quality leaders having a meeting together

16 Defining Characteristics of Quality Leaders

Quality leaders aren’t born — they’re made. In fact, very few people make good leaders right off the bat. It takes self-awareness, practice, and perseverance to become the best leader you can be.

In this article, we discuss the defining characteristics of quality leaders so you can improve every aspect of the way you work.

Table of contents

Defining characteristics of quality leaders

quality leader helping her team

1) Decisiveness

Quality leaders aren’t afraid to be decisive and make tough choices. They gather the information they need, make a decision, and then take action. Once the decision is made, the effective leader stands by their choice unless there’s a good reason to reconsider.

The authority of a leader is much like that of a ship’s captain. Though the crew of the ship may be doing the bulk of the work, the captain makes the final decision.

At times, leaders may have to make unpopular choices, but the ultimate goal is the wellbeing of the team and the business as a whole. Quality leaders have to see the bigger picture and make choices accordingly.

For example, you may have a difficult employee who, no matter how hard you try, just won’t listen and follow instructions. In that case, you may have to make the tough and, perhaps, unpopular choice to let the employee go.

That’s what being a decisive leader is all about.

2) Patience

Patience is one of those skills that quality leaders think they have until work gets really tough. It’s true that some are born with more patience than others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your ability to keep a level head in a stressful situation.

When you feel like others are losing their cool — and you might be right there with them — try the following exercise:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
  3. Slowly count to 10 in your head

This simple technique will help you stay patient and calm during the most trying circumstances.

3) Flexibility

quality leader explaining a flow chart

Quality leaders understand that flexibility means there are often multiple ways to complete a task. Just because one employee chooses to tackle a problem differently than you would have doesn’t mean the approach is wrong.

There may be a more efficient way to get the job done, but, in most cases, it’s the results that really matter.

Flexibility also means being able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances. Don’t be so set in your ways that you can’t make time to deal with an issue that wasn’t on your schedule.

4) Honesty

Honesty is essential if you want to be the best leader you can be. It’s also essential if you want to build a strong team that trusts you and trusts each other. So, treat others how you would want to be treated, and exhibit honesty in all things.

That means telling the truth in good and bad situations. It also means telling the truth when it’s not in your best interest to do so. But when your team sees your honesty, they’ll look to your example and follow your behavior.

That will improve the way they work and the way they deal with each other. With honesty — from both you and your employees — your team will draw together and be able to conquer any problem in your path.

5) Positivity

For quality leaders who want their business to succeed, positivity is crucial. Positivity affects everything your team does — from customer-facing activities to taking out the garbage. And when it’s lacking, everyone will feel it.

If you and your team are facing a difficult project or a deadline is rapidly approaching, don’t focus on the negative and start to complain.

Instead, get excited about the prospect of finding a new and unique solution or working hard to complete everything before the deadline. Shift your perspective, and don’t view these challenges as stumbling blocks or obstacles. Instead, see them as opportunities to excel.

When you exercise positivity at all times, the attitude will rub off on your employees and motivate them to greatness.

6) Adaptability

Team meeting to find quality leaders

Flexibility and adaptability may seem like the same thing, but for quality leaders, they’re actually very different. While flexibility means acknowledging the myriad ways to get things done, adaptability means rolling with the changing circumstances.

Within the business itself, a strong leader needs to be able to adapt their leadership style to the personalities on their team. In a larger sense, they must also be able to adapt to new opportunities and new challenges.

Revising your corporate, business, and functional strategies to reflect the changing needs of your customers is a prime example of adaptability in action.

7) Competence

If you want to lead effectively — and have your team members follow — you need to be competent in every aspect of your job.

You have to be an expert in every area, but you should at least have a healthy knowledge of how to be efficient and successful in everything you do…and everything you ask your team members to do.

When you’re competent in your business, your team members will follow your example — not because they have to, but because they want to.

8) Organization

For some quality leaders, staying organized is a real struggle. For others, staying organized is as easy as breathing.

Whether organization is easy or hard for you, it’s imperative that you work to exhibit it in your daily activities. Why? Because the benefits can dramatically influence the habits of your team.

When they see how well you work through your day, they’ll want to get organized, too. And that will benefit everything they do and the way your business operates.

If you’re struggling to bring a little order to your workday, try these quick and easy tips:

  • Make a plan for the next day before you leave work
  • Make a plan for the next week before you leave on Friday
  • Avoid multitasking if at all possible
  • Keep your workspace clean

Thankfully, improving your organization doesn’t take nearly as much time as some of the other qualities on this list. That’s because software can help you automate, simplify, and streamline many of the variables that make staying organized such a chore.

9) Focus

Making a list of quality leaders

Another characteristic of quality leaders is the ability to focus on the task at hand to the exclusion of everything else.

Focus can also manifest as putting aside the extraneous details in order to get to the heart of the matter. In that regard, successful leaders try not to allow minor details or tasks to distract them from what’s really important at the time.

This characteristic makes it easier for leaders — and the teams that follow them — to ignore the “noise” that surrounds the important issues, get everything done on time, and do so to the highest standards possible.

10) Communication

If there’s one near-universal truth, it’s that quality leaders need to be good communicators. What’s more, good communication encompasses more than just the words you say.

It also includes:

  • The clarity of what you say
  • Your ability to get others to listen to your ideas
  • Your ability to persuade others
  • Your ability to get along with others during a conversation

Some leaders equate effective communication with lengthy explanations and lots of detail. But effective communication is more about clarity and brevity than it is about trying to say something relatively simple with a lot of words.

A leader who wants to improve their communication skills will try to be as clear and succinct as possible in order to make sure that everyone understands before moving on.

11) Ability to listen

quality leaders meeting

There’s an old saying that goes, “You have two ears and one mouth. It’s best to use them in that proportion.”

