Good leaders

8 Characteristics of Good Leaders

People often ask me about the traits that make a good leader. I’ve been training leaders since 2004, so it makes sense they think I’d know. And while I’ve met thousands of leaders, there’s no single formula for what makes one great. Research tries to nail it down, often listing the top characteristics of a good leader to simplify things. In this piece, I’ll share 8 key traits. Remember, you don’t need all of them to excel, but each can guide you toward effective leadership.

What makes a good leader stand out? It isn’t about having every quality on the list. It’s about how these leadership traits play out in real situations. Some leaders might shine in one area and struggle in another. That’s okay. Understanding these traits can help you focus on what you can improve.

So, while there’s no perfect recipe for leadership, focusing on these traits can set you on the right path. Dive into each characteristic, learn how it applies to your situation, and see how it can help you become a better leader. After all, good leaders are always learning.

Integrity

Integrity is all about doing the right thing. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy. People often confuse management with leadership. Management is doing things right, but leadership? It’s doing the right things. That’s where integrity comes in.

For example, look at politicians. There’s a common belief that many Filipino politicians lack integrity. Why? Because they often choose the easy path over the right one. They stick with the powerful to stay in power, even if it means bending their morals.

But this isn’t just a political issue. I spent two years in a seminary and saw similar issues. Even in a place devoted to serving a higher purpose, politics and favors were common. Integrity was rare.

I also taught in a school and saw integrity issues there, too. Despite rules against it, teachers often accepted gifts from students’ parents. Sadly, sometimes grades were influenced by these gifts.

Integrity means standing firm on your principles, no matter the situation. It means doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. It’s not about being stubborn or impractical. It’s about being consistent and true.

People might not always agree with you. They might think you’re being stubborn or that you’re not being practical. But having integrity means you stick to your morals, even if it’s tough.

In the end, integrity is crucial for good leaders. It builds trust and respect. When people see you’re committed to doing the right thing, they’ll follow your lead.

Remember, integrity isn’t something you can compromise on. It’s essential. It’s what makes a leader worth following.

Accountability

Accountability is key for leaders who aim for great results and productive teams. Every leader wants their team to succeed and deliver top-notch work. But sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

When crises strike, it’s easy to see who values accountability. Those who lack it often point fingers at others. They might procrastinate or even see themselves as victims of their circumstances. This approach doesn’t solve anything.

On the other hand, accountable leaders stand out. They take responsibility not just for their actions but also for their team’s performance. They understand that their decisions have real impacts on people and projects.

Instead of blaming others, accountable leaders focus on finding solutions. They identify what went wrong and work on ways to fix it. This proactive approach is what sets them apart.

They don’t just stop at recognizing problems. Accountable leaders actively seek solutions and strive to make positive changes. Their goal is always to improve the situation, no matter the challenges.

This mindset of accountability fosters a culture of responsibility and trust. Teams led by such leaders are more likely to be engaged and motivated because they know their leader will support them, even when things get tough.

In essence, accountability is about owning your actions and their outcomes. It’s a fundamental trait for effective leadership, ensuring that both leader and team can grow and succeed together.

Humility

Humility is often misunderstood. It’s not about seeing yourself as less important; it’s about being grounded. Leaders with humility know they can’t do everything alone. They don’t need to.

This idea of humility hit home for me back in college. I was studying political science and led the Political Science club. At first, it was tough. Everyone seemed eager to prove they were the smartest in the room. There were debates over everything, even trivial things like shirt colors.

I realized something crucial as president: listening was key. Instead of trying to have all the answers, I spent time listening. I talked with each member about their vision and ideas for the club.

When people feel heard, they argue less. They know you’re paying attention and value their input. This opens the door for more constructive conversations.

Through listening, I learned that being a leader isn’t about leading every charge. Sometimes, it’s about stepping back and letting others take the lead.

Humility also means recognizing that you don’t know everything. There’s always room to grow and learn, and that’s okay. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

A humble leader isn’t insecure. Because you’re grounded, you feel secure enough to elevate others. This approach fosters a team spirit where everyone feels valued.

In the end, humility in leadership creates an environment of mutual respect and collaboration. It turns potential conflicts into opportunities for growth.

So, humility is vital. It helps you stay rooted and secure, ready to face challenges with your team, not above them.

Empathy

Empathy is more than just understanding others; it’s about truly connecting with their feelings and experiences. Good leaders go beyond imagining themselves in someone else’s shoes—they learn to walk, run, and even change those shoes if necessary.

In Filipino culture, we have a special word: “malasakit.” It’s like empathy but deeper. We also speak of “pakikipag-kapwa tao,” seeing others as extensions of ourselves. We feel their pain as if it were our own. This should be easy, something that comes naturally.

Yet, when you look at our politicians, it’s clear that empathy is not automatic. It’s a choice. Unlike traits we’re born with, empathy must be actively chosen and developed over time.

Empathetic leaders are willing to tackle even the toughest challenges, even if it causes them pain, because they know it’s necessary. They make choices not just based on outcomes but on how these choices affect people.

Imagine leaders who embody integrity, humility, and empathy. These are the qualities that inspire true loyalty and trust. They’re not as common as you’d hope, but they are powerful.

You might be eager to hear about the other 12 characteristics of leadership, but these three—integrity, humility, and empathy—are foundational. Start with these. Build on them.

By fostering these traits, you create a basis for leadership that others will believe in and follow. People trust leaders who show genuine concern and understanding. Work on these characteristics, and you’ll be the leader people need.

Excellence

When we talk about leadership, the word “excellent” doesn’t often come up. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t fit neatly with the usual descriptors like “good” or “effective.” But shouldn’t we expect our leaders to strive for excellence, not just be passable?

In the Philippines, we admire leaders who are “matino at mahusay” — sensible and excellent. These are the leaders who don’t just do enough to get by; they push for the best in everything. However, such leaders often seem more like ideals than reality.

Excellence in leadership means always seeking improvement. It’s not about being perfect or demanding perfection from others, but about fostering an environment where everyone aims to do their best. Excellent leaders encourage this mindset, not through pressure, but by example.

They create a culture where striving for the highest standard is the norm. This doesn’t mean being harsh or critical when someone falls short. Instead, it’s about celebrating progress and learning from setbacks. It’s about being the best version of ourselves.

If you want to be a good leader, pursue excellence. Don’t be content with “good enough.” Aim high, encourage your team to do the same, and together you’ll achieve great things. This drive for excellence will set you apart as a leader.

So, remember, excellence in leadership is crucial. It’s not just about meeting expectations but exceeding them. By doing so, you inspire those around you to raise their own standards. This is the kind of leadership that truly makes a difference.

10 Steps to Leadership Excellence

Confidence

Confidence is a key trait that draws people to leaders. It’s not hard to see why. Many of us struggle with self-doubt. We’re scared of making mistakes or speaking up. We often feel we’re not good enough. Against this backdrop, confident leaders stand out.

These leaders seem sure of themselves. They have faith in their abilities and in their teams. This doesn’t just make them look strong; it makes others feel secure following them.

But let’s be clear: true confidence isn’t just bravado. It’s not about acting confident without anything to back it up. You can’t simply “fake it till you make it.” That kind of pretense is easy to see through.

Real confidence comes from knowledge, experience, and expertise. It builds over time as leaders face challenges and learn from them.

If you want to be a confident leader, commit to growth. Learn constantly. Take on projects that challenge you. Reflect on your successes and learn from your failures.

Through this process, your confidence will grow naturally. It will be a genuine belief in your capability, which is far more powerful than just putting on a show.

In conclusion, confidence in leadership is crucial. It’s not about putting on an act; it’s about building a solid foundation of skills and knowledge. This makes you a leader others can truly believe in and follow.

10 Ways to Become More Confident

Communication

Communication is a crucial skill for leaders. It’s about making things easier to understand, not more complicated. Complexity can confuse and overwhelm people. Simple communication, on the other hand, builds confidence.

Good leaders work hard to simplify complex ideas. They break down tough concepts into something everyone can grasp. This clarity helps teams understand what’s needed and move forward confidently.

To communicate well, leaders should focus on being concise and clear. They should aim to answer key questions in simple terms: What needs to be done? Who is responsible? When should it be completed? Where will it take place? Why is it important? How will it be done?

By addressing these questions clearly, leaders guide their teams effectively. Everyone knows their role and the goals they’re working toward. This reduces misunderstandings and boosts team efficiency.

In summary, great leaders enable their teams through clear communication. They strip away the unnecessary, focus on the essential, and ensure everyone understands their part in the mission. This is how leaders inspire and lead successfully.

Adaptability

Adaptability is a crucial trait for leaders because the world is always changing. Leaders might try to predict the future, but it’s like navigating without a map. There are too many variables, and they’re always shifting. That’s why being adaptable is so important.

Good leaders are quick to adjust their strategies. They understand that what worked yesterday might not work today. They stay ready to learn and adapt, which keeps them effective even when circumstances shift dramatically.

This adaptability often stems from a clear understanding of their core reasons or ‘whys.’ Knowing why you’re doing something gives you a framework to adapt your ‘how.’ It’s about flexibility with a purpose.

Embracing systems thinking can also enhance a leader’s adaptability. This approach helps leaders see patterns and relationships within complexities. It reveals how changes in one area can affect others, making it easier to adjust plans effectively.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of adaptability in leadership. We saw how poor leadership worsened crises, while good leadership could literally save lives. Leaders who adapted quickly helped their nations recover faster.

Being adaptable doesn’t just mean changing when you have to. It means being continually open to new ideas and approaches. It’s about being agile and responsive, not just as a leader, but as an entire organization.

In conclusion, adaptability is not just a useful skill; it’s essential for survival and success. As the world evolves, so must leaders and their strategies. By fostering adaptability, leaders can navigate uncertainties and lead their teams through any challenges that arise.

leadership opportunities


While it’s possible to list 100 leadership qualities, the key is not in the quantity but in defining your unique identity as a leader. Each characteristic serves as a tool, but the essence lies in understanding who you are and what you stand for.

Leadership traits can certainly be learned and developed over time. However, simply adopting qualities without a clear sense of self can lead to a disjointed leadership style that feels inauthentic.

What truly matters is embracing a characteristic that aligns with your vision of the leader you aspire to be. This alignment ensures consistency in your actions and decisions, building trust and credibility with your team.

Focusing on a few core qualities that resonate with your personal values allows you to lead with authenticity and conviction. This approach not only enhances your effectiveness but also inspires others to follow suit.

Ultimately, leadership is not about fitting into a predefined mold but about cultivating qualities that reflect your true self. By defining your identity, you can lead with integrity and make a meaningful impact.

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