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Top 8 Characteristics of Good Leadership

Last week we asked if you should want to be a leader.

This week, we’ll look at how to be a good leader, regardless of your actual leadership role or title. 

Anyone can be a leader. The best, work at developing their skills and adopt the characteristics of other quality leaders. The easiest way to do this is to observe several leaders you admireObservation may include following them on social media, reading their books, and attending or downloading any speeches they have given. Watch what they do and how they do it, then incorporate the traits you admire into your own leadership style. 

Next, realize that leadership isn’t just a “top of the ranks” role. The greatest leaders can – and will – work alongside those they are tasked with leading. Leadership is about setting an example. No task is beneath you. You shouldn’t ask others to do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. 


  1. Practice good communication skills. Communication means being able to observe, listen, and speak. It also means you recognize the best ways to communicate with others. For example, some people prefer written communication like texts or emails. Others prefer in-person conversations. Learning to recognize the ways other prefer to communicate means you will be able to reach them in the manner that most suits their needs. Remember that honest, open communication goes both ways. Your team should feel comfortable coming to you with any issue, question or concern. 
  2. Encourage creativity and growth. Good leaders want their team to learn and grow. John Rampton, founder and CEO of Calendar, says that leadership strategy is about empowering others to do their best and take on new challenges. "Employees like challenges and feeling the satisfaction of overcoming them.” 
  3. Teach, don’t preach. Good leaders will teach others, rather than preach to them or just tell them what to do. You’re a leader because you have a certain expertise. You have learned many lessons, over time that others can learn from as well. Practice sharing what you’ve learned and how to apply those lessons so they don’t repeat the same mistakes you’ve made in the past. You should be the coach: helping them to develop the plays, enabling them with knowledge, and then letting them “take the ball and run” 
  4. Set clear expectations and hold everyone, including yourself, accountable. As a leader, your role is to set clear goals and explain why those goals are important to the overall success of the company or group. It’s also your role to be direct and honest in providing regular feedback – including criticism. You should seek that same type of feedback for yourself. You need to know what’s working, what isn’t, and address any obstacles to success. 
  5. Praise publicly, criticize privately. You would think this doesn’t need to be stated, but it does. If you must criticize it should always be done in private. The criticism should never be personal, it should always be about the action, decision or task. As a leader, it’s also your role to help others understand the “why” – why the action was wrong – and the “how” – how to not make the same mistake in the future. 
    Praise, however, should be given publicly and often. The team should be aware of successes and celebrate them. Never be afraid to praise a task well done, a goal achieved, or a job completed. 
  6. Learn something new every day. You may be a leader, but you don’t know everything. Every day make it a point to learn something new related to your job, company or industry. Study leadership traits of successful or admired leaders, learn about your team, and interact with your network. If you’re learning something new every day, you’re setting a good example and it will encourage your team to do the same. 
  7. Be willing to say “I’m sorry” and admit when you were wrong. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. Being in a leadership role doesn’t change that fact. One of the most important things a leader can do is to show that it’s okay to make a mistake. The true test is not being perfect but showing how to overcome mistakes and make it right. If you want your team to approach mistakes in the right way, you must be willing to do so yourself and demonstrate to them what it means to make amends and take responsibility. 
  8. Lastly, Lolly Daskal, President and CEO of Lead from Within, has a key piece of advice for anyone who wants to be a better leader: 

Lead with love. Amor vincit omnia: Even the ancient Romans knew that love conquers all. Love your people, love your organization and love those you serve, and you'll have discovered the secret of great leadership.” 

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Topics: Establishing a Career, Re-Entering the Workforce, Gaining Experience, Changing Jobs, Being a Great Employee, Managing Stress, Leaving a Job, Work-Life Balance