feel maddening to an employee — whether or not you intend it to be.

Let go.

When you’re an individual contributor, you’re used to doing everything yourself. The minute you become a manager, that changes. Your job is to create an environment for others to do their best work — you should not be meddling in other people’s work, yourself. You have to let things go. You can’t be thinking to yourself, “I can do a better job at that”… Stop it. You may not be willing to admit it, but that’s micromanagement. I had a friend who’s a CEO once tell me: “If someone can do your job at least 70% as well as you can, they should do it.” 70% is good enough. Just let go, and let them do it. Doing too much yourself encourages bad habits on your team, bottlenecks your team’s growth, and pisses off team members since they can’t operate freely. You know what it feels like… You’ve probably been micromanaged before, yourself! Don’t commit the same sin.

Lead from thefront.

If you want your team to do something, set the example for it. If you want people to show up on time, show up to a meeting early yourself. If you want people to share more analytics and data around certain decisions, explain and support your own findings with data. If you want your team to be more proactive in taking on responsibility, actively seek out ways to pitch in and take things off your coworkers’ plate. No one’s going to do anything differently if you don’t do it yourself first.

Be consistent.

It might be easy to ask employees to expense only up to a certain dollar-amount during conferences… but then make an exception for a friend on your team and cover more of her expenses when she asks about it. “It’s a one-time exception,” you say to yourself. Bullshit. Acting inconsistently — applying different rules and standards to different team members — sets a dangerous precedent for how you’ll behave in the future. While seemingly harmless, that inconsistency bleeds into other areas, and it will be picked up by someone else on your team sooner or later. Regardless of how long someone’s been at your company or what relationship you have with them, treating employees equitably is important. You want to be a fair, just leader. That only happens by being consistent in how you treat all members of your team, all the time.

Build rapport.

People are naturally skeptical of those in power. A recent 2016 study found that one in three employees don’t trust their managers. You don’t want to be a victim of this statistic. To build trust, build rapport. Your team wants to know you as a whole person — not just as a boss. So revealing what you care about, what social causes you support, and what hobbies you enjoy outside of work etc. matters. You’re not making a superficial, desperate plea to be liked — that’s not what I’m talking about here. Rather, the more you can show that you are a real, multifaceted person who they can empathize with and relate to, the stronger your relationship with them will be. And, the more trust they’ll place in you as a leader.

Use our 300+ Social Questions ❤️

Build rapport and connection in your team –even while remote.

Learn more

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t flawlessly practice each of these 10 things as a leader every day. It’s hard! Just last week, I realized that I should do a better job creating more context for our team, and of letting go. But, in writing these 10 things here, it helps me commit to doing each of them better . Hopefully, it is equally helpful for you.

How do you consistently act on these 10 qualities as a leader? You may want to explore Know Your Teamour Leadership Training Product can guide you in putting each of the 10 principles in this article into practice and our Tools help facilitate getting regular team status updates, asking for honest feedback, building team rapport, and holding effective one-on-one meetings. Check out Know Your Team today.

Never miss a post –get our latest leadership insights, as they’re released.

You might also find these articles helpful…

  • 12 signs you’re becoming the bad boss you always dreaded

  • New managers, here’s how to run your first team meeting

  • Quiz: Do you have these leadership blindspots?

  • The 3 best uses of an effective leader’s time

Written by Claire Lew

CEO of Know Your Team. My mission in life is to help people become happier at work. Say hi to me on Twitter at @clairejlew.


What are 10 qualities of an effective leader Fccla? ›

The FCCLA members were then asked to come up with some characteristics that they think a leader should have. Responses included being respecting resourceful, trustful, dependable, interactive, and observant, having integrity, being an effective communicator, and being knowledgeable, confident and efficient.

What are the 5 important qualities of a leader *? ›

A good leader should have integrity, self-awareness, courage, respect, empathy, and gratitude. They should be learning agile and flex their influence while communicating and delegating effectively. See how these key leadership qualities can be learned and improved at all levels of your organization.

What are the 14 leadership traits? ›

The precursor to the Marine Corps' 14 Leadership Traits (Bearing, Courage, Decisiveness, Dependability, Endurance, Enthusiasm, Initiative, Integrity, Judgment, Justice, Knowledge, Loyalty, Tact, and Unselfishness) originally appeared in the Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 22-1 “Leadership” in 1948.

What are leadership qualities 11? ›

2 Leadership Qualities Shaping The Path Of Success. 2.1 Honesty and Integrity. 2.2 Intelligence. 2.3 Physical Stamina. 2.4 Confidence.

