What really defines good leadership? We all have our own subjective opinions about what constitutes a good leader. Depending on the company and industry, the requirements or expectations also look different. Yet there are some general and highly essential qualities we all recognize as good leadership.
We usually say that no one is born a leader. With self-insight and courage, you will develop in the role. This means that you have all the prerequisites to become a really good leader – as long as you are willing to learn! Here I have collected 30 things that good leaders and managers do.
Lead others – up, forward!
To lead is to take yourself, the staff and the organization to a new place. To succeed, you do not necessarily have to have the title of manager – good leadership is more about lifting others to the next step in the development ladder through various behaviors.
According to Susan Wheelan, one of the world’s most prominent researchers in leadership, flexibility and the will to learn is what determines whether you succeed.
There are also many certified leadership educations you can attend to further your understanding on how to become a better leader.
22 + 8 things good leaders do
The list of what characterizes good leadership can be made long. Here I have collected 24 points – see which ones you can check off, and which things you can do more of to develop your leadership + 8 bonus tips.
1. Have a positive attitude
Negative people often create negative stress. If you train yourself to be optimistic and try to make the best of every situation, you will find that it will be much easier to motivate others to do their best. And also to help others grow.
Being positive does not mean walking around like a smiley face. But if you have an optimistic view, you will see mistakes, problems and setbacks as such. And then you will find the ways forward.
Do you feel that stress, demands and musts have an ability to depress you? Then it is important that you have the tools and attitudes to deal with stress, so that you can maintain your positive attitude even when the pace is high.
2. Ability to delegate
Being able to delegate tasks to employees or entire departments is one of the most important qualities you can develop in the role of leader. The more information you have, the lower the overall quality of your work.
Remember the saying “No one can do everything but everyone can do something”. A good leader knows that you achieve higher results by using other people’s skills.
3. Radiate confidence
Confident people are often inspiring, and when you as a leader believe in yourself and what you do, your employees will feel both safe and motivated.
One of the best ways to improve your self-confidence is to become aware of the things you have already accomplished. Tip! Make a pride list with three things you are proud of and place it somewhere where you see it often!
The next step is to become confident in what you are going to do going forward. Taking in new information, listening to common mistakes and learning from others are excellent ways to feel greater self-confidence.
4. Good communication skills
It is important to describe the tasks to be performed in a clear and concise manner. Correct information from the beginning facilitates the work and reduces the risk of misunderstandings.
In addition, it is important that all employees in the organization know that you as a leader are working towards a greater goal. It is your job as a leader to communicate your vision for the company.
Working for a vision is much more inspiring than working for your own gain and this will be reflected in the company’s results.
Research shows that many managers spend 75–90% of their time on operational activities, while as little as 25–10% is devoted to leading. Your most important task as a leader is to ensure that others succeed.
You do not have to have a degree in psychology, but learning how you and others work in different situations will help you to better conditions in the leadership role. Leadership is about paying attention to others’ and own feelings and behaviors and using that knowledge wisely, to achieve your goals.
5. Honesty and transparency
Your employees are the company’s face to the outside world – and in some cases a reflection of yourself. It is up to you as a leader to set the level of honesty and ethical behavior, both externally and internally.
If an employee has done away with themselves, it is important that they feel safe enough to admit their mistake instead of trying to sweep it under the rug. When you as a leader set a good example and honestly show your mistakes, your team will dare to follow.
6. Set a vision
Aim for the stars and you will reach the treetops, it is said. So what does your star look like? By putting your vision in print, you create a deeper purpose for your work. What does your future look like? Where are you going? Why?
How do you see that your employees and your team can develop along the way? When the vision is clear, it becomes both easier and more fun to start climbing.
7. Be able to rest in oneself
There may be periods when you feel a concern for the company’s future and where everything does not go according to a set plan or goal. In such times, it is important not to panic.
It is part of your job as a leader to put out fires with confidence and ensure that motivation is kept alive. Adversity is a part of life and it is important to assure everyone that it will turn around, as long as you stay focused on the goal.
Being able to handle the dynamics between the group members in both ups and downs is an important ability for a leader.
8. Sell the vision
When the vision is clear to you, you have the most difficult – and most fun – left. It’s time to paint and bring it to life for others.
To sell a vision, you need to inspire everyone to move in the same direction.
At least two components are required to succeed in it: the ability to enthuse in the present and perseverance to lead change over time.
Change is challenging for most people and you need to give the group time to adopt your vision. Imagine that an employee tells you that now they are going on parental leave and you will see each other in six months. You need some time to prepare it, right? It’s the same with the changes you plan.
9. Be able to create commitment
As a leader, you probably expect your team to work hard, but it is important that you make the same demands on yourself.
