Anna is a New Yorker writing about her globe-trotting, culinary, and healthy living adventures. Plus, she loves sharing beauty finds.
What makes a good leader? That's a great question. In my view, a leader is someone who motivates people and is able to gain their respect and help them grow. Sam Houston, a 19th century American politician, is quoted as saying, “A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under." I like this quote and tend to agree with it. But have you ever wondered exactly what qualities make a leader? There are a number of leadership qualities that many great leaders seem to share. Do you have what it takes to be a great leader?
A Leadership Qualities List
Below is a list of traits that many great leaders share.
- A vision: It is important for good leaders to have a clear vision of what success looks like, share that vision with their followers, and have an idea as to how to go about achieving it. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric said, "Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion."
- Ambition: Ambition, or desire to succeed is a very important trait of good leaders. When a person is ambitious, that leads to persistence, and achieving goals.
- Courage: Courage is a great skill for good leaders to have. A courageous leader takes the actions s/he needs to take, even though s/he may be afraid of taking the necessary actions.
- Delegation skills: Effective delegation skills are important in leaders as by delegating work, leader free up their own time, develop their subordinates, and motivate the workforce.
- Empathy: Empathy is the ability to put oneself into someone else's shoes and understand how they feel. This skill provides the ability to understand the impact actions will have on others, taking into consideration the workforce.
- Integrity: A leader serves as a role model. As a role model to followers, a good leader should have integrity. Integrity involves the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.
- Optimism: It's important for a leader to be optimistic, provide followers and/or subordinates hope and to continually improve.
- Prudence: Prudence is an important trait in leaders but one that's hard to come by these days. A prudent person considers different consequences before making final decisions. This type of leader makes intelligent decisions by using reasoning for long-term success.
- Reliability: Reliability is an important trait in leaders because when a leader is reliable, people count on them. To be reliable, you need to be dependable, which in turn builds trust from followers.
- Social skills: Social skills are important in leaders because leaders need to socialize with others. Leaders need to develop and guide others and people are more willing to follow leaders who they are able to socialize and relate to.
Most of the above-mentioned attributes can be studied, tried out through trial and error and perfected, although each one alone don’t make a leader. I think in addition to these qualities, there are two essential personal characteristics, intelligence and charisma, which are necessary for effective leadership and these two traits cannot be learned. Charisma is a magnetic quality one is born with, that most people don’t possess. We know charisma when we see it and I think that when we think of good leaders, those that really stand out, they are all charismatic people—JFK, Martin Luther King, Clinton, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, Nicolas Sarkozy, etc. These two factors, coupled with the leadership qualities I mention above are the factors that lead people. People connect emotionally with a charismatic leader in such a way that they get energized and feel a desire to act together toward achieving the leader’s mission.
Leadership is important because it provides an inspirational and influential figure to lead a group of people toward the picture of the future the leader paints. Good leaders propose organizational goals in such ways that the followers feel inspired, confident, stimulated, hopeful, and strive to achieve the leader’s vision. Leadership is essential to the success of an organization.
Various Styles of Leadership
According to Leadership That Gets Results by Daniel Goleman, there are essentially six different leadership styles. Each style comes from different competencies that a person has and each one can work best in specific situations. As a leader in an organization, it is best to be flexible and use the style that fits the situation best since each one creates different work environments and different results.
- The coercive style: This is the "do as I say" approach to leadership and is great in crisis situations or even with a difficult employee but should be used with caution in any other situation. Under normal, non-crisis circumstances, this leadership style creates a hostile work environment, doesn't permit flexibility, and demotivates employees. It’s best to only use this style when the situation calls for it.
- The authoritative style: This is the “come with me” approach to leadership and is great to use when a team or company seems like it has no defined strategy. In this situation, an authoritative leader defines the goals or strategy and the subordinates, or followers, accomplish those goals in their own manner.
- The affiliative style: This is the “people come first” approach to leadership and is great for team building, camaraderie, and high morale at the office. It’s especially good to use this style in situations where teams are under stress such as when there’s a reorganization of a department and staff question where they fall in the new organization. Since this approach focuses on praising employees, it can lead to poor performance to go uncorrected and no constructive criticism to help employees grow.
- The democratic style: This style gives employees a voice in decision making, allows for flexibility within an organization, and is great for coming up with fresh ideas. Unfortunately, this style leads to too many meetings so as to give everyone a voice and employees feeling like they lack a leader.
- The pacesetter style: This style is exemplified by a leader who sets high performance standards. This style is excellent for self-motivated and highly competent employees but not so much for others who are left feeling like the leader is asking too much of them.
- The coaching style: This style focuses on developing staff competencies and not specific tasks. It’s a wonderful approach to use on employees who are aware of their weaknesses and want to improve, but can backfire when used on employees who don’t want to change.
Leadership In Different Cultures
The Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) Research Study, conducted by House, et al, in 1994 in 62 countries, analyzed 17,000 middle managers with the objective of understanding the relationship between national culture, organizational culture, and leadership. They made some very interesting findings about how leadership differs in different cultures and countries. The study found that people in different countries have different expectations of leaders and leaders exhibit different qualities, depending on the country.
The GLOBE research found that there are both "universal," as well as "culture-specific" leadership characteristics.
"Universal" leadership characteristics include:
- Charisma: This is the ability to influence others based on personal magnetism or charm. Charismatic leaders may be highly assertive like JFK or not assertive at all like Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa.
- Team orientation: This is the ability to collaborate as a team toward a common goal.
"Culture-specific" leadership characteristics include:
- Self-Protection: This is a trait in some leaders who look out only for their own self-interest. They seek safety and security through status enhancement and "saving face". These type of leaders are usually after power and are conscious of status.
- Participation: Participative leaders allow others to participate in decision-making. These type of leaders usually involve others and empower team members.
- Humane orientation - Leaders who have a humane orientation are those leaders who are compassionate toward their followers and coach their team members, always available to help them out.
- Autonomy: Leaders who are autonomous are those who are individualistic and expect their follows to take orders from them.
Importance of Different Leadership Characteristics Between Cultures
|Country||Charisma||Team Orientation||Participation||Humane Orientation|
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Malong Bak Malong from Aweil, South Sudan on September 18, 2019:
The best leadership that I admire most is the coaching one, because by just assuming that people knows what is in your heart, is wrong. People need you to explain to them the "what" "why" "How" and "when" to do this or that. By doing so, it will spare you from an unexpected stress.
Frank Slovenec from San Francisco, CA on January 14, 2013:
Good information. You may have missed humility as a characteristic of leaders who are able to be leaders for the long term. This is a very well thought out and informative Hub..thank you
Anna (author) from New York, NY on April 16, 2012:
Thanks so much, Teresa!
Teresa Coppens from Ontario, Canada on April 15, 2012:
This hub is packed with information on what qualities make an excellent leader! Voted up.