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April 12, 2016

What Qualities Do You Look for in a Leader?

Keith Jackson


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"Managers are people who do things right, leaders are people who do the right thing."

– Warren Bennis, author and leadership expert.

Chances are, you've experienced working with both good and bad leaders.

You may have been inspired by a great leader's vision, and been motivated by his or her passion and commitment to achieving it. Alternatively, you may have felt disconnected and remote from a leader who failed to engage with his workforce, or who had a confused or vague vision for his organization.

Even if you work for a large organization where you only expect limited and infrequent contact with the "top brass," their behavior and attitude probably impacts the way you approach your role and your perception of the company.

We wanted to know what you thought made a good leader, and what characteristics would make you want to follow someone. So, we asked our friends and followers on social media, "What qualities do you look for in a good leader?"

It prompted one of the highest number of responses to a Mind Tools discussion question, with dozens of you taking the time to give us your views. Thank you to everyone who replied.

Our LinkedIn page lit up with the volume of comments! Here is a selection of your views:

Education consultant Louise LeVell, from the U.K., kicked off the discussion with a list of the qualities she admires in a leader, specifically, "positivity, politeness, honesty, integrity, fair, professional, not abusing their status by giving staff 'personal' tasks to complete (such as their child's homework!), appropriate dress, someone who listens and digests, not dismisses."

Loan Tran, from Denmark, was one of many people who highlighted the need for trust and integrity. She said, "In my opinion, the most important quality is to be focused on developing her or his team members. Other qualities are integrity, trustworthy, objective, professional, visionary, company culture creator, focused, and more… "
Hidayat Hussainy, a university grants manager in Kabul, Afghanistan, added, "A leader is someone who can control his or her emotion when dealing with complex issues, and handling them wisely."

Empathy was another common response to the question. Project manager Sandra Zumstein, from Germany, said, "Being empathic, inspiring and consistent would be some of my favorite qualities." Carla A. Schirmacher, an operations manager in Mexico, replied with the single word, "Empathy." Property expert Marilyn Bojanowski, from Florida, U.S., looked for someone who was, "Honest, fair, inspiring, supportive, mentor, and professional. Not afraid of creating future leaders."

Our Twitter followers also came up with a wide range of qualities. Marcelo Pacheco‏ @Marcelopchc said, "He/she should have initiative, the moral power to demand what h/s has already done, motivate by speech and empower followers. Leadership is ultimately about impact. An ability to wonder about that and take action leads to wonderful possibilities."

David Cruickshank ‏@cruickers quoted the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, who said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." (You can a buy a Mind Tools poster featuring this motivational quote, here.) Jess Critchlow ‏@jc_lightupwork said, "It's a cliche, but for me it's emotional intelligence and all the gold dust that comes with that!"

Here is a snapshot of some of the very many replies we received:

  • Tehani Mott ‏@TehaniMott, "Great qualities of a good leader: honesty, humility, hard work & service to others."
  • LearnerLedLdr ‏@LearnerLedLdr, "Honesty, encouragement, creativity, coaching, development, moral purpose, strength, and humour."
  • Meagan Schmidt ‏@MeaganJSchmidt, "Authenticity. Being a leader means you can admit mistakes, you don't always have answers, and sharing how you overcame obstacles."
  • Dr Richard Peacocke ‏@rlpeacocke, "Honesty, integrity, loyalty and charity. If s/he has these, but especially charity, the best people will flock to follow them."

You can still have your say on what qualities you think a good leader should have. Let us know your views in the comment section, below.

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6 comments on “What Qualities Do You Look for in a Leader?”

  1. A leader is someone who leads by example in overcoming fear, jealousy, hatred, selfishness and negative thinking. To lead is to be the one who goes first . True leaders show how it's done not tell how it's done.

    1. Agreed Stan! I've also heard that a leader isn't a "show off", but a "show how". It's a difference maker and someone who's focused on the goal - not the obstacles. It doesn't mean they ignore obstacles, they don't - but they find solutions for the obstacles instead of getting stuck.

  2. Great post! This was a great article about the qualities of a leader that one should have. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best.-Chris Thompson

    1. I personally believe that each person has their own individual reasons they become a leader. I also believe that everyone has the capacity and the possibility to be a leader even when they are not officially in a position of leadership.

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