There is nothing more motivating than seeing the boss work as hard or harder than everyone else. By showing commitment, you will not only gain respect, you will also inspire others to show the same energy and drive.
10. Make a long-term plan
A goal is a dream with a plan. Creating a strategy is a better word for that plan. In a strategy work, you find out where you are today, where to go and what it takes to get there.
It can be about positioning your organization in relation to others or finding a niche where you can work entirely yourself. How should your organization or department proceed to function as optimally as possible?
11. Positive and humorous
I cant stress this enough but, when you do not really reach the goal and the pressure rises, it is easy for relationships at work to be negatively affected.
Motivation is strongly associated with productivity and in the role of leader, it is your job to show a positive energy even (and perhaps above all) during adversity.
Humor is a tool that can be used to encourage employees and help create a good work environment where your employees look forward to spending their working day.
12. Prioritize and make decisions
Emails, phone calls, meetings and daily to-do lists often control everyday life. More often than not, something unforeseen happens that takes over the working day, the piles on the desk continue to grow and suddenly it’s Friday again. Is it recognizable?
Yes, it’s easy to fall into the hamster wheel. But the recipe for that ailment is:
- Dare to make decisions
Write down the five goals that are most important to you in the long run. Make a plan for each of them. Evaluate your calendar regularly: are you investing your time right? Maybe you miss meetings that do not directly lead to goal fulfillment? Or that you could delegate to someone else?
Work consistently and patiently – but dare to make decisions and try your hand at different solutions. What’s the worst that could happen?
Being creative as a leader means that you see opportunities where others see problems. Problems rarely have a simple solution.
Sometimes you have to think outside the box to lead successfully, and this is exactly where your creativity will show.
14. Create relationships in the group
This is not speed dating we’re talking about. But feel free to create, or encourage, opportunities where employees have the opportunity to talk and get to know each other. To hang out from time to time in more relaxed ways is worth its weight in gold.
The vision, an often enormous driving force. Inspiring employees is a good quality if you want them to achieve future goals. Short-term goals may spur for the moment.
But to achieve long-term success, you need to paint a vision for your employees to strive for. Also, remember to pay attention to your employees’ commitment and give praise for their efforts.
16. Make sure the group sees itself as a team
A group is a bunch of people. A team is a team that strives for the same goal. What should your group achieve? What challenges do you need to overcome together? Make sure your goals are measurable, concrete and realistic.
17. Understand your team and your different strengths
Really successful teams can not only consist of Elon Musks or Ronaldos. People are needed in all positions: goalkeeper, defense, midfield but also coaches, organizers and the person who mows the lawn.
And to succeed, all your different personalities and skills need to interact and communicate in the best possible way.
18. Contribute to motivation
Find out what motivates your staff and link it to what you need to achieve. (That is; your goals!) Things that can motivate are responsibility, the opportunity to grow, creativity, to be seen and receive positive praise for what you do well.
Specifically, this can mean that the next time you have an exciting project underway, make sure who is most motivated by it and give them the responsibility. It frees up time for you and gives them room to grow.
19. Be a good role model
Do what you say and say what you do. Honesty and transparency show that you are credible and that you have integrity. Of course, it can be tempting to take shortcuts.
Maybe you have ever felt the bad conscience creep in if you yourself happen to be late, when you have just talked about the importance of keeping times.
But dare to highlight the elephant in the room. When you acknowledge your own shortcomings and promise (honestly!) Improvement, you lead by being a role model.
20. Set expectations and rules of the game
Be clear about what you expect from your employees, and ask them what they expect from you. Once you have set a clear framework for your collaboration, you can then put all the gunpowder on the right things.
If your team works well, you can let them set the rules of the game themselves. What should we do more of and what should we do less of? What should we dare to test? If you create game rules yourself, be clear about why you set them and be consistent.
Not everyone will like it from the start. But good leaders are not always liked by everyone. Your job is to look at the whole and what is good for the group, organization and individual in the long term.
21. Develop and acquire the right talent
Recruiting costs both time and money, and the majority of all recruitments fail because the requirements profile is not good enough. Making a clear role description is important whether you need to hire or give existing staff new responsibilities to grow into.
So that you and everyone else know what you need. Because you would not order a machine that costs a million a year without first making a good requirements specification?
22. Coach others to success
Why do they not just do as you say? Yes, sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes the will or courage tries to do what we know needs to be done.
When one of your employees asks a question about a practical situation, the simple solution in many cases is that you deliver a quick answer on how the matter should be resolved.
The solution that, on the other hand, provides more in the long run is to make the person take responsibility for the situation.
Five good questions to ask:
- How do you want the result to be?
- How can you get there?
- What obstacles are in the way?
- What resources can help you?
- What do you need from me to make a decision?
