Top Qualities of a Good Team Leader (And How to Develop Them)

No one is born a great leader. Like any hard or soft skill, leadership qualities are developed through conscious, consistent learning and training.

Top-notch leadership is comprised of many qualities, some more important than others. The skills you need will depend on your role and industry, but for this article, CMOE is taking a holistic approach and highlighting the top seven qualities of a good team leader.

Whether you’re a seasoned leader or a new one, we encourage you to use this as a starting point for identifying areas for improvement. Following are the top seven qualities we have identified for good team leadership.

1. Motivation

A Harvard Business Review study reveals that motivation is a top priority for leaders. And it makes sense—without personal motivation, how are leaders expected to inspire and push their team members?

How to Develop This

Motivation requires finding purpose and identifying pathways that help you fulfill that purpose. Here are tangible ways you can transform into a motivated leader and inspire your team:

Have frequent one-on-one discussions organized around defined topics: Open a dialogue with your team members using questions like the following to guide your discussions:

  • What do they value most?
  • What gives them purpose?
  • What areas of their role do they enjoy the most?
  • Where do they see themselves in the long run?
  • Are there ways you can shift their responsibilities and help them get closer to their goal?

These points can help you and your team members work on a collective goal. More importantly, these discussions can encourage both parties to find self-development opportunities.

Come up with a team purpose statement: This statement should convey your team’s goals on a team and organizational level. It should be clear and specific. A purpose statement encourages team members to commit to the team’s goals and keep each other accountable and motivated.

2. Courage

Conflict is an inevitable part of your professional career. Leaders must develop the courage to combat challenges directly while instilling confidence and grit in their team members.

How to Develop This

Practice assertiveness: Strong, assertive leaders can drive results and overcome adversity and resistance. There will always be circumstances that require you to push boundaries and stand up for yourself and your team. Practice saying no and rehearse what you want to say. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you practice, the more courage you’ll build to propel you and the team forward.

Collaborate with team members: Good leaders understand the value of discussing matters with their team members and receiving their feedback. This not only fosters collaboration but can help you make constructive and sound decisions. With the support of your team members, you are more likely to feel confident with decisions moving forward.

Delegate well: Courageous leaders hand over responsibilities to team members and trust that they will get them done. How? They understand the unique strengths and weaknesses of their team and leverage both to overcome roadblocks and encourage team members to help each other out.

Here are two examples:

  • Have a person skilled in data analysis generate end-of-the-quarter project reports so you can better allocate your budget.
  • Pair people up to help the team develop a long-term strategy. Make sure to include one person who is detail-oriented and one who is visionary.

3. Humility

Successful leaders are confident yet humble. Humble leaders guide but don’t dictate; they’re always trying to find ways to encourage team members and bring out their best.

Humble leaders have the potential to build higher-performing teams. They also tend to be great listeners.

How to Develop This

Keep these tips in mind as you work on building humility:

Admit your mistakes and shortcomings: Humble leaders understand they aren’t the smartest people in the room. They thrive on this, knowing they can learn from others. When you make a mistake, own up to it. Embracing vulnerability will inspire your team to do the same.

Act on feedback: When you admit mistakes, make sure you take action to overcome them. Show your team how you’ll correct the mistakes and get their input