Yes, as quality leaders, we have to communicate quite a bit, but we don’t want to neglect our ability to listen to what others have to say.

The easiest way to strengthen this characteristic is to really listen to what the other person has to say without interrupting. When they’re finished speaking, formulate a response based on what they’ve said (or the underlying message they were trying to convey).

Then, before you speak, think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Really listening when someone else is talking is not always easy to do, especially when emotions are running high. But with practice, you may notice an improvement in how you and your team members communicate with each other.

12) Accountability

As a characteristic of quality leaders, accountability means taking responsibility for your own work, actions, and behaviors.

More than that, though, accountability means taking responsibility for the work, actions, and behaviors of those on your team.

How can you serve as a positive role model of accountability so that your employees exhibit this characteristic as well? Take responsibility for your and your team’s successes and failures.

When you step up and refuse to pass the buck to someone else, your team will notice, and it may inspire them to improve their own accountability.

Without a strong sense of accountability, your employees may develop a “me first” attitude that can have a negative effect on your company culture and other important aspects of your business.

13) Trust

Trust is a fundamental component of what makes quality leaders the best and most effective managers they can be.

In fact, trust is more than just critical for being a good leader or manager; it’s critical for the success of your team and your business as a whole.

As a leader, you have to trust that those who follow you will:

  • Have your business’s best interest at heart
  • Work together to overcome difficulties
  • Adhere to your business’s high standards
  • Treat customers and clients with respect

You also have to trust that they’ll do these things — and more — without you always watching and stepping in to help.

What’s more, trust is a two-way street that doesn’t stop with you trusting your team. They need to trust you in return.

How can you build this trust? Start by trusting them first, be accountable for your and their actions, and then demonstrate that you have their best interest — and the best interest of your business — at heart.

14) Sympathy

having coffee with quality leaders

At first glance, sympathy and caring may appear to be the same thing.

But caring exists as a general concern for well-being before and after an unfortunate or difficult event occurs. Sympathy, on the other hand, is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune after an unfortunate or difficult event occurs.

As quality leaders, it’s vital to exercise sympathy in all interactions with your employees. They all have personal issues that may, at times, affect the way they work. Sympathy allows you to cut them some slack until those personal issues subside.

When you exercise sympathy with your team members, they’ll see you as an understanding person who really cares about them.

As a result, they’ll draw closer to you — and closer to each other — which will improve their productivity and cohesion.

Sympathy, however, should not be confused with empathy — the capacity or ability to imagine yourself in the situation of another, experiencing the emotions, ideas, or opinions of that person.

Yes, in some cases, you may be able to empathize with your team members. But, in other cases, all you can do is sympathize.

The distinction may be blurry, but here’s an example to help you understand:

As a male, you can never fully understand what a pregnant team member is going through. You can have sympathy for the difficulties she’s experiencing, but you can never truly empathize with her.

A female manager, on the other hand, who has been through the joys and pains of childbirth may be better able to empathize and sympathize with the pregnant team member.

Regardless of who you’re interacting with, do your best to sympathize with the difficulties they face so that you can forge a strong employee/employer relationship with your team.

15) Good Judgment

Judgment is defined as the ability to make decisions or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely.

Though you can improve your judgment with practice, the foundation of this characteristic of quality leaders includes:

  • How you look at the world around you
  • How you listen to what others say
  • How you learn from that information

At first, good judgment is often the byproduct of unconscious thoughts — a “gut feeling” based on the sensory signals you take in. Don’t dismiss that “intuition.” Similarly, don’t skip those feelings in a rush to get to the decision.

Instead, examine them logically and try to figure out why you’re feeling the way you are. Then use that feeling to make a conscious decision.

With practice, you’ll be able to exercise good judgment without relying on your unconscious mind to tell you how you feel. You’ll be able to examine the situation objectively and come to a conclusion that’s good for everyone involved.

16) Confidence

Tentative leaders make tentative employees. Confident leaders make confident employees.

Which would you rather have? Confidence, of course!

To build confidence in your team, you must first exhibit confidence in your own abilities. Self-confidence is especially important when difficulties arise and can be a big part of exhibiting decisiveness.

Imagine, for example, that two team members call in sick the day before a big project is due. A confident leader knows that they can overcome this difficulty and get things back on the path to success.

That attitude can rub off on your team and keep them motivated to do good work in the face of any obstacle.

Practicing characteristics of quality leaders

Yes, this list of characteristics of quality leaders is long. But don’t let it overwhelm you or discourage you from improving your skills.

One of the keys to transforming into an effective leader is to take things one step at a time. Instead of trying to exhibit all of these characteristics right away, pick one or two that you feel will benefit your leadership style and work on them until they become habit.

After those have become part of the way you naturally do things, pick one or two more characteristics and focus on making those habits as well.

The process of becoming the best leader you can be isn’t about checking items off a list — it’s about finding what works for you and forgetting the rest.

Quality leaders harness the power of software

Practicing characteristics of quality leaders

Being the most effective leader you can be is an important part of your job. But few will ever reach that goal without structure and direction in their workday.

Structure and direction give you the time you need to focus on improving one or all of the characteristics of quality leadership mentioned on this list.

And the best way to create structure and direction in a work environment — be it for you or your team — is with software specifically designed for that purpose.

Sling is that software.

Imagine ending your workdays with a sense of satisfaction and less on your to-do list than you started with. You can (and so can your team), not by putting more time into work, but by making more of your time at work.

With the many features Sling has to offer, you can guide your entire staff in the right direction in a timely and cost-effective way. In addition, you can help them stay more productive and support them in their daily work, while simultaneously leading your business toward better growth.

With Sling, you also get:

Take the first step toward becoming a quality leader and start using Slingdownload the Sling app for free today.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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