8 leadership behaviors that create trust and less stress
You have probably heard of the super hormone oxytocin which reduces stress and anxiety and calms us.
But did you know that as a leader you can increase the feel-good hormone in your employees and at the same time increase trust, motivation and productivity?
Here I give tips on which leadership behaviors can work wonders.
Oxytocin, the superstar among hormones, is today well known and acclaimed for its beneficial properties. It is also usually called the feel-good hormone, the peace-of-mind hormone, the anti-stress hormone or the love hormone.
Oxytocin is a body-specific hormone that is secreted when we, for example, breastfeed, exercise, hug, love, get a massage or are with people we like.
When oxytocin is released into the bloodstream, it affects our entire system; your heart rate goes down and both blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol drop. It reduces pain, stress and anxiety.
And when the feeling of well-being increases, we become relaxed and feel safe, which in turn makes us more social and curious about our surroundings.
Oxytocin + increased confidence = true
But how does the oxytocin production of your employees relate to your leadership?
Do you have to take a massage course or start hugging your employees at Monday meetings? No, we do not have to go that far.
The key word for you as a leader is trust. Research shows that oxytocin is also secreted when we show support and encouragement and when we listen to each other.
When we have close contact with someone we trust and who wants us well, the body’s production of the anti-stress hormone is triggered.
By creating a culture of trust, you can raise the level of the feel-good hormone in your employees. And employees who feel good, perform well. Oxytocin can thus be a winning factor in your organization.
The link between trust and achievement
Research shows incredible figures in companies with a high culture of trust. When we feel good at work, our self-perceived stress decreases by 70%, we experience work as 27% more meaningful and staff turnover decreases by 69%.
Neuro-leadership researcher Paul Zak has identified eight key behaviors, each of which has a major impact on people’s sense of meaning and context.
How to create trust in the team – 8 tips
By becoming aware of the specific behaviors that increase the level of oxytocin, you can build trust and make your employees feel better, be more comfortable, want to perform and be part of the team. Here is what I have learned from Paul Zak’s reserch on good leadership behavior.
1. Pay attention and praise achievements
Positive reinforcement instead of negative feedback works infinitely much better as a change agent!
When you pay attention and give quick feedback and praise to your employees for their efforts, development and results, you create wonderful rings on the water.
Focus on the behaviors that you want to see more of and avoid criticizing and punishing unwanted behaviors, which in the long run only leads to stress and ill health.
2. Set challenging but realistic goals
Positive expectations of a working group stimulate oxytocin and build trust among the group members. It also increases commitment and well-being.
The important thing here is that you as a leader make sure that the goals are realistic and time-limited, and that you communicate clear, positive expectations.
Ambiguity, uncontrollable workload or insufficient resources otherwise create the opposite; a negative stress which, on the contrary, inhibits the release of oxytocin.
3. Trust employees’ decisions
When you as a manager trust the employee’s decision and independence and look at mistakes as opportunities for learning, the benefits come naturally.
The employee grows, your relationship becomes stronger and it contributes to increased well-being and increased productivity. yaay!
4. Create a learning culture
It is an art to make sure that all the talents and skills available in the team are utilized. Encouraging independence and personal leadership creates action-packed teams.
If you also succeed in creating security and a culture where employees want and can share knowledge and experiences, everyone in the team wins.
You as a leader set the standard for exchange in the team, and should set a good example both by sharing your own skills – and by being humble enough to ask to take part in the employees.
5. Dare to be open
Openness between people builds trust. (In personal relationships, openness contributes to the release of oxytocin, which can reduce the negative stress that can arise due to insecurity.)
When you as a leader are transparent and share ideas and information, you also build trust. By seeking and encouraging others’ input, you contribute to the group’s relationships and development.
But think personal, not private. Professional openness is not about detailing your privacy, but about showing that you have nothing to hide.
6. Really show that you care
In organizations with a high degree of trust, you as a manager really care about your employees. You show care and consideration for everyone in the team. Feeling good at work creates positive conditions for good cooperation and is an effective vaccine against all stress-related problems at work.
7. Develop your employees talents
As a leader, you invest time in developing your employees’ talents, identifying their strengths and opportunities to grow, and supporting continuous training and development at work.
Every minute or penny invested pays off many times over and creates a positive spiral that increases the incredibly important trust capital between you and your team.
8. Be yourself, be human
A leader who is natural and genuine builds trust. If you have integrity, are consistent and honest, and are also open with your own shortcomings and willing to ask for help – then you are not just showing yourself as a genuine human, but setting the standard for the whole team.
Hopefully this article has inspired you to want to develop your leadership skills, good luck my friend 🙂
Do you want to go more in depth and learn more about leadership? Then check out this video I found on Youtube: