What Makes a Great Leader? 7 Important Traits

The moment you accept a leadership role, you’ve already grown.

There’s a world of a difference between being lead and leading. As American author John C. Maxwell puts it, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

That’s why anyone who knows the immense responsibility of being a leader and still steps up to the task? That person already has the potential to inspire others.

But, of course, inspiring your team is only one step. You need to get them to work together, too.

So, how exactly do you become a good leader? Well, if we broke down great leadership into 7 components, here’s exactly what they would be.

1. Self-management

Have you ever met a workaholic who lived at the office and worked their whole weekend away? Anyone who’s worked a 9-to-5 knows that’s the quickest way to burnburning yourself out.

A great leader knows how to pace themselves. It’s tempting to give your 200% every single minute of the workday. Being a good manager, however, involves being able to manage yourself, too.

As a leader, you need to be able to set your own goals and pursue them. You need to know how to delegate your attention and regulate your time. You can’t overexert yourself or sacrifice too much of your personal life.
Your team needs you to be at the top of their game all the time. That won’t happen unless you take good care of yourself, too.

2. Strategy

A good leader is strategic in everything they do. That applies to everything from assigning tasks to communicating with team members.

As a leader, you should be constantly examining and assessing your work environment. Afterward comes thinking of ways to improve that work environment.

Effective leaders know how to play to their team’s strengths and to reinforce its weaknesses. They are also open to new ideas and innovative ways of achieving goals.

3. Accountability

Any decent person should be capable of owning up to their mistakes. That holds true for people in leadership positions. In fact, it’s essential for them.

Taking responsibility for your mistakes creates a healthy work environment. Your team doesn’t end up terrified of admitting to errors. They’re not afraid to learn from their missteps and to ask for help.

Holding yourself accountable isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, the opposite holds true. You strengthen your relationship with your team by showing humility and responsibility.

4. Decisiveness

One of the most stressful aspects of a leadership role is having to make big decisions. These decisions affect not only you but the whole team—and sometimes even more people.

Good leaders should be capable of weighing their options and listening to other’s opinions. They should also prepare for whatever consequences their decisions will carry.

More importantly, effective leaders are decisive. They stick to the decisions they make. They don’t backtrack.
Why? Because backtracking on a decision can make you seem weak or like you don’t have control over your own team.

It’s important, therefore, to be firm in your decision-making, so you don’t lose the respect of the people you lead.

5. Passion

A passionate leader is an inspiring leader.

Your team looks to you for guidance. Seeing how dedicated and committed you are is what encourages them to display the same level of enthusiasm.

6. Empathy

Managers who treat their team members as robots who don’t get tired, hungry, bored, and lonely won’t go far.

A good leader knows how to empathize with their team. You don’t have to be best friends with them. In fact, it’s good to have boundaries!

However, being understanding is essential in developing good team relations. As the leader, your patience should be twice the patience of your team members’.

Showing them that you care will let them trust you even more and will even keep them loyal to you and the company.

7. Innovation

Steve Jobs himself said it: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

The best leaders find new ways to enhance their team’s work experience. Whether it’s by taking leadership seminars, reading management books, or learning on the fly, great leaders should be enthusiastic about becoming better at their job.

The most important quality of a good leader

These seven leadership qualities aren’t a laundry list of what you should be right now.

You might not have developed all seven yet, and that’s fine. We’re people. We grow, and we learn.

This list is more of a checklist of what you aim to have—and what you want to cultivate in your team.

Remember: the first step to becoming a better leader is believing you have it in you. The next—and most important—step is inspiring your team members to become even better leaders in the future.