What Does It Mean to Be a Leader? (With Qualities and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 26, 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.

Effective leaders are essential to the success of all organizations, regardless of the industry or field. Leaders can have an immense impact on various aspects of how an organization operates, from overall productivity to their coworker's morale. If you're hoping to develop into a strong leader that others respect and listen to, it's important to learn information about leadership. In this article, we answer "What does it mean to be a leader?", explain their importance, highlight what makes a good leader, and share tips for becoming an effective leader.

What does it mean to be a leader?

If you want to become an effective leader, it's important to learn the answer to "What does it mean to be a leader?". A leader is an individual who manages a group of people who look to them for guidance. Typically, leaders establish goals for their teams and explain the steps everyone can take to achieve the goal. Effective leaders seek opportunities that others may ignore and are willing to use their skills to overcome obstacles. These individuals are usually experts in their field, confident in their abilities, and have strong communication skills.

If you're considering becoming a leader in your field, it requires dedication, hard work, and time. Even if you're not in a formal leadership role, you can still find opportunities to lead by example. For instance, you can ensure that you complete all your tasks to the best of your abilities and adhere to deadlines. Leaders are confident and believe in their capabilities, even if achieving their goals takes a lot of effort. You might volunteer to take on challenging projects and perform your best. Begin with minor leadership roles and progress to more impactful ones.

Read more: What Is an Authentic Leader? Definition and Characteristics

What is the importance of an effective leader?

Effective leaders are crucial to the success of teams and organizations, as they provide them with a vision and a plan to turn the vision into reality. This vision might be a goal that members of an organization can work to achieve. Effective leaders help other professionals discover their unique skills and strengths and motivate them to work hard and contribute their best efforts. Leaders can have a significant role in attracting, inspiring, and retaining talent in an organization. For example, if professionals like working for a person in a leadership role, they're likely to stay with the organization.

Read more: How to Become a Strong Leader (With Qualities and Benefits)

What makes a good leader?

Here's a list of skills and attributes that make a person a good leader:

Ability to mentor and teach

Many leaders possess the ability to mentor and teach other professionals effective strategies for completing tasks and help them develop their skills. An effective leader supports their direct team and lets them know they can ask them for advice about professional development. The members of a leader's team might view them as an inspiration, so it's important for leaders to lead by example. Here are some other characteristics that can help you become an effective mentor and teacher:

  • clarity

  • helpfulness

  • motivation

  • empathetic

  • patience

  • positive reinforcement

  • understanding

Read more: How to Maintain a Positive Attitude at Work and Home

Communication skills

Leaders use their exceptional communication skills to build strong working relationships with other organization members. Effective leaders can communicate with various individuals to help ensure the team works towards achieving a specific goal. For example, if team members argue about their responsibilities, a leader might help the individuals realize they're both working for the same result. You can develop your communication skills by considering what you might say before speaking, taking a course, or asking for feedback from those you speak with frequently. Here are attributes and skills that can help you communicate effectively:

  • awareness of body language

  • awareness of intonation

  • awareness of volume and clarity

  • empathy

  • friendliness

  • respect

Read more: Communication in Leadership (With Improvement Tips)

Confidence

Effective leaders are usually confident in their abilities, which enable them to complete tasks, be effective leaders, and achieve goals. Most leaders gain confidence throughout their careers, as they experience more achievements and better understand their capabilities. If you want to be more confident, consider making a list of your accomplishments and the effort it took to achieve them. Review your list often and add your new achievements to it. Here are some other skills and attributes that can help you become a more confident leader:

  • experience in a particular field or subject

  • knowledge

  • technical skills

  • positivity

  • practise and training

Read more: How to Build More Self-Confidence (And Why It's Important)

Decisiveness

Effective leaders can use the information to decide quickly. This characteristic comes from experience in a field or role, which enables an individual to plan a course of action. As decisive leaders usually take less time to plan, their projects often progress quickly, and overall efficiency improves. To be more decisive, you can recall your experiences with similar tasks and consider which plan of action is the most likely to lead to the result you desire. Other skills you might use to help you make important decisions include:

  • evaluation

  • expectation setting

  • initiative

  • problem-solving

  • research

Read more: 64 Leadership Quotes to Inspire You to Be a Better Leader

Dependability

Dependability in a leadership role involves other people trusting in and relying on you. Dependable leaders progress with the plans they make, keep their promises, and perform well consistently. Professionals that are dependable adhere to deadlines, complete their assignments, and communicate issues immediately if they encounter problems. These skills and characteristics can help you become a dependable leader:

  • detail-oriented

  • initiative

  • integrity

  • loyal

  • realistic

  • truthful

Read more: How to Build More Self-Confidence (And Why It's Important)

Integrity

Being a leader with integrity means you're an honest individual who abides by a set of strong values. As a leader, you might make ethical choices and help the organization maintain an excellent reputation. For this reason, many organizations aim to hire professionals with a sense of integrity. Professionals following an individual that leads with integrity are more likely to make good choices as well. Other characteristics that can help you lead with integrity include:

  • confidentiality

  • diplomacy

  • ethics

  • honesty

  • professionalism

  • reliability

Read more: What Is Integrity? Definition and Examples

Problem-solving skills

Talented leaders usually have exceptional problem-solving skills that help them overcome obstacles. Effective problem-solving involves remaining calm when an obstacle occurs, considering the factors, and choosing actions that lead to the desired outcome. Leaders with strong problem-solving skills can make quick decisions, resolve issues with their team, and ensure their team completes projects within deadlines. Some skills and attributes that can help you become a skilled problem-solver include:

  • analytical skills

  • communication skills

  • critical thinking skills

  • decisiveness

  • research skills

Read more: Why Is Time Management Important? And How to Manage Your Time

Tips for becoming an effective leader

Here are some tips to consider if you hope to become an effective leader:

Develop a distinct vision

It's crucial that leaders establish a distinct vision their team can work to achieve. To create a vision, consider the organization's needs and how the team can fulfil them. For example, a leader's vision might be to offer the highest quality of customer service compared to their competition. Ensure that your vision is realistic and the team can attain it with effort. It's the leader's responsibility to explain this vision to the organization or team members. They then motivate them to feel strongly about it and work diligently to ensure it becomes a reality.

Read more: Vision Statement Examples within Job Descriptions

Gain emotional intelligence

It's crucial for leaders to have a high level of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes social awareness, self-awareness, self-regulation, and relationship management. Having a high level of emotional intelligence allows leaders to build strong relationships with others and be a leader that others want to follow. You can develop your emotional intelligence by:

  • considering other's thoughts, feelings, and emotions

  • considering your emotional triggers

  • developing your problem-solving strategies and decision-making processes

  • meeting with other professionals to discuss their professional development and career goals

  • thinking about how you can better control your emotions

  • practising being an active listener

Ensure development and growth are your priorities

Regardless of which stage you're at in your career, if you want to become a leader, it's vital that development and growth are your priorities. Try to view all opportunities as chances to learn and develop your skills. Consider volunteering for new career opportunities and show that you're eager to take on additional responsibilities. Create a career development plan that includes goals and actionable steps you can take to achieve them. You can develop as a leader by listening to podcasts, reading leadership books, or getting a mentor.

Related: How to Be a Team Leader

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