What makes a good leader in the workplace? ›

Effective leaders have the ability to communicate well, motivate their team, handle and delegate responsibilities, listen to feedback, and have the flexibility to solve problems in an ever-changing workplace.

What makes a good team leader? ›

A good leader must stay attuned to what is going on with their team and company to make informed decisions. To be a great leader is to be a great communicator – and great communicators listen. Good leaders are proactive and intuitive listeners.

What are four 4 key qualities of an effective leader? ›

Effective leaders are competent, skilled, secure, and considerate. These leaders find time for everyone; they are genuine and authentic in their communications and actions.

What are the seven qualities of a good leader? ›

7 Qualities of a Good Leader
  • You Are Focused. ...
  • You Are Mindful. ...
  • You Are Deliberate. ...
  • You Are Consistent. ...
  • You Are Strategic. ...
  • You Are Willing to Admit When You Are Wrong. ...
  • You Are Teachable.
May 26, 2021

What is the greatest quality of a leader? ›

What is a Successful Leader?
  1. Possess Self-awareness. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is self-awareness. ...
  2. Garner Credibility. ...
  3. Focus on Relationship Building. ...
  4. Have a Bias for Action. ...
  5. Exhibit Humility. ...
  6. Empower the Team. ...
  7. Stay Authentic. ...
  8. Present Yourself as Constant and Consistent.
Sep 12, 2022

What is the character of a true leader? ›

What is a True Leader? Simply put, a true leader leads by example, fostering strong relationships with individuals and teams alike and ensuring that all reach their full potential while, importantly, achieving organizational goals.

What is the 7 most common leadership style? ›

The seven primary leadership styles are: (1) Autocratic, (2) Authoritative, (3) Pace-Setting, (4) Democratic, (5) Coaching, (6) Affiliative, (7) Laissez-faire.

What are the 8 principles of leadership? ›

At their core, these unchanging, unfailing principles, these eight Leadership Principles, provide the foundation for a prosperous organization.
Let's explore.
  • Possibility thinking. ...
  • Sense of urgency. ...
  • Accountability. ...
  • Responsibility and Ownership. ...
  • Synergy. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Enrollment. ...
  • Contribution.

What are the 5 C's of leadership? ›

Effective leaders can build strong teams on these five principles, the five Cs of great leadership:
  • Collaborate. It may be satisfying to be able to complete a project on your own. ...
  • Communicate. Strong leaders motivate and instruct with confidence. ...
  • (Be) Candid. ...
  • Connect. ...
  • Care.

What are the 6 C's of leadership? ›

In this book, Nelson introduces the six “C's” of leading teams to commitment and buy-in: culture, communication, consistency, collaboration, connection, and the culminating “C,” commitment.

What is the Big 5 in leadership? ›

The natural leader defined in Big Five terms is resilient (N-); energetic, outgoing and persuasive (E+); visionary (O+); competitive (A-); and dedicated to a goal (C+).

What are a leaders core values? ›

Core values of a leader make for great leadership

Vision. Communication. Reinforcement and influence. Empathy. Humility.

What are the 7 functions of leadership pass? ›

Seven Functions Of Leadership
  • Setting goals. A leader's most important function is to set goals for team members to encourage them to work confidently and enthusiastically. ...
  • Organising. ...
  • Take initiatives. ...
  • Cooperation among employees. ...
  • Motivation and direction. ...
  • Liaison between workers and management. ...
  • Policy making.
Aug 17, 2021

What makes a good leader stand out? ›

They have values: This is the single most important factor which differentiates true leaders from the rest. Their decisions are guided by a set of values that they truly believe in and are determined to implement across their personal, professional, and social life.

What should a leader not do? ›

10 "people" mistakes leaders make
  • Not taking time to bond with people. ...
  • Being unavailable and inaccessible. ...
  • Not focusing on developing talent. ...
  • Not giving regular feedback about performance. ...
  • Not taking emotions into account. ...
  • Managing conflict ineffectively. ...
  • Not driving change. ...
  • Not encouraging others to take risks.

How do you motivate a team? ›

The ultimate guide to motivating a team — and why it matters
  1. Share your vision and set clear goals.
  2. Communicate with your staff.
  3. Encourage teamwork.
  4. A healthy office environment.
  5. Give positive feedback and reward your team.
  6. Provide opportunities for development.
  7. Give employees the space they need to thrive.

