7 Essential Leadership Traits of an Effective Leader

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated December 24, 2022

Published October 18, 2021

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.

Leadership is a quality that influences and inspires others to follow your direction. Learning to be a competent leader takes a combination of skills, experience, and natural personal characteristics. Understanding various leadership traits can help you develop those qualities in yourself to make you an effective leader or manager. In this article, we discuss the definition of leadership traits, explore the difference between a trait and a skill, and uncover seven qualities of leadership and ways you can develop them further.

What are leadership traits?

Leadership traits are the personal characteristics of an individual that support them in being an effective leader. Traits are natural abilities or ways of being that are inherent in a person. They are also features that relate to a person's character or personality. When leading a team in the workplace, understanding your leadership qualities can help you focus on your strengths and develop your soft skills in various critical areas, such as communication, organization, and delegation.

How are leadership traits different from skills?

Regardless of whether you look at leadership or another business function, there are significant differences between traits and skills. A skill is something you learn, either through training or experience. As a result, you develop and become competent in performing a skill, such as giving effective presentations or writing a meaningful article. Skills are also areas that employers judge your performance on, such as during a performance evaluation, as they can rate skills on a scale.

Traits differ from skills; they are aspects of your character and personality. Instead, they are innate and natural abilities. While you can develop and improve characteristics throughout your life, they don't need to be taught the same way as skills. Instead, traits represent who you are, what you do, and why you behave in specific ways.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

What are the traits of a great leader?

When striving to become an effective and influential leader, you want to be an expert in your particular field. You also want to cultivate essential leadership qualities and characteristics. Below are seven examples of leadership qualities:

Accountability

Accountability means accepting responsibility for your actions and those of your team, whether good or bad. Accountable leaders will answer questions about their decisions and actions and protect their teams from criticism regarding their leadership choices. They don't blame others for the outcome of their choices. An accountable leader also offers praise to their team when projects go well and when they meet goals. Accountability is an essential trait of leadership because it encourages ownership. Accountable leaders require personal accounts of their team members while leading by example.

To further develop accountability as a leader, here are several suggestions to try. First, you want to understand your role. To be accountable, you want to know your responsibilities. Next, use your time wisely and commit only to what you can deliver. Part of being accountable is doing what you say you're going to do. You also want to be honest and apologize when required. If an outcome is your fault, saying you're sorry goes a long way to building trust with your team.

Adaptability

Adaptability is the quality of making positive changes quickly to meet the needs of the situation. This includes being agile in learning, implementation, and process improvements. An adaptable leader is flexible in their approach to changes and will troubleshoot with their team to develop a viable solution. Issues don't overwhelm leaders with adaptability and choose to see the issues as challenges instead of problems. This is an essential trait of leadership because it expands your capacity and willingness to change.

Much of developing adaptability starts with your mindset around change. As an adaptable leader, you're willing to make mistakes. You can find opportunities to learn new things and experiment with implementing them into your workday. Asking questions and learning from others encourages flexibility, as does having an open mind. The next time you face a problem, list out as many solutions as you can think of and select the best one to try.

Related: Nine Skills That Support Adaptability In The Workplace

Confidence

Confidence is being secure in who you are and what you do. As a leader, confidence is a sureness in your abilities and skills to guide others. Confidence is not a feeling of superiority over others. Instead, it's an internal awareness that you can handle whatever comes up in your work or personal life. A confident leader is influential and a positive role model for others around them. Because they are self-assured in their abilities, others follow their path, knowing that the outcome is positive. Confidence is a trait and can also develop over time with experience.

To improve your confidence, select several skills you want to develop and put those skills into action. For example, if you're less than confident when public speaking or presenting, find opportunities to lead a meeting or give a presentation. In addition, you can join a public speaking group or course to learn and practice your presentation skills with other people. When you practice your skills, you naturally develop confidence in those areas.

Creativity

As a leader, having creativity allows you to see challenges with a unique perspective and develop strategies and solutions from different points of view. Creativity is the ability to develop innovative ideas that support a company, department, and team. Leaders that are creative foster an open work environment that nurtures communication, brainstorming, and problem-solving. Working in a creative workplace encourages a "can-do" attitude and collaboration from the team.

There are many ways to develop creativity as a leader. For example, create a healthy attitude of risk-taking. When you approach creativity as a positive risk and reward your curiosity, you allow it to flow. Fight the feeling of failure and instead allow time and space to think creatively, brainstorm, and collaborate. You can also change your analysis and evaluation approach from one of linear and logical progression to that of using a mind map or flowchart.

Related: 7 Steps to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the place of another and to understand what they are experiencing. it requires compassion and a desire to listen and learn from others. It also requires an awareness of others' feelings, ideas, and thoughts. Empathy is difficult to quantify during a performance evaluation and, as a result, is often an overlooked trait of successful leaders. As a leader, empathy allows you to build deep connections with your team. It helps you understand why specific individuals don't perform to standard and can support your conversations to determine underlying causes for poor performance.

When developing empathy, there are several things you can do to improve your skill. When speaking with others, practise active listening by being fully present in the conversation and asking questions. Avoid interrupting others when they're talking and encourage quieter team members to express their opinions and ideas. Minimize your judgement and keep an open mind about the message of others. You can also learn to observe the body language of others during an interaction to gain a better sense of any underlying emotions not being expressed through their words.

Integrity

Leaders with integrity act in congruency with their word and take responsibility for their actions. They behave ethically even when no one is watching. A leader with integrity inspires trust with their team and promotes honest and open conversations. Integrity allows you to meet your commitments, treat everyone with respect and dignity, and inspire honesty and dependability. Individuals who demonstrate integrity value other people's time and are authentic to themselves.

To further develop the trait of integrity, be sure to keep your word. For example, when you commit, ensure you follow through. Providing clear expectations to those on your team encourages open communication and allows for clarity of purpose when working towards a goal. Another example is to give credit to those who deserve it for the work they complete instead of accepting the praise yourself.

Stability

A successful leader has the quality of stability, which provides a steady and reliable approach for your team. There are several areas where stability is critical to leadership, including emotions, focus, and process. Emotional stability allows you to keep your feelings in check when dealing with difficult situations. Focus promotes direction for yourself and your team. Process stability allows your team to know your expectations of them under your guidance. Finally, stability fosters a feeling of trust with those around you, as they know what to expect and see your leadership as constant and consistent.

There are several ways to improve the quality of stability in leadership. For example, provide resources to your team to excel in their roles. Ensuring that people have the tools, technology, resources, and directions to perform their duties provides stability in their jobs. In addition, sharing a plan of action with your team for goals and objectives develops stability in the workplace, allowing others to understand the expectations of the project. Another way to improve stability as a leader is to maintain open and honest communication with others.

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