7 essential qualities of a good leader

Good leaders are responsible for making decisions, prioritizing, setting and communicating goals, strategizing, delegating, and networking. They should believe in an attainable vision and focus on self-awareness to enhance emotional intelligence and fuel personal development. But what are the qualities of a good leader? Let's look at each one at a time!

Believing in an attainable vision

Leadership is more than just being confident in a managerial suit. To succeed in this position, you need an attainable vision! People will not follow a leader who does not know where they are going or what they wish to achieve. But what exactly makes a leader visionary?

In general, visionary leaders see beyond the current situation. Leaders with vision are often creative and innovative, constantly looking for new ways to improve things. And most importantly, they can communicate their vision in a way others can understand.

Believing in an attainable or clear vision is essential for successful leadership because it helps to inspire followers and keeps them motivated toward achieving common objectives. Leaders with a strong and compelling vision of the future can help establish direction, inspire excitement, and create a sense of purpose. When all the team members are moving towards a common goal, it can generate a sense of unity and direction, leading to better outcomes.

Moreover, having a focused vision can significantly improve organizational performance and team productivity. Organizations with high levels of vision clarity achieve better financial performance than organizations with low levels of vision clarity. Also, transformational leaders with a clear vision positively impact employee creativity, innovation, job satisfaction, and commitment.

A good leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

John C. Maxwell
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Making decisions and prioritizing

Leaders are responsible for making decisions that will lead to the effectiveness of their organization. To be an effective leader, you must be able to make decisions and prioritize. Research from PsychTests found that leaders who score high on the prioritization scale are 42% more likely to feel satisfied with their performance. Additionally, in a survey conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership, leaders who were effective at decision-making were rated as 3.5 times more likely to be successful than those who were poor decision-makers.

Making decisions is not easy, but it is crucial for effective leadership. When you face a decision, you must weigh the pros and cons of each option and make the best decision for your team. Prioritizing goes hand-in-hand with decision-making. Effective decision-making and prioritization, according to the Global Leadership Study 2018 are essential competencies for leaders in 88% of employers. Leaders must be able to prioritize tasks to ensure they generate the highest-value outcomes first.

Setting and communicating goals

A lack of clear goals means a lack of leadership. Setting goals and communicating them across the organization reveals leadership vision and provides a shared sense of purpose. Many leaders use the so-called SMART formula to set goals and establish measurements to assess their achievement. SMART (the acronym meaning specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and time-bound) is not supposed to be objective but rather practical.

An example of a goal using the SMART technique would be as follows: Get interviewed (specific); at least once per month (measurable), preferably by online business publications (attractive); achievable with assistance from my PR colleague (realistic) starting from February 1st and making sure the first interview gets published within February (time-bound).

To build strong relationships with their team members, leaders must also be open to hearing feedback and suggestions. By encouraging two-way communication, a leader shows that they value the input of others and are willing to work together towards a common goal.


In today's business world, agility is a competitive advantage. Leaders who strategize effectively can adapt and pivot as needed, which can be the difference between success and failure. A study by Harvard Business Review found that CEOs who scored high on strategic thinking proficiency saw their organizations' stocks outperform their peers by an average of 28%. Furthermore, research by the Association for Psychological Science, shows that strategic planning enhances a leader's decision-making ability by 20%.

Implementing the right strategies shows that leaders have the foresight and can anticipate problems before they arise. Strategizing allows you to take preventive action and avoid potential disasters. So, aspiring leaders should start by honing their strategizing skills. It will also benefit those who look up to them.

Delegating effectively

Delegation is an essential part of successful leadership. When you delegate tasks, you free up your time and effort to focus on the most strategic aspects of the organization. As a leader, delegation can help motivate team members, build trust, develop new skills and achieve your goals promptly. Effective delegation starts by understanding employee strengths and weaknesses and assigning tasks that best fit their capabilities. This understanding will ensure that assigned duties get done with the highest quality possible. Ultimately, a careful delegation will help ensure that projects are completed on time with high-quality results while also helping develop employee skillsets and cultivate creativity among teams.


Leaders earn exclusive support, feedback, resources, information, and insights by building and stimulating a diverse network of personal contacts. These outcomes allow managers to tackle current and unforeseen challenges. According to Ibarra & Hunter (2012), networking is particularly crucial for individuals just moving into a leadership position. That movement creates new challenges related to strategy-making rather than the technical support that they relied upon before. As such, leaders thriving for excellence should engage consistently in networking. One of the effective ways to do so is by following a "three-pronged" networking approach that combines all three distinct categories of networking (operational, personal, and strategic).


Leaders who are self-aware and actively work on enhancing this inward quality are more open to feedback (and even change), adaptive, and resilient. The better you understand yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses, the more capable you can be as a leader. Without an aim on personal development pursuit of overall organizational development will fall short. That is why successful leaders focus on their emotional intelligence, practice active listening, and communicate effectively. Moreover, self-awareness allows for consistency in strategic efforts, a key outcome for organizations being in the market for the long haul.


Many qualities make up an effective leader. Good leaders can make decisions, set goals, and prioritize to reach their objectives. They also possess the skills to strategize, delegate, and network with others. Ultimately, good leaders should believe in an attainable vision and focus on self-awareness to enhance emotional intelligence and fuel personal development. Developing these skills will help create a more effective leadership style and lead to healthier and more successful organizations.

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FAQ: Qualities of a good leader

In one sentence, what makes a good leader?

“It isn’t about being “nice” or “understanding” - it’s about tapping into individual motivations in the interest of furthering an organization-wide goal." - by W. C. Prentice (as featured on a study by the Harvard Business Review).

Regardless of personal qualities, what mindset should an effective leader have?

The value of M&A deals, according to a study first published in the Journal of Entrepreneurship on January 30, 2020, an effective leader generally falls into one of the following three mindsets: a people-oriented mindset, a purpose-oriented mindset, and a learning-oriented mindset.

What are the best ways to improve leadership skills?

Picking a solution that improves your leadership skills depends on what leadership qualities you want to develop. The good news is that leadership skills are learnable. The trick is that, often, managers think they need to enhance a skill when, in reality, they should focus on improving different skills. That's why solutions such as business coaching work best. They identify areas of improvement at the start making the rest of the learning journey easier.