What Makes a Good Leader?

Are you a “Cool Cat” or an “Explosive Eddy”?

I don’t know about you, but I have seen plenty of infographics and social media posts about what makes a good leader and they are all much of the same but here are some I particularly resonate with because they are traits I have seen in good leaders and traits I continue to develop for myself. Let me know what traits you feel resonate with you by commenting on this post!

  • Self Manages – the ability to manage ones self is a skill within itself! Effective time management, prioritising and regulating your own emotions are essential skills of an effective leader. Too often we have seen admin tasks taking up our time when we have big impact changing tasks on our to do lists. Effective leaders know how to manage their time and say no to tasks that take away from the overall vision. I have seen some very “cool cat” leaders throughout my career who have handled a potentially explosive atmosphere with calmness, tact and maintaining their ability to show empathy and understanding while achieving the outcomes they desired. I have also seen leaders lose their temper and embarrass their team in front of others due to an over-inflated ego and this didn’t achieve the outcome they desired. Personally; I try to model my leadership skills on the first example I mentioned; be a “cool cat” knowing that this is far more likely to achieve the outcome desired than losing control of my emotions.


  • Acts Strategically – a forward thinking and open-minded approach is necessary when leading a team towards a vision. Being flexible and adaptable to new ideas and solutions will future-proof the organisation from lack of innovation. Acting strategically also helps leaders to focus on what matters and what doesn’t; giving us the opportunity to look for better ways of doing things to improve efficiencies and meet the organisations objectives. Again; too often I have seen leaders waste time on small insignificant items that make little to no impact on the broader vision; thinking strategically allows the team to align themselves to what is going to make a difference; keeping the vision, and the team, alive.


  • Effective Communicator – Being able to explain to your team everything from organisational goals to specific tasks is essential. If the team aren’t aware of what is expected of them how can we be disappointed when the task isn’t achieved? Being a multi-level communicator is a great skill to have; adapting tone, language and information to reflect the team member will help the team reach the goal more effectively. Being approachable and involving people from various levels and departments will most certainly help create a more productive work place. Personally; I absorb information best by being shown either in text or visually and then, if necessary, apply this information on a practical level. Other team members may prefer to be hands-on straight away to absorb information. Team members are likely to absorb, process and apply information differently, so it is important leaders recognise this within their teams and adapt information sharing accordingly.


  • Accountable & Responsible – leaders are the overall responsibility owner. If a team member makes a mistake it is the leader that takes ownership of that mistake and identifies how and why the issue occurred and takes steps to repair the error or adapts processes taking from the lessons learnt. There is nothing more soul-destroying than being shamed in front of team members by a manager/leader. The leader needs to self-reflect to see the role they played in the issue that occurred. Mistakes are inevitable, but I believe it is they way they are handled that are our true tests as leaders.


  • A Visionary – good leaders manage change while keeping stability and maintaining growth within their organisation. Change is always occurring; we no longer sit still. continuous improvement are two buzz words that have been thrown around for several years now. However, leaders need to balance this change with day-to-day operations while also keeping a close eye on the ongoing performance. Not an easy task! In my experience visionary leaders are exciting to work with because they keep the momentum going even when the going gets tough. I try to model my own behaviours on this as a leader by regularly reminding team members of the vision, the exciting places that are on the horizon. This helps to create a positive backdrop as the change management process is underway.


  • Manages Complexity – leaders must be problem solvers who can make decisions under rapidly shifting circumstances. Learning to lead in a complex environment is a vital skill for any leader. Effective leaders must assess a situation’s complexity and choose an appropriate course of action.


  • Sets Clear Goals – this is an obvious one and falls directly from the visionary trait. Goals are derived from an organisations strategy and objectives and are the building blocks towards achieving the overall vision. A leader is good at understanding the level of goals depending on the team. A senior management teams goals will look different to a front-line teams; however, they are equally as important.


  • Promotes Teamwork – leaders often use the word “we” instead of I. the reason for this is because they understand the power of a productive team. The MasterMind of achievement lies within a productive team. There is another article here on productive teams.


  • Creative & Innovative – this goes without saying because leaders tend to naturally be creative and innovative. Some of the most successful companies in the world were built in times of recession and depression because the leader saw an opportunity and was creative with  the very little resources they had available to them. I have led teams through some challenging times and we produced amazing results due to the ability to think-outside-the-box. When resources are limited the requirement to be creative and innovative is even more essential.


  • Builds relationships – a leader keeps the organisations purpose, values and mission at the heart of all they do. Building relationships and maintaining positive relationships with both internal and external stakeholders is essential to that mantra. I have come across damaged relationships in the past simply because personal opinion and ego got in the way. Repairing those relationships was relatively easy once personal opinion was set aside; reminding each other that both stakeholders are working towards the same objective, therefore, positive working was the best way forward.


  • Adaptable – the nature of leading a team or an organisation will always require adaptation; whether it be task-related or trait related. It is essential to have the ability as leader to adapt suddenly to changing circumstances and to know how and when to seize on opportunities amid a changing landscape. In addition, having an insatiable curiosity will fuel a leaders desire to constantly learn and grow. Developing critical thinking skills, being accepting of uncertainty, having social and emotional intelligence and always having the desire and determination to push forward will see a leader steer their team towards the organisations objectives.

Let me know what you think makes a good leader in the comments below

Until Next Time