Let's start with a quick pop quiz: who, in your opinion, are some of the greatest leaders of all time? Take a minute to think about it.
Did you come up with a few names? Who sprang to mind for you? Maybe it was Winston Churchill or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Or perhaps you automatically thought about titans of business like Steve Jobs or Sir Richard Branson. We would completely understand if names like Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and Gandhi crossed your mind as well.
Regardless of who you think deserves to be on the list, the fact remains: incredible leaders and the leadership qualities they exhibit make indelible impressions on us. We can't help but want to follow and emulate these great people.
In this article, we'll explore the six top leadership qualities that every great leader should have and how you can acquire these skills for yourself. Let's jump right in!
Why Great Leadership Matters
Strong leadership is the backbone of every high-performing organization. Companies that invest in leadership tend to make better decisions, are more productive, achieve better results, and have better team morale.
That's why the world's top companies continue to devote resources to leadership training and development. In fact, successful organizations spend 36% more on management training than their less successful competitors.
In these trainings, current and future management professionals learn that true, effective leadership is more than a title. Good leaders possess six essential leadership qualities, which we'll explore in the next section.
6 Essential Leadership Qualities
Ready to become a better leader? Then study the following list of six essential leadership qualities and commit to acquiring each of them for yourself.
So much of quality leadership comes down to confidence. According to Francisco Dao:
"Self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. It may have a nice coat of paint, but it is ultimately shaky at best."
If you aren't confident in your own vision and actions, how can you expect anyone else to be? Many of the world's greatest leaders became so because they had the courage to go against the grain and pursue new ideas. In other words, they were confident enough in their own beliefs to act on them, even when the risk of doing so was incredibly high.
Confidence in Action
Love or hate him, there's no denying that Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee to most people) is a confident leader. He's a natural on stage and in front of the camera and confidently leads his company, VaynerMedia, which has worked with major corporations like Toyota, Chase, and Pepsi.
One of the reasons why Gary Vee is able to act so confidently is because he isn't trying to be anyone other than Gary Vee. He knows what he's good at and plays to his strengths.
How to Become a More Confident Leader
Contrary to popular belief, confidence is NOT something you either have or you don't. While some people are naturally more confident and sure of themselves than others, confidence is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and perfected.
If you struggle in this area, educate yourself. Knowledge breeds confidence. When you know what you need to do, you'll be able to act more confidently and do it. We also recommend celebrating your own accomplishments from time to time. By regularly recognizing the things you've already achieved, you'll realize that you are capable of much more than you ever thought possible.
In books and movies, successful business leaders are often portrayed as conniving, dishonest, and unscrupulous. In reality, great leadership is built on integrity, which can be described as a commitment to doing the right thing, at the right time, regardless of the circumstances. Zig Ziglar said it best when he quipped:
“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”
Integrity, honesty, and transparency all go hand in hand. When you approach your leadership role with a "what you see is what you get" mentality, you'll inspire your team to act in similar ways. You'll also be able to build better, deeper relationships with your staff and earn their trust. People follow those they trust.
Integrity in Action
Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, may not be a household name in the same way that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other famous businessmen are, but he's still incredibly successful and a shining example of a leader with integrity.
In 2015, Krzanich made headlines for his efforts to diversify his company's workforce of 100,000 employees. He committed 300 million dollars over a five year span to this initiative and actually followed through. Six months in, Intel had already surpassed its yearly hiring goal of recruiting more team members of varying ethnicities and genders.
How to Become a More Upstanding Leader
How can you ensure that you lead with integrity? It's really simple: do what you say you will, treat people with respect, and speak honestly — always. Admittedly, this isn't always an easy thing to do. It's often much simpler to act unscrupulously. But these kinds of actions have a way of getting found out and, in the long run, won't make you a beloved and successful leader.
3. The Ability to Inspire
One of the top qualities of a good leader is the ability to inspire the team he or she leads. When the going gets tough, how will you encourage your employees to push through and continue working towards your company's goals?
The best leaders cast a vision and get others excited about seeing it come to fruition. When a team is inspired, they work harder and more efficiently.
Inspiration in Action
Is there a leader that embodies this leadership quality more than Richard Branson? The billionaire who has started hundreds of different companies is full of energy and passion and knows exactly how to instill these feelings in his followers.
How to Become a More Inspiring Leader
Before you can inspire your team, you first have to have a strong and exciting vision of what you want your staff to accomplish. Then you simply share that vision with them, maintain positivity when challenges occur, and remind your employees of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Passion and positivity are contagious. When your team sees these leadership qualities in you, they'll be much more inclined to follow suit.
It's also important to realize that nobody follows a leader for the leader's sake. Rather, they follow the leader for themselves. If you can convince your team that following you will benefit them, they'll let you lead them and never lack inspiration.