How do you lead a group? ›

  1. How to lead a. team as a first- ...
  2. Accept that you will still have. lots to learn. ...
  3. Communicate clearly. Always keep your team fully informed of project goals, priorities and those all-important deadlines. ...
  4. Set a good example. ...
  5. Encourage Feedback. ...
  6. Offer recognition. ...
  7. Be decisive. ...
  8. Help your team see the “big.

How do you act like a leader at work? ›

Follow our top tips to let that inner executive shine through.
  1. Act with confidence (even if you must fake it). This may seem like a no-brainer, but confidence really is the place to start. ...
  2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. ...
  3. Support your team. ...
  4. Stay positive. ...
  5. Stay true to who you are.

What are the 4 C's of leadership? ›

The importance of the four C's in leadership: Candor, Commitment, Courage and Competence are necessary to maintain strong and effective soldiers. A reflection of a good leader shows in his followers.

What are the four pillars of leadership? ›

To do this leaders must emphasize the four pillars of integrity, accountability, learning and communication.

Who is a good leader example? ›

List of examples of good leaders
  • Mahatma Gandhi – The World's Most Influential Anti-War Leader. ...
  • Martin Luther King Jr — Celebrated Civil Rights Activist. ...
  • Nelson Mandela – A Freedom Fighter. ...
  • Winston Churchill – A Steadfast Leader. ...
  • Walt Disney – The Participatory Leader. ...
  • Colin Powell – A Situational Leader.
Feb 25, 2023

What personality is a leader? ›

Leadership Personality Traits: Key Takeaway

If you want to be an effective leader, you need to be kind, thoughtful, creative, an effective communicator, self-aware, have integrity and empathy, engaged, passionate, ethical, and accountable.

What is a true leader quote? ›

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” — John C Maxwell. A great leader has the ability to inspire action through proper guidance and mentorship and uses their knowledge to educate others along the way. A great leader also practises what they preach by also “going the way”.

What is the personality type of a leader? ›

ESTJ – The Decisive Leader

ESTJs are known as objective, efficient, and fair leaders. As Extraverted Thinking (Te) types, they get a thrill from making tough decisions and organizing a team to get a job done quickly. They are practical, sensible, and down-to-earth.

Are leaders born or made? ›

How Are Leaders Made? Many people have begun to acknowledge that most leaders are made rather than born. While a natural affinity for leadership is always appreciated, many employees need consistent practice and skill-building resources to become talented leaders.

What are the 3 over all types of leadership? ›

Leadership style is a leader's approach to providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. In 1939, psychologist Kurt Lewin and a team of researchers determined that there were three basic leadership styles: Authoritarian (Autocratic), Participative (Democratic) and Delegative (Laissez-Faire).

What defines a good leader? ›

Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.

What is the golden rule in leadership? ›

It, being the Golden Rule of leadership: Leading others is a privilege that is earned not a right. Leaders who understand that leading others is a privilege understand that leading first and foremost, is about service.

What are the 3 F's of leadership? ›

Among many of the principles of leadership that I try to teach to young supervisors and leaders is the Principle of the Three “F's.” Specifically, they are “Friendly,” “Fair” and “Firm.”

What are the 11 ways of leadership? ›

Types of Leadership Styles
  • Democratic Leadership.
  • Autocratic Leadership.
  • Laissez-Faire Leadership.
  • Strategic Leadership.
  • Transformational Leadership.
  • Transactional Leadership.
  • Coaching Leadership.
  • Bureaucratic Leadership.
Dec 26, 2022

What are the Six C's of leadership? ›

In this book, Nelson introduces the six “C's” of leading teams to commitment and buy-in: culture, communication, consistency, collaboration, connection, and the culminating “C,” commitment.

What are the 6 principles of leadership? ›

Six Principles to Great Leadership & Strategy
  • Live with integrity and lead by example.
  • Develop a winning strategy or big idea.
  • Build a great management team.
  • Inspire employees to achieve greatness.
  • Organize for flexibility and responsiveness.
  • Implement consistent management systems.
Feb 6, 2006


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Carlyn Walter

Last Updated: 01/12/2024

Views: 6033

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Carlyn Walter

Birthday: 1996-01-03

Address: Suite 452 40815 Denyse Extensions, Sengermouth, OR 42374

Phone: +8501809515404

Job: Manufacturing Technician

Hobby: Table tennis, Archery, Vacation, Metal detecting, Yo-yoing, Crocheting, Creative writing

Introduction: My name is Carlyn Walter, I am a lively, glamorous, healthy, clean, powerful, calm, combative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.