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16 Essential Leadership Qualities

by Melanie Peterson

The leader is the person who sets the course of direction, vision and motivation for a group. A leader transcends boundaries and often has a very unique perspective due to their position. They also have a singular goal that others may or may not share. To lead effectively an individual must be able to use essential leadership qualities including assertiveness, charisma, social awareness and empathy.

1. Persistence

Leadership is a process of change. It is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Effective leadership is the ability to communicate, influence, mobilise and inspire people towards a common goal or purpose. Humans are social creatures and our connections shape us. Leadership requires that we learn from each other to grow our identity and self-worth. The leader will use strategies such as negotiation, persuasion, influencing and motivating their personal or professional team members to achieve specific outcomes and goals.

2. Motivational

The leader must have the ability to motivate people to work towards a common goal or purpose by providing clarity on what is needed and providing direction through creating passion for change within the group. Leaders are typically assertive and confrontational in their behaviour, yet they must have the ability to work with others who have different opinions and beliefs. They must be able to compromise without compromising their own integrity or the integrity of their team.

3. Strong communicator

The leader must be able to openly share their vision and articulate what they want the team to achieve or become. They need to create a vision which is compelling enough that it is shared by those who are following them. The leader needs to motivate people by providing a goal that is relevant and meaningful to them for them to feel inspired.

4. Confidence

Confidence to lead is best described by the leader’s ability to be certain of their own beliefs. The leader must be free from all doubt, fear and hesitation to effectively communicate, guide and motivate the group. At times this may require that leaders take risks and make decisions that may not always be popular with others. They must be able to stand up for what they believe is right, even if it means going against the grain or going against the majority opinion.

5. Embrace failure

Leaders must be able to embrace failure and the consequences of failure. This requires the leader to think on their feet, enabling them to adapt their plans or strategies in response to unforeseen circumstances.

6. Empathy

Effective leadership is about creating an environment that allows for individual creativity, freedom and expression. The leader must listen and also know when it’s time for them to speak up or take action. Leaders may influence members to take risks, innovate or simply do what they believe is right for the group as a whole by showing empathy with their own feelings, motives, values and goals.

7. Maintain a positive attitude

The leader must be able to see the big picture and handle complex situations. They need to be able to detach themselves from their own negative experiences or emotions to focus on the larger goal and vision.

8. A sense of humour

To be an effective leader, the leader must understand that they are being a role model. A leader needs to have the ability to laugh at themselves and take criticism well to effectively handle situations and make decisions.

9. Integrity

Leaders must be able to lead with integrity both in their actions and in the way they treat others. They need to be willing to work on a team yet also maintain their own integrity for them to truly lead others. 

10. Good communication skills

Effective leaders need to be able to listen and carefully consider the perspectives of others to achieve specific outcomes and goals. They must also have the ability to express their own opinions and beliefs to create a team that is unified in their vision, goals and objectives.

11. Self-discipline

Effective leaders understand that they need to be self-disciplined to lead effectively. They can set tough standards, rules and boundaries for the group and themselves to motivate the team towards achieving specific results. They can empower others with the freedom and possibilities of being self-disciplined as well. A good way to demonstrate self-discipline is by focusing on personal development. For example, a good leader will benefit from completing an MSc Finance and Management programme by gaining new skills and demonstrating self-discipline.

12. Organised

Organised leaders can plan their activities effectively. This includes the ability to prioritise tasks and goals based on a group’s cycle, deadlines and specific outcomes and goals. Only an organised person can take on the responsibility of leading large teams or organisations.

13. Creativity

The creative leader can think outside of the box when faced with issues. This includes being able to develop solutions for problems as well as seek alternative ways of accomplishing a task or goal. 

14. Collaborative

The collaborative leader can create an environment where people feel connected and can work together for a common purpose or goal. The leader can act as a role model for others by allowing people to work together in a cooperative and collaborative environment.

15. Manages time effectively

The leader can manage his time effectively while also having the time to accomplish important tasks or ongoing activities. This includes the ability to prioritize tasks and goals based on a group’s cycle, deadlines and specific outcomes and goals. The leader must also be able to delegate leadership responsibilities as well as have the ability to perform all other leadership functions effectively.

16. Trustworthy

Leaders are viewed as trustworthy by their team members for them to be effective leaders. The leader can empathise with and understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their leadership. This includes being approachable and considerate of others.


Leadership is a diverse field as there are many different types and levels of leadership. However, for a leader to be effective, they need to be able to communicate effectively and motivate their team members.

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