What Are Leadership Characteristics? (Plus How to Develop)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 7, 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.

Developing and applying your leadership traits at work can help you thrive in your job and advance your career. These traits may also help improve your professional marketability, whether you're just starting your career or looking for better opportunities. Understanding the important traits of a good leader can help you develop them and apply them in the workplace to advance your career rapidly. In this article, we discuss leadership characteristics, outline leadership character traits, and highlight how to develop them.

What are leadership characteristics?

Leadership characteristics are qualities that effective leaders exhibit in the workplace. Whether you're leading a project, team, department, or organization, these traits help you guide people and supervise projects to ensure they succeed. They are important in all industries as they involve soft skills rather than technical or industry-specific abilities.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

Common leadership characteristics

Here are examples of common leadership traits you can develop to become an effective leader in your workplace:

Accountability

Good leaders take responsibility for their team's performance, irrespective of the outcome. As a leader, it's advisable to commend your team when they perform admirably and offer constructive criticism on how they can improve when necessary. Similarly, taking responsibility for your actions when you do something unfavourable or make a bad decision is important. It's normal for people to make mistakes, and excellent leaders have the self-knowledge to identify their weaknesses and the confidence to discuss them with team members. Display exemplary leadership and serve as a role model for your team members.

Related: What It Means to Lead by Example (And Leadership Styles)

Adaptability

Excellent leaders understand that schedules, plans, and goals can change anytime. Adopting a flexible approach allows you to adapt when necessary, which makes you a strong and resourceful leader. Developing adaptability skills also helps you learn related leadership traits, including resourcefulness and problem-solving. You can develop your adaptability skills by practising how to accept and overcome unexpected and unforeseen circumstances rather than resisting them.

Confidence

It's important to be confident to help motivate and instil confidence in other employees. This skill is essential when faced with challenges and obstacles that impede progress. It's useful for you to always act with conviction and poise. In addition, confidence helps you quickly earn the trust of team members and other employees. You can build confidence when preparing for a presentation by practising, anticipating relevant questions, and preparing accurate and efficient answers.

Creativity

Excellent leaders don't usually copy the actions of others or follow established pathways. Rather, they adopt new strategies and methods of thinking that others haven't tried or used. As a leader, it's important to prioritize creativity to help you experiment with alternative approaches and innovative solutions to reach your goals. You can improve your creativity skills by thinking of new and different ways to resolve issues before implementing your plan.

Empathy

Company leaders, such as managers, executives, and supervisors, work at a higher level than other employees. If you find yourself in these positions, it's important to empathize with the reality and experiences of other employees. This helps you build a sustainable relationship with them and work together effectively. You can schedule informal meetings and casual conversations with team members and other employees to help you understand them better, learn about their career objectives and goals, and acknowledge their challenges. This can ensure you help them appropriately, depending on their individual needs.

Focus

Focus is necessary for handling distractions that may hinder your progress and prevent you from reaching your objectives. Attention to detail helps you achieve bigger goals and manage your resources and time effectively. You can improve your focus by scheduling alternating work periods for intensive work without interruptions and less intensive periods that allow you to address other issues. This strategy can help you build your focus and channel your attention to the appropriate places.

Positivity

Good leaders use positivity to inspire team members to do their best work, achieve their goals, and exceed expectations. Being an effective leader means exhibiting positivity during challenging times, such as delivering constructive criticism or handling difficult situations. For example, when preparing for a new project, it's advisable to focus on discussing the fulfilment of completing the project rather than the hard work or challenges the team may encounter when they start it.

Risk-taking

Leaders usually encounter challenges when performing their duties, and good leaders understand when to take a safe approach or embrace the risk. You can develop your risk management skills by learning to assess the scenarios and their advantages and disadvantages. In addition, ensure you make decisive judgements, so the team can quickly start working on your instructions. You may also consider creating a flowchart outlining the steps that help you evaluate scenarios and make confident decisions.

Related: Why Risk Management Is Important (With Strategies)

Stability

Although leaders typically inspire significant change, it's necessary for them to have a strong sense of stability. Adopting a reliable and stable approach allows you to keep the team, project, and company focused. Consider establishing regular routines and informing the team what they can expect from the project. This helps you and other team members maintain focus and energy as you work toward achieving your goals. For example, you can arrange regular meetings to discuss updates and upcoming changes to the project.

Team building

A strong and dedicated team is necessary when striving toward excellence. Being an effective leader entails inspiring team members and encouraging teamwork. This helps team members contribute their best work and challenges them to strive beyond their limits. In addition, you can introduce team-building activities, such as outdoor activities, group lunches, and icebreakers, during meetings to improve communication and promote bonding among team members.

How to develop the traits of a leader

Some people may have natural leadership abilities, while others may learn them through practise and experience. Irrespective of the means of acquiring these skills, it's necessary to develop them to ensure they continue to show throughout your career. Here are five steps to consider to help you develop the traits of an effective leader:

1. Prioritize training and learning

Consider learning as much as possible to help you develop essential qualities and new skills. You can make a list highlighting all the areas that require improvement and the methods you can use to improve these areas. For example, you can enrol in an online course to learn and develop your leadership skills. These courses help you learn in a structured environment with curated activities and lessons. You can also enrol in seminars within and outside the company. An example is a seminar to improve communication and teamwork between supervisors and team members.

Related: Best Leadership Topics for Training (With Guide and Tips)

2. Adopt a leadership style

Prominent leaders create a custom leadership style that highlights their strengths and works for them. They typically draw inspiration from common leadership approaches. Consider learning the most effective leadership styles and adopt one that suits your goals, personality, and industry. For example, you can consider adopting a leadership style that focuses on increasing progress through innovation or helping your team members become the best versions of themselves.

Related: What Are the 5 Leadership Models and How Can You Use Them?

3. Ask for more responsibilities

An excellent way to develop and learn leadership skills is to practise them. You can practise your skills by taking on additional work responsibilities that allow you to lead people and projects. For example, you can ask your managers to allow you to supervise minor projects or give important presentations during meetings. In addition, focus on developing leadership skills that allow you to get the best out of your new duties. For example, giving important presentations can help you develop confidence. Similarly, handling projects can help you improve your project management skills.

Related: Guidelines on Effective Leadership in the Workplace

4. Improve your communication skills

The most effective leaders have excellent communication skills. It's important to learn how to communicate your ideas and instructions clearly, both in writing and verbally. It's also useful for you to understand how to process suggestions and feedback to ensure you take an objective approach to problem-solving and focus on emphasizing improvements. Consider registering for online classes to help you learn effective modes of communication and how to adjust your communication skills to suit your audience.

Related: Communication in Leadership (With Improvement Tips)

5. Learn from a mentor

It may be easier for you to develop your leadership skills when you work with a mentor or supervisor you admire. Consider building a relationship with a colleague in a higher position than you or registering for the company's mentorship programs. You may also get mentors by joining professional associations or attending networking events. When you get a mentor, ensure you schedule regular meetings with them to discuss your career development and effective strategies to help you become a leader in your field.

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