What Makes a Good Leader? The Traits of a Good Leader

about good leadership• Learn what makes a good leader - according to Soren, the PD Guy.

• See the traits of a good leader, read about styles of leadership ...
• ... management vs leadership and what makes a good manager.

• Plus: leadership theories, leadership examples & quotes ...
• ... gender and leadership & the challenges of women in leadership.

• And maybe get provoked by the idea of ... love ... in leadership!

• If you want, you can jump directly to the middle of this leadership article, where you get the LIST of traits called What Makes a Good Leader - the Traits of a Good Leader

Who Is This Text Meant For?

This text is focused on you - as a leader ... or perhaps as a wannabe leader. People who have leaders can join the fun, too. There's something here for just about everyone who's interested in leadership.

Be prepared to get some high level insight, some useful leadership tools, some questions that make you think and some generally useful knowledge.

So read on. The Personal Development Guy might just have something to offer you ...

Who Am I to Talk? 

Well, I do have an MBA (Master of Business Administration) and I've worked with business leadership coaching as an executive coach in the corporate world for about 10 years.

That was before I turned self employed and continued this work on my own, part time.

Today I provide my own personal business coaching consulting executive services - as well as doing business leadership coaching and life coaching online [LINK].

I do know what I'm talking about - even if my views about what makes a good leader are sometimes a bit controversial.

What Makes a Good Leader?

This is actually a simple question which deserves a simple answer. I'll provide one:

A good leader is someone who loves to lead other people and does his or her very best at it, in such a way that other people love to be led and do their very best, too.

This definition is deliberately simplistic, because with almost everybody having an opinion about leadership and a true abundance of leadership theories it's so easy to get lost. I'll get into the more complex bits about leadership shortly, but for now please just notice this:

Love and doing your best. Those are the two key concepts.

Leadership Definition: What Is Leadership? Let's Define Leadership

If you want to dig a little deeper into the nature of leadership and read a number of different definitions of leadership, including the Personal Development Guy's leadership definition, you can check out the leadership article Leadership Definition: What Is Leadership? Let's Define Leadership . Otherwise, please just read on, there's plenty here to make you think ...

Love - and Fear - as Leadership Tools

Love isn't some wishy-washy-hippie thing. It's actually a concrete and highly useful leadership tool.

Belief can be a great motivator, as can plain shared interests, but nothing motivates people as powerfully as love does. If you don't use love in your leadership you're missing out on something really important and not getting the results you deserve. We'll get back to that in a bit - in the form of some questions that make you think about what makes a good leader.

If you're using fear as one of your a motivational tools, your idea about leadership is antiquated and you ARE getting the results you deserve! No, seriously, fear makes people stupid and inefficient. If you've ever seen someone in a panic you know exactly what I mean.

Some Questions that Make You Think

Sooo ... Here are some questions that make you think, perhaps:

If you don't love to lead,
maybe you shouldn't be leading other people?

Some folks become leaders simply because they themselves don't want to be led. That is a perfectly valid reason, but it's also based on avoiding rather than attaining [LINK], which usually leads to sub-par results.

If you're a leader for this reason, perhaps you should consider becoming self employed? If you ARE already self employed and now have employees, perhaps you should consider getting someone who loves to lead to lead your employees for you?

If you don't do your best,

maybe you should be doing something else?
There really is no reason to - and no point in - doing something if you don't feel like doing your best. Doing your best is a natural consequence of doing something you love. If you don't want to do your best, you probably don't love what you're doing. Maybe it's time for a change - in a direction you'd love?

If the people you're leading aren't doing their best,
maybe there's something you could do differently - and better?

Yeah, I know that leaders aren't all powerful - which is a good thing, considering some of the famous and infamous leaders of this day and age.

Of course your leadership isn't the only thing affecting the people you're leading, but being a leader you ARE in fact important. Your decisions, policies and actions (not the least of which is your personal example) affect the people you lead. There's no doubt about it.

So there are all sorts of reasons to get wise to the characteristics of good leadership. Let me just take you on a quick tour of some important elements.

        leadership advice

What Are the Traits of a Good Leader?

Despite the simplicity of my answer above (love and doing your best while getting others to do the same) what makes a good leader is also a bit more than that.

A good leader has many desirable personal qualities AND has learned the practical skills needed to excel in his or her job.

A good leader is an inspiration to the members of his team and at the same time is able to fulfil or exceed the expectations of his or her superiors (if such exist).

The traits of a good leader include personal attributes that also make you a great person overall. Below are the ones I think are the most important.

What Makes a Good Leader

Traits of a good leader include being ...

- honest and authentic
- trustworthy
- accepting
- common sense and a certain level of general intelligence
- able to understand himself or herself
- able to understand other people
- able to choose and stick by the choice
- focused and goal oriented
- courageous
- playful, flexible and willing to try out new things
- willing to make mistakes and learn
- passionate

(Ah, passionate - there's that bit about love again).

In fact all Your Keys to Relationships apply. Which is not surprising as leadership is very much about relationships.

There's Always Room for Improvement

Whether you've been a leader for decades or you're just about to get into the game, there's always something new you can learn about what makes a good leader.

Most good leaders had to learn their skills. There will always be the rare exceptions of people who seemingly were born leaders and destined for greatness, but those people are few and far between. In fact they're so rare we write about them in the history books.

Most people learn effective leadership styles [LINK] much like they learn any other type of business skill.

Personal development, self improvement, motivation, inspiration, goal setting, management and leadership are huge areas and if you add spirituality and mindfullness, something which I do encourage, you're set with lessons to last a lifetime.

Self help audio, leadership books, business leadership coaching, personal leadership development classes, the occasional leadership training seminar and having a leadership development plan are all excellent ways to proceed.

Yeah, yeah, I know. You don't have time for all that. So, pick one and make time.

Personal Leadership Development

Leadership is both something we do and something we are. Hence, there' really no way around this leadership article: Personal Leadership Development.

Use Your Strengths
and Compensate for Your Weaknesses

There are lots of tools, theories and techniques to learn about what makes a good leader, and through careful self reflection you can not only develop your good qualities, but also pinpoint your weaknesses and learn how to work around them.

What makes a good leader in this respect? It's simple, really: Whatever you're good at, use it and get even better. Whatever you're not good at, either learn how to improve it or get qualified help.

So many leaders I have known have gotten bogged down and stressed out by trying to all the things they didn't have the time (nor the qualifications) for. Don't let that be you. Get help. You're a leader, right?

In any case your very reading of this leadership article is proof of your intention and dedication to learn what makes a good leader. By doing so you're displaying the two traits of a good leader which I consider most important ... you know ... love / passion and doing your best.

Leadership Theories

Want to know what the most common and respected general theories of leadership entail?

I'll tell you about the great man theory, trait theory of leadership, management theories, situational leadership theory, contingency theory, transformational leadership theory and more.

At first glance this might seem like heavy stuff, but I make it easy.

And, as always, I also add my own personal comments and opinions.

Read all of it in another one of the educational leadership articles: Leadership Theories.

Leadership Examples

When you ponder what makes a good leader, you may gain some insight by reading about examples of leadership.
Here's what to do: Look for common traits and compare those to yourself. Be inspired. Learn.

What makes these leaders so successful? Part of it may be charisma, but when you look at many different examples of leadership, you are likely to see the common themes ... like setting goals, being determined, being passionate and doing your absolute best.

Consider how those things relate to you. Nobody is good at everything, and neither are you. Accept this, deal with it, and you may be destined for your own version of greatness. Meet 10 women and men who are nice examples of leadership (and different examples of leadership styles) - in the leadership article: Leadership Examples.

Leadership Lesson Plans:
How the Newbie Can Learn More
about What Makes a Good Leader

Styles of leadership are often taught in college business classes.

These professional leadership lesson plans contain practical actionable steps you can take to discover what makes a good leader and put it into use in your professional and personal life.

A leadership theories training course is certainly beneficial for anyone in a position of leadership. Your employer (if you have one) might offer you the chance to take one of these classes. If not, you can probably find one at your adult education center or college. If nothing else, you can look for books on theories of leadership, take a video course or get personal leadership coaching. Read more in one of the upcoming educational leadership articles: Leadership Lesson Plans.

Effective Styles of Leadership

The traits of a good leader today certainly include a willingness to learn new leadership styles and stay ahead of the curve. However, some traits are timeless like being authentic in your dealings with people and treating everyone with respect - and all the other traits I mentioned above.

The best leaders don't try to force people into action; instead they lead people due to their personal qualities.

Studying about what makes a good leader will help you gain a deeper understanding of human psychology and what attracts people and persuades them into action.
Great leaders know how to attract, persuade, foster trust, and inspire people to act. They also need practical skills like good decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution. Read more in yet another one of the educational leadership articles: Styles of Leadership .

Leadership versus Management

When considering what makes a good leader, take the time to become clear on leadership versus management.
What makes a good manager is not necessarily the same thing as what makes a good leader!

To put it simply: Leaders lead people, including the managers. The managers manage - what and how the leaders tell them to.

Leaders are often visionaries who look to the future and determine the overall strategies. Quite often they network a lot, building relationships and creating collaborations. Leaders are usually generalists, but at the same time they often tend to stay more or less within their overall niche - the one where their true passion lies.

Managers often focus on more on short term goals. Often they set the policies meant to carry out the strategies in practice. They, too, often network, but their focus on collaboration tends to be a bit more small scale, perhaps more along the lines of teamwork. Managers are a funny blend of generalists and specialists (a sort of specialized generalists), as witnessed by the fact that often managers don't care what niche they're working in. They tend to believe their skills will work in any niche.

When it comes to management vs leadership one isn't better than the other. Both are necessary. Each is important but because they are different they require different skills. So what makes a good manager is pretty much unrelated to what makes a good leader. Read more in one of the educational leadership articles: Leadership versus Management.

What Makes a Good Manager?

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't just touch upon the subject of management and told you something about what makes a great manager. As by now you're well aware, it's not quite the same as what makes a good leader. The traits, skill sets and several other things are different. So, if you're interested in management, please read the management article: What Makes a Good Manager?

Gender and Leadership

Just a few decades ago, women were not allowed to hold important leadership roles. (In fact, in times past, men, too, were quite restricted - to heavy handed styles of leadership). In the West this has changed.

Female leaders are mainstream today. When it comes to gender and leadership, males and females are both equally capable.

What they are is different. The gender of does affect focus and behavior; but women with a predominately masculine charisma and men with a predominately feminine charisma certainly do exist.

The main point here is this: What matters is not the gender but the personal qualities. In the end the traits of a good leader completely transcend gender. Read more about this in one of the general articles on leadership: Gender and Leadership.

Challenges of Women in Leadership

Even though we've come a long way with regard to equality of the sexes, we still have a ways to go. Female leaders still have challenges that are unique to them.

Read more in another one of the general articles on leadership: Challenges of Women in Leadership.

Leadership Quotes

I've had an interest in quotes for many, many years. As you'll see towards the very end this page I've started a website about them (Quotescoop.com).

Consequently I have quite a large collection of good quotes and I'd like to present you with the best quotes about leadership. Just note, please, that this particular page may be some time in coming, as I've got a lot of good quotes to sort through. But when it get here, it'll be called: Leadership Quotes.

A Favorite Leadership Quote

Ah, I couldn't resist. I had to share a single leadership quote with you - one of my all time favorite leadership quotes:

To lead people, walk beside them ... As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate ... When the best leader's work is done the people say, 'We did it ourselves!'
~ Lao-tsu ~

Leadership in Times of Change

All else being equal (a typical business expression which is funny expression in this regard) times have never changed faster than they do today.

The only thing we can be reasonably sure of regarding tomorrow ... is that it will be somehow different from today.

And leadership is all about change. Visionary leadership is what propels a company into the future. So it makes sense that leadership styles are constantly evolving as well.

What makes a good leader today may not be relevant in ten years as society changes. If you have (or are about to get) a leadership role, you should be prepared to spend your career staying abreast of trends, because not only will it help your company become more profitable, it might even be a question of company survival.

Final Thoughts: We're Moving in the Right Direction

In spite of the artificial doomsday 'news' of the dominant media today, in my opinion things overall are getting more balanced, more whole. This is as true in business as it is in everyday private life.

It used to be that leadership and management was all about domination, dictating policy and negative motivation in the form of competitive corporate infighting and punishment. Employees were viewed as inherently lazy, and they were to be treated as mechanically as cogs in a huge, soulless machine - the corporation. Leadership was primarily autocratic where employees did what they were told.

Happily, that has changed. Studies (and experience) have showed what we all know today - that employees are usually happier and more productive when they feel motivated, inspired, are working as a team and are involved in the decision making.

Consequently today's leadership styles focus more on motivation, inspiration, teamwork and building relationships. No longer are the employees viewed as inherently lazy and even the organization itself is recognized to have a culture, perhaps even a kind of spirit, a corps de esprit.

Empowerment theory - which is rapidly becoming important in people's personal lives, will soon become important in business too. Or, that's my prediction.

All these changes have made leadership roles more attractive to women and brought diversity in leadership styles to men. They've also made working all the more interesting and satisfying for all involved.

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Inspirational Quotes, Poems and Funny Short Stuff
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