4. Communication Skills
If you really want to develop great leadership skills, you need to become an excellent communicator. In the last section, we talked about how the ability to inspire is one of the top leadership qualities. And in order to inspire employees, you have to communicate a strong and exciting vision for them to buy into.
Your ability to connect with your team and communicate with them in ways that they'll understand will play a major role in whether you succeed as a leader or not.
Communication in Action
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the greatest communicators to ever walk this earth. His "I Have a Dream" speech is still well-known and respected today, more than 50 years after he originally gave it. Because of this speech and others, King was able to start a movement and help change a nation.
When it comes to leadership qualities, especially those revolving around communication, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an excellent example to study.
How to Become a More Communicative Leader
Clear and effective communication comes down to three main things: a knowledge of your audience, speaking with authority, and listening. Let's quickly look at each of these:
- Know Your Audience: Great leaders concern themselves with what people need to hear and delivering that truth in a way that the recipient will understand. This will require an intimate knowledge of your team to do effectively.
- Speak With Authority: The best communicators speak with confidence and authority. They assert their opinions and make it abundantly clear how things currently are and how they need to be. But they do so in a respectful way.
- Learn to Listen: Listening is one of the most underrated — and underused — skills today. We all desperately want our voices to be heard. But great leaders understand that communication is a two way street and make an effort to actively listen to their teams.
When it comes to communication, modern technology can help! Tools like Slack, CloudApp, and others will allow you to share ideas in a quick and convenient way.
CloudApp is especially suited to this purpose. Did you know that visuals are processed by the human brain 60,000 times faster than plain text? By using CloudApp's screen recorder, GIF creator, and annotation features, you'll be able to communicate your thoughts and ideas to your team much faster and more effectively.
Great leaders know exactly what to focus on: the goals they have for their company, their teams strengths, the next step they need to take to accomplish their vision. Not only that, they know how to keep focusing on these things without becoming distracted by other opportunities or ideas. Many projects get derailed because leaders lose focus.
When you're focused on achieving a specific goal, you'll also be able to plan much more strategically. You'll also be more organized and more capable of handling unexpected challenges because your mind will be centered on your objective, not everything else.
Focus in Action
Steve Jobs is a great example of a focused leader, especially after he returned to the company he founded in 1997. At that time, Apple was producing a random array of computers and peripherals. This was ineffective so Jobs simplified things and focused on creating less products better. In his own words:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
How to Become a More Focused Leader
Focus was one of the pillars of Steve Jobs' life and helped him create an incredibly successful tech company. Focus will help you become a better leader too, if you can master it. Start by recognizing what exactly you're trying to achieve. Then identify one to three things that will help you accomplish that goal and put everything else on the backburner.
If you're able to consistently concentrate on your goals, your team will follow your lead. Focus, like many of the other top leadership qualities mentioned in this article, is contagious. And the more focused your team is, the more productive they will be and the more success your company will likely enjoy.
The final entry on our leadership qualities list is accountability. It was famed businessman Arnold H. Glasgow who said, “A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”
The best leaders hold both themselves and their teams accountable. If you say you're going to do something, make sure that you actually do it. This will teach your team to trust and respect you and inspire them to also do the things they say they will.
Accountability in Action
One of the best examples of an accountable leader is former U.S. president, Harry S. Truman. He famously kept a sign on his desk that read, "The Buck Stops Here" which spoke to the fact that Truman planned to take full responsibility for the decisions made during his administration.
Unfortunately, a large portion of today's business leaders haven't made a conscious decision to follow Truman's lead. A study conducted in 2014 found that only 66% of the executives at global organizations hold leaders accountable for performance.
How to Become a More Accountable Leader
We encourage you to be apart of the 66% mentioned above and hold both yourself and your team accountable. By displaying this and the other leadership qualities mentioned in this article, you'll be able to effectively lead your team.
But how can you demonstrate accountability? We have a few tips for you:
- First, accept responsibility for your actions and the results produced by your team — both good and bad.
- Second, don't blame others for your team's shortcomings. Part of being a leader is realizing that "the buck stops with you."
- Third, lead the charge when it comes to overcoming failures. Since all shortcomings are ultimately your responsibility, you should be the one who heads up the turnaround.
Improve Your Leadership Qualities
If you can acquire and perfect the six leadership qualities mentioned in this article, you'll be able to lead any team, department, or company successfully. So do what you can to become more confident, live with more integrity, inspire those around you, communicate more clearly, focus unwaveringly on your goals, and become more accountable. Good luck!
The right software tools can help you become a better leader — especially when it comes to properly communicating with your team. CloudApp is visual communication at its best. Our solution offers intuitive screen recording, GIF creation, and image annotation features so you can get your points across quicker and with more clarity. Give CloudApp a try for free and see for yourself. We're confident you'll love the convenience it affords you!