Which Leadership Qualities Can You Best Develop?

It seems like a simple question, but there is still a lot involved in the answer. What are the most important leadership qualities that you can develop as a (future) leader?

In this article, I first explain what we mean by leadership qualities, then what science says, and finally what it looks like in practice.

If you just want to know about the leadership qualities, you can go directly to that section below.

Table of contents

  • What are the leadership qualities?
  • What does science say about leadership qualities
  • Leadership qualities in practice

What are the leadership qualities?

Good leadership is essential for organizations. Good leaders can make the difference between excellent organizations and reasonable organizations. Hiring a leader is also quite expensive. Especially at the highest level, it is pricey to hire a leader.

Companies therefore also want to know who will be a good leader. When hiring a leader, they want to be able to focus on what a good leader actually is. What are the qualities that a “real” leader has?

In addition, it is of course interesting for the development of leadership to know which qualities predict good leadership. What skills exactly do you need to develop to make someone a leader? This is an important question for companies that use leadership training.

But what exactly are leadership qualities?

When we take an assessment from a leader, we start from different parts. The pyramid below clearly shows that:

We state that intelligence is hardly changeable, while you can fairly easily impart new knowledge to someone. Changing personality and skills often takes some time, but it is possible in the long term.

By the word “qualities” we actually mean all parts of this pyramid. It helps if the leader knows something about leadership (knowledge) and if he has managed people before (skill). An extroverted person (personality) often does better than an introverted person and average intelligence is required to make it a leader.

Now you are probably wondering what are the skills that a leader needs. For that I like to take a trip to science.

What does science say about leadership qualities?

Scientifically, I have bad news. Scientists say in so many words that it is extremely difficult to predict who will become a good leader. So we know relatively little about leadership qualities.

This is probably because many factors determine how effective a leader is. For example:

  • The nature of the organization. A factory needs different leaders than a partnership of surgeons.
  • The culture of the company. A friendly, open corporate culture does not benefit from a hugely dominant leader. A more corporate culture, on the other hand, will not be a good fit for a servant leader.
  • The task maturity of the employees. According to the theory of situational leadership, new employees need a different way of managing than experienced employees.

And so there are a number of factors that can influence the effectiveness of your leaders.

Can you as an organization say nothing at all about the leadership qualities that are needed? As far as I am concerned, that is not the case. Science tries to make statements that are generally valid and that is difficult in the case of leadership. However, with a scientific approach you can formulate generally applicable requirements that apply to your organization. A number of steps you can take are:

  • Formulate a good theory. Think about what your company does, which employees you have and what exactly the culture entails.
  • Find a way to test your leadership (e.g. with an assessment) and to be able to analyze the effectiveness of their work (e.g. with an Employee Satisfaction Survey).
  • Keep track of which leaders are effective and which ones are not and thus sharpen your theory.

If you go through this process a number of times, you need to be fairly clear in the long run which leadership qualities are desired in your organization.

Leadership qualities in practice

Well, I think I have covered myself sufficiently by indicating that we are not completely clear from a scientific point of view what makes a good leader. Nevertheless, on the basis of our own experience, I would like to indicate which leadership qualities we often see.

Vision

In any case, a leader must know where he wants to go. It is sufficient for middle management to follow the goals of the organization. However, the higher you get as a leader, the more you are expected to set goals yourself.

The sooner you as a leader start developing a vision, the sooner you will be taken seriously as a leader.

Self-confidence

As a leader you stand for something. You indicate that you want to go somewhere and you ask others to follow you. This includes a certain degree of self-confidence. You could even call this quality “courage”. The courage to make unpopular decisions, the courage to make mistakes, and the courage to set goals that you may not achieve.

Communication skills

This is a fairly broadly formulated property. You could include here all skills related to interacting with others. This includes giving feedback, being able to motivate people, and taking a coaching role in case of problems.

Not being able to deal well with others makes you unsuitable in advance as a manager. Still, you don’t always have to be a very outgoing, social person as a leader. If you can only use communication skills when necessary.

Focus

A leader is present in the workplace to achieve certain goals. He is the one who has to make sure that everyone works towards that goal. That is why it is very important for him to keep this goal in mind.

A leader who doesn’t know what he wants is almost always ineffective. And a leader who doesn’t steer what he wants is too. That is why it is very important to always focus on the goals you set.

Being able to make choices

It is very inconvenient if you as a leader are not in doubt. You have to make decisions almost every day as a leader. If you are unable to do so, you put the entire organization “on hold” with your doubts.

Making hasty decisions is of course also not good, but being able to make the right decisions at the right times is decisive for a leader.

Experience

In general, as a manager, you are expected to have experience with the product or service. At the highest level, you sometimes see a CEO making the switch to a company with which he has little experience. In general, however, the experience is desirable.

After all, it is difficult to manage others if you do not know exactly what they are doing. Managers are therefore often recruited from people who have worked in the implementation.

Pre-training

In many cases, pre-training is required for people who want to take the step for a managerial position. Consider, for example, HBO work and thinking level. You may also receive an assessment in which you must demonstrate what school level you currently have.

However, you turn or turn it, as a manager you are expected to have certain capabilities. If you do not have enough, it will be a challenge to fill this role.

Again, these are the leadership qualities that I often see in practice. It is probably not that you absolutely cannot be a leader if you lack any of these qualities. If you miss them all, however, it becomes quite a challenge to be able to function in a leadership role.

Felix Tammi

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