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Top 20 Leadership Qualities

8 min read

Being a leader can be a challenging role: you’re spinning several plates, from operational to strategic. As a leader, you’re expected to know and understand the workings of the organisation, whilst simultaneously looking to springboard the company to success.

Research shows that getting leadership roles right is critical to organisational success. A Gallup study revealed that employees who don’t trust their leaders are much more likely to leave the business than those in organisations with a high trust culture.

Leadership is the cornerstone of success in any organisation. Whether it’s a small team or a large multinational business, the quality of leadership directly impacts the overall performance, productivity, and growth.

Becoming a ‘good’ leader is the hard part. What exactly sets great leaders apart from the rest? What are the key qualities that make them effective and influential?

In this article, we explore the top qualities that distinguish exceptional leaders and how to identify them in individuals. By understanding these essential traits, organisations can nurture and develop the next generation of capable leaders who will drive innovation, motivate teams, and steer their companies toward success.


The Definition of a Good Leader

Defining what makes a great leader can be complex, as leadership qualities can vary depending on the context and the needs of the organisation. A great leader is multifaceted and constantly evolving.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) defines great leadership as “the process of understanding people’s motivations and leveraging them to achieve a common goal.” According to CIPD, great leaders possess the ability to communicate effectively, build relationships, and make sound decisions that contribute to the success of the organisation.

Whilst John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership expert, says that “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Maxwell emphasises that great leaders lead by example, exhibiting integrity, authenticity, and a strong sense of purpose. They inspire and empower others to achieve their full potential.

Ultimately, a good leader creates a positive impact, supports the growth and development of their team, and achieves results through collective efforts.


What’s the Difference Between Leadership and Management?

Leadership and management are distinct yet interconnected concepts. Understanding these differences helps us to understand organisational dynamics and areas of the business where leaders must flourish:

  • While management focuses on processes and operational efficiency, leadership emphasises long-term vision and inspiration.
  • Managers handle day-to-day operations and change implementation, ensuring efficiency and stability, while leaders drive change, embrace considered risks, and motivate teams towards a shared purpose.
  • Managers maintain control and evaluate performance, while leaders build trust and empower growth.
  • Managers operate within shorter time frames, while leaders take a longer-term perspective.
  • Managers rely on formal authority, whereas leadership draws on influence and the ability to inspire others.

Why it’s Important to Have Effective Leaders

Most organisations have leaders – that’s a given. But it’s often not enough to have an individual sit in a leadership role. They need to be effective and ultimately add considerable value to the organisation. Let’s have a look at how leaders can bring that value:

1. Great Leaders Drive Engagement

One of the most critical reasons to have good leaders in an organisation is their ability to drive employee engagement. Research shows that organisations with a highly engaged leadership team are 39% more likely to have engaged employees.

Engaged employees are more committed, productive, and motivated to go the extra mile. They feel a sense of purpose, align their goals with the company’s vision, and contribute their best efforts to achieve shared objectives.

Good leaders understand the importance of developing a positive work environment, providing clear direction, and empowering their teams, which in turn leads to higher engagement levels and overall organisational success.

good leader showing leadership qualities and welcoming new ideas

2. Good Leaders Boost Morale

Morale plays a significant role in the workplace, affecting the overall atmosphere, teamwork, and productivity. Good leaders have a profound impact on boosting employee morale. They possess the ability to inspire and uplift their teams, creating a culture of support, recognition, and appreciation.

By creating a positive and inclusive work environment, good leaders enhance employee satisfaction, loyalty, and overall wellbeing, resulting in increased productivity and reduced turnover rates.

3. Good Leaders Drive Business Success

The impact of good leaders also extends beyond employee engagement and morale—it directly influences the success and performance of the business as a whole. Effective leaders have a clear vision and strategic mindset, enabling them to make sound decisions, set achievable goals, and navigate the organisation towards growth and profitability.

They possess strong communication skills, promoting collaboration, innovation, and effective teamwork. Great leaders also create a culture of accountability, driving results and ensuring that everyone works towards the shared mission and objectives. Their ability to inspire, motivate, and align teams with the company’s goals ultimately leads to increased productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall business success.

How to be a Good Leader: Top 20 Leadership Skills

Developing strong leadership skills is crucial for individuals aspiring to lead teams and organisations effectively. Here are the top 20 essential leadership qualities that can greatly contribute to success in a leadership role:

  1. Communication

Effective leaders possess excellent communication skills, enabling them to convey their vision, goals, and expectations clearly to their team members. They also excel at active listening and fostering open dialogue within the organisation.

  1. Emotional Intelligence

The best leaders with high emotional intelligence understand and manage their own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. This skill allows them to empathise, build strong relationships, and handle conflicts and challenges with empathy and composure.

  1. Self-awareness

Self-aware leaders understand their strengths, weaknesses, and their impact on others. They continuously strive for personal growth, seeking feedback and learning from their experiences to become better leaders.

  1. Business Acumen

A strong grasp of business helps leaders make informed decisions by understanding the financial and operational aspects of their organisation. This skill involves analysing market trends, identifying growth opportunities, and strategically allocating resources.

good leader showing leadership qualities at a team meeting

  1. Agility

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing business landscape, leaders need to be adaptable and agile. Research shows that 54% of leaders use the same leadership style in every situation. However, the best leaders can demonstrate agility by embracing change, navigating uncertainty, and being quick to adjust their strategies and plans to meet evolving market demands.

  1. Creativity

A good leader thinks outside the box, encouraging innovative ideas and solutions. They foster a culture of creativity and empower their team members to explore new approaches, helping the organisation stay ahead in a competitive market.

  1. Humility

Leaders who exhibit humility are open to feedback, admit their mistakes, and value the contributions of others. Humble leaders create a supportive and inclusive work environment where individuals feel valued and empowered.

  1. Strategic and Critical Thinking

Leaders with strong strategic and critical thinking skills can analyse complex situations, make informed decisions, and set a clear direction for their organisation. They consider both short-term objectives and long-term goals, enabling them to navigate challenges and seize opportunities effectively.

  1. Growth Mindset

Good leaders with a growth mindset believe in their ability to learn and develop continuously. They embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, and inspire their team members to adopt a similar mindset, developing a culture of continuous improvement.

  1. Tenacity

Successful leaders exhibit tenacity by demonstrating perseverance and resilience in the face of obstacles. They remain committed to their goals, inspiring their team to overcome challenges and achieve success.

  1. Collaboration

Effective leaders excel in promoting collaboration and teamwork. They encourage open communication, facilitate cooperation, and create an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are valued and leveraged for collective success.

  1. Decision-making

Strong leaders are skilled decision-makers. They can gather and analyse relevant information, consider different viewpoints, weigh potential risks and benefits, and make timely and well-informed decisions that align with the organisation’s goals.

  1. Influence

Leaders with strong influence skills can inspire and motivate others to take action and achieve shared objectives. They build trust, establish credibility, and effectively communicate their vision to rally support and gain commitment from their team members.

  1. Conflict Management

Leaders who can effectively manage conflicts and disputes contribute to a healthy and productive work environment. They possess the ability to identify and address conflicts promptly, facilitate constructive dialogue, and find mutually beneficial resolutions. Great leaders also don’t shy away from conflict situations, or bury their heads in the sand.

  1. Resilience

Resilient leaders can navigate challenges, setbacks, and adversity with a positive mindset. They remain composed, adaptable, and solution-oriented in the face of adversity, inspiring their team members to do the same.

  1. Mentoring

Great leaders invest in the development of their team members by providing guidance, feedback, and support. They act as coaches and mentors, helping individuals unlock their full potential and grow both personally and professionally.

  1. Ethics And Integrity

Leaders who uphold high ethical standards and demonstrate integrity gain the trust and respect of their team members. They lead by example, making decisions that align with ethical principles and building a culture of honesty, transparency, and accountability.

  1. Cultural Intelligence

In a globalised business landscape, leaders with cultural intelligence can effectively work and lead across diverse cultures and backgrounds. They are sensitive to cultural nuances, adaptable in cross-cultural settings, and capable of building inclusive teams.

  1. Delegation

Effective leaders understand the importance of delegation. They can identify the strengths and capabilities of their team members and assign tasks and responsibilities accordingly, empowering their team to take ownership and grow.

  1. Visionary Thinking

Visionary leaders can anticipate future trends, envision possibilities, and set a compelling and inspiring vision for the organisation. They inspire others to align their efforts toward achieving that vision.

How to Identify Future Leaders

Identifying and nurturing future leaders within an organisation is crucial for its long-term success. To effectively identify potential leaders, organisations can utilise various tools and strategies. Here are some key methods commonly employed in talent management:

9 Box Grid

The 9 Box Grid is a widely used tool in talent management that assesses employees based on their performance and potential. It involves plotting individuals on a grid with performance on one axis and potential on the other. This grid helps identify high-potential employees who exhibit strong performance and possess the capability to assume leadership roles in the future. Try using Factorial’s 9 box tool for free with our 14 day free trial, or check out this video to hear more about how they work.

Performance Reviews

Performance reviews provide valuable insights into an employee’s current performance. By evaluating their achievements, strengths, and areas for improvement, organisations can identify individuals who consistently demonstrate exceptional performance and exhibit leadership qualities.


360-Degree Feedback

360-degree feedback involves gathering feedback from various stakeholders, including supervisors, peers, and even external partners or customers. This comprehensive feedback provides a holistic view of an employee’s capabilities, leadership potential, and areas that require development.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a proactive approach to identifying and developing individuals for key leadership positions in the future. By identifying critical roles and potential successors, organisations can create tailored development plans and provide opportunities for aspiring leaders to gain the necessary skills and experiences.

Psychometric Testing

Psychometric assessments evaluate an individual’s personality traits, cognitive abilities, and behavioural tendencies. These tests provide objective data that can be used to identify individuals with leadership potential, such as strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving skills.

How to Develop Leadership Skills in Employees

Developing leadership skills in employees is a crucial aspect of organisational growth and success. By investing in their professional development, organisations can cultivate a pipeline of capable leaders who can effectively guide teams and drive positive change. Here are several strategies to develop leadership skills in employees:

1. Leadership Development Programmes

Implementing leadership development programmes can provide employees with structured learning opportunities to enhance their leadership capabilities. These programmes may include workshops and seminars focused on specific leadership competencies, such as communication, decision-making, and team management.

2. Mentoring Programmes

Mentoring programmes pair aspiring leaders with experienced senior leaders who can provide guidance, support, and career advice. Mentoring relationships help develop leadership skills, expand networks, and expose individuals to different perspectives.

good leader showing great leadership qualities with apprentice

3. Cross-Departmental Exposure

Providing employees with opportunities to work in different departments or cross-functional teams can broaden their business knowledge and expertise. Exposure to various roles and functions within the organisation enables employees to gain a holistic understanding of how different parts of the business operate and fosters the development of well-rounded leaders.

4. Lead by Example

Senior leaders play a crucial role in shaping the leadership development of employees. By consistently modelling desirable leadership behaviours and values, they create a culture where employees can observe and learn from their actions. Leaders should demonstrate qualities such as integrity, resilience, and effective communication, inspiring employees to emulate these behaviours.

5. Promote Self-Awareness and Improvement

Encouraging employees to engage in self-reflection and self-assessment helps foster self-awareness. Providing feedback and coaching on areas for improvement enables employees to recognise their strengths and areas of growth, allowing them to develop their leadership skills more effectively.

6. Personal Development Plans

Creating personalised development plans for employees can help them set goals and identify the necessary steps to enhance their leadership skills. These plans can outline specific training programmes, assignments, and experiences that align with their career aspirations and address their development needs.

7. Continuous Learning And Development Opportunities

Encouraging a culture of continuous learning is essential for leadership development. Offering employees opportunities for external training, attending conferences, pursuing relevant qualifications, and participating in professional networks enables them to acquire new knowledge and skills that are crucial for effective leadership.

Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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