Top 5 Qualities of a Good Leader

Mark Epp Mark Epp

April 10, 2024 Blog
Good leader at work engaging with employees

Leadership isn’t just about a position of power. It’s about inspiring and guiding others toward a common goal and taking action toward that goal every day. Above all, leadership is intentional.  

After several years on the job, the traditional next step for people at work would be to step into a manager position. This meant that to progress, workers had to climb the corporate ladder. But the truth is, climbing the corporate ladder just doesn’t work anymore. Putting people in leadership positions based only on seniority rather than talent leads to turnover. According to our research, top performers will leave if they don’t have good leaders.  

To be truly effective at leading today’s complex, multi-faceted teams and organizations, leaders must possess certain talents or qualities to be successful in their roles. 

This can be a hard pill to swallow and one that I’ve experienced personally. About 10 years ago, I was asked to take on a managerial role, leading people who were my friends at Talent Plus. Within nine months, I was driving my team crazy. One of my closest colleagues came into my office and said that “my intensity was making her physically ill.“ 

My problem wasn’t a lack of knowledge, work ethic, passion or even years on the job. I’m an intense person. I focus on what and how I want to accomplish things, which is great when I’m with clients. But when you’re working with a team, you have to temper your approach. It’s not easy for me to do that. Instead of burning out or chasing team members away, I moved out of management and took on ways to lead clients in a way that was better suited to my natural talents — and that I continue to love doing to this day. 

While many attributes contribute to effective leadership, five qualities especially differentiate exceptional leaders. Good leaders are: 

  1. Honorable
  2. Courageous
  3. Committed
  4. Compassionate
  5. Genuine

Let’s delve into each of these qualities and explore how they shape great leaders. 

Honorable

Good leaders need to honor the input of others, even in their absence, while avoiding the negativity that can sometimes accompany critical feedback. Leaders (especially executives) are less engaged with everyday consumers and individual, internal processes. They may hear things through others, but they often don’t have all the details regarding the ins and outs of the organization.  

To accommodate for this separation, a good leader systematically solicits others’ feedback, trusts in their perspectives, and weighs and takes action based on those inputs. This fosters a culture of trust and creates an environment where everyone feels valued and respected. 

Put it into practice: Like the late American playwright and my mentor Dale Wasserman, carry a notebook to record others’ feedback. In the moment, simply say “I’ll note that.” Write their feedback in your notebook and review it later, outside of that moment’s emotional context.  

Courageous

Leaders can’t please everyone all the time. Good leadership requires making tough decisions and taking risks. A courageous leader is willing to face challenges head-on, even when the path is uncertain. They weigh all the options, consider different perspectives and make decisions that align with the organization’s mission and values.  

Often people think that leadership is about giving orders or pink slips, but that’s just punishment. Leadership is really about communicating courageously. Gaining buy-in. Engaging people. Inspiring people to do something because it’s the right thing to do. When hard decisions must be made — like declaring a layoff — good leaders are brave enough to clearly communicate those decisions, especially the “why” behind them. By displaying courage, leaders inspire their team members to embrace change. 

Put it into practice: If you need to part ways with someone at work, look them in the eyes and explain what isn’t working. This is hard to do but critical to letting go of hurt and moving forward amicably. 

Committed

If a leader commits to hiring someone, they should follow through on that commitment with intentional employee development. This involves investing time and effort to ensure their success. A committed leader doesn’t simply hire someone and expect them to excel on their own. Instead, they take responsibility for their employees’ growth and provide the necessary support, coaching and mentorship.  

All good relationships involve commitment. Friends and sports teams alike commit to being there for each other through good times and bad. The same is true for leaders and their team members. A leader’s commitment helps their team members — and the organization — be as successful as possible and fosters loyalty, motivation and a sense of belonging. 

Put it into practice: Spend extra time with your top performers. Ask them what they need and want out of their job and understand their natural talents to unlock their potential.  

Compassionate

Great leaders understand that their team members are not just employees but human beings with unique needs and challenges. They demonstrate compassion by genuinely caring about their well-being and success. A compassionate leader takes an individualized approach, understanding what each person requires to thrive.  

Again, good leadership is not dictating. It’s communicating the needs and mission of the organization to the team and being open to the team’s ideas. This ties into a concept called “idea meritocracy” where the merit of an idea is more important than who originates the idea. Ideas within the company are added to and improved by team members and eventually become the best they can be. By demonstrating empathy and idea meritocracy, leaders create a supportive, dynamic and inclusive work environment. 

Put it into practice: Empathize with others’ fears and encourage team members to ask questions or provide criticism anonymously through a shared Google doc or form. Then address those concerns openly and empathetically in a larger staff meeting. 

Genuine

Authenticity is a quality that sets exceptional leaders apart. A good leader is true to themselves and others. They initiate relationships, rather than waiting for people to come to them. Good leaders communicate openly and build trust through their actions.  

By being transparent and honest, leaders create an atmosphere of authenticity, where team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas. This fosters collaboration, open communication and a sense of unity within the organization. 

Put it into practice: If you notice a team member is upset, form a human connection with them by asking “Hey, what’s going on? You don’t seem like yourself today.”  

Effective leadership goes beyond power and dictating decisions. It requires a combination of qualities that inspire and motivate others. Qualities like being honorable in another person’s absence, being courageous, committed, compassionate and genuine. By embodying these qualities, leaders can cultivate a positive work environment, foster trust and guide their team toward success.  

If you are looking to tap your organization’s next great leaders, consider whether they have these qualities. A leadership assessment can help determine someone’s potential to lead. Find out if your bench has the talent and readiness for leadership roles. Or cultivate your own leadership skills with one-on-one coaching

Mark Epp

Mark Epp

Mark is the Management Consultant Director at Talent Plus where he aligns The Science of Potentiality ® to each client’s unique needs and support their growth. He brings potential to life through the practical application of our science and enables employees to prosper and organizations to succeed.

“There is nothing more satisfying than witnessing the exponential growth of an employee when they discover and express their talent.”

Talents: Ego Drive, Focus, Individualized Approach, Persuasion, Relationship

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