14 Characteristics of Effective Leaders (With Leadership Tips)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 9 January 2023
Published 26 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Powerful leaders display and cultivate similar characteristics. Developing effective leadership skills allows leaders to maximise their own potential and improve the outcomes of their teams. If you're new to a leadership role or want to improve your effectiveness as a leader, you may find it interesting to discover some of the most useful and important leadership qualities. In this article, we explain 14 characteristics of effective leaders and provide you with some valuable tips that may help you become a more effective leader.
14 characteristics of effective leaders
Some key characteristics of effective leaders include:
A leader with integrity can help foster trust within a team. Teams usually feel safer and more supported within the workplace environment if their leader demonstrates ethical leadership principles. A leader can instil confidence in a team by treating each member fairly and advocating for the team's success. If a leader's behaviour is consistently in line with their principles, it can also help to create an ethical organisational culture.
A team is more likely to trust a leader who is transparent and encourages open communication. An effective leader is open about the direction of the organisation and any goals or challenges it faces and provides team members with a clear understanding of their role and what they can contribute. An open and honest leader can inspire a team to feel respected and valued. This can lead to greater engagement and productivity.
A leadership role means assuming responsibility for a team. Each team member has autonomy and may make mistakes, so it's important that a leader is accountable for their own decisions. Accountability means accepting responsibility for your decisions and the outcomes of your choices and determining ways to make better decisions in the future. Identifying a problem is often the first step towards solving it as a team. A leader who demonstrates accountability encourages members to identify and acknowledge their own mistakes, which can also help to develop a growth mindset within the team.
4. The ability to empower team members
Part of a leader's role is to inspire each team member to achieve their best. Empowering a team involves showing respect, building relationships and challenging the team to find solutions together. When a leader displays confidence in the members of their team, it helps them to feel supported and confident in their own abilities. This empowers them to strive for excellence and produce the best work they can.
5. The ability to think strategically
Effective leadership requires forward-thinking and an openness to change. Thinking strategically is an ongoing process. It involves an awareness of the organisation's broader context and a curiosity and willingness to try new ideas while focusing on the future. An example of this is through the continual reassessment of internal processes, such as roadmapping or technological advancements. It's also important for a leader to motivate a team to think strategically. This may involve hosting brainstorming sessions to encourage the team to consider innovative ideas.
6. Problem-solving skills
Leaders may encounter challenges that require a creative solution. Having the resources to consider each issue from different angles can help when a leader doesn't have an immediate solution. A leader's role is to guide and empower a team when they face challenges. This may involve offering them several solutions to consider or asking leading questions to encourage the team to find the answer independently. As a leader, developing your problem-solving skills can help you face challenges with greater confidence and achieve better outcomes.
7. The willingness to take risks
Taking calculated risks can help a team or organisation grow. For a leader within a large company, experimentation is often important for establishing or maintaining a competitive advantage. A culture of risk-taking and innovation also requires a leader to endorse bold ideas and creativity. It's important that team members can propose new ideas without worrying about the final result. An effective leader encourages a team to consider every idea, even unsuccessful ones, as a learning experience that can help with risk-informed decision making in the future.
The ability to persevere and overcome adversity is a critical characteristic of effective leaders. A leader's role is to guide a team through challenges and maintain an optimistic attitude. A resilient leader can accept setbacks and put their energy into finding the most productive pathway forward. For example, if significant restructuring is occurring within a company, an effective leader may direct their attention towards helping the team prepare for and manage any future challenges.
9. The ability to connect with a team
A typical team consists of individuals with a diverse range of talents and interests. Good leaders appreciate this and can develop meaningful connections with each member. If a leader is aware of what each member is good at and enjoys, it can boost productivity and engagement within the team. Providing the opportunity for regular meetings that encourage honesty can help a leader to determine this information. Connecting regularly with a team also demonstrates a leader's interest in each individual's aspirations and career goals.
10. The ability to delegate
Delegating tasks is an important skill for effective leaders. It helps a leader to manage their time effectively and keep projects progressing. It also enables a team to develop their skills and sense of autonomy. Delegating work among members can facilitate teamwork, provide opportunities for growth and encourage better decision making. To delegate effectively, a leader may ask each team member to nominate their preferred tasks or provide brief outlines of more complex projects before assigning them. An effective leader typically provides a team with honest feedback and encourages time-management skills.
11. Effective communication skills
Communicating clearly with a team is central to effective leadership. A leadership role typically requires daily communication with a wide range of people from different roles and backgrounds. How a leader communicates may depend on the context. For example, a leader may alter the tone of their voice and word choice depending on whether the aim is to encourage and inspire a team member or relay complex information. The success of a project or vision may depend on how clearly a leader communicates it.
12. Active listening skills
Effective leaders actively listen without bias or passing judgement and give others their full attention when approached with a challenge or idea. They remain engaged and curious and usually use positive body language, such as nodding or eye contact. Active listening promotes a culture of open and respectful communication. It also encourages colleagues to share their ideas, which promotes diversity and can contribute to a company's success.
13. The ability to recognise success
Respecting a team involves recognising their successes and significant achievements, ensuring each member feels appreciated and acknowledging a job well done. This can improve job satisfaction and help team members to feel proud of their role and contribution to the organisation. An effective leader can foster a culture of recognition by giving the team the opportunity to share the progress or achievements of their colleagues.
14. Powerful decision-making skills
Leadership often involves making strategic decisions quickly. In a rapidly changing business environment, deliberating the best outcome isn't always possible. The confidence to make fast decisions comes from an extensive understanding of the broader organisation and its history. This knowledge enables a leader to balance potential opportunities with the organisation's long-term goals and objectives. Decisions made quickly and confidently may help the organisation grow and remain competitive.
Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles
Tips for improving leadership skills
The following steps may help you develop the key characteristics of effective leaders:
Identify your strengths and areas to develop: If you're new to a leadership position or would like to improve your leadership qualities, identifying your strengths and areas where you can develop is typically the first step. Reflecting on your current abilities can help you establish goals and plan ways to improve.
Learn to self-manage: Your effectiveness as a leader may depend on how much you can contribute to the role. Consider how you manage your own time, emotions, stress levels and how well you balance your personal and professional life.
Develop leadership presence: Identifying your leadership style and core values is often helpful. If you have a clear idea of the image you want to project and what values you plan to uphold, it can help you lead with greater confidence and communicate your ideas more convincingly.
Practice self-awareness: This is a continuous process that requires you to reflect on your leadership performance over a week or month. Journaling is often useful for this task as it helps you identify areas to improve, such as communicating more effectively with your team.
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