Characteristics of a Great Leader

There has always been a great debate on if leaders are born or made. It is truly a little of both. Born leaders will not be successful without training and “Made” leaders often have some traits that they were born with that they refined over the years. Leaders influence and motivate their employees - either positively or negatively. Great leaders not only influence and motivate their employees, they also help to empower their employees to want to perform well. There are many qualities of a great leader. Let’s look at the top five.


Great leaders listen without judgment or a motive. What does this mean? It means you are listening for what is being said and how it is being said as well as what, if anything, is being asked of you. It means you are not going into a conversation thinking of what you want to get out of it. Or thinking of all of your thoughts of the employee. You want to listen with the goal of making your employees feel heard. What you learn, many times is what is more important to them, where they are truly struggling, or what they are most strong at and all of these things help you to help them get even better.


Great leaders demonstrate empathy. Empathy requires a level of patience and tolerance. This is not to say you tolerate bad behavior. It means you separate yourself from the situation and don’t take poor or bad performance personally. It means you retain the ability to understand the importance of giving compassion to your employees. Empathy shows you care more about the person than the project or assignment. This can be reflected in asking how a person is feeling when they have come back to work after an illness or death in the family, before immediately discussing the work that needs to be done. You’d be surprised how far a sincere check-in on a person goes. You may see their perf


Great leaders create an environment of trust. Trust is not something attained without work. And if damaged, it is extremely difficult to repair. Trust can be built in many different ways such as explaining expectations and providing the training and coaching to reach those expectations. Showing you truly care about your people includes listening and displaying empathy. Mutual respect also helps to build trust. That can include keeping your commitments and leading by example. Other ways may be keeping confidences - meaning not discussing your employees out in public or where you can be overheard. Trust is another area that pays in dividends and can also be costly when broken.


Great leaders find ways to help their employees grow. This means investing in the development of your employees. Employees want to know you are concerned about their whole being and part of that is growth in them personally. And, really, as you invest in the growth of your employees, you benefit. 


Great leaders motivate their employees. This can be as simple as understanding your employees’ goals and aspirations and encouraging them to those goals. It can also be part of the environment you create - one that rewards the right behavior and recognizes achievements - that helps to motivate and drive performance. Ultimately, remember that what motivates one, may not be the same for another. So, you have to know your people and their individual motivators. 
So, how do you know if you are a great leader or just an “okay” leader? You will see it in the relationships with your employees. How do they perform when you are not around? What does your turnover look like? How do they speak of you years later? And, remember, it is never too late to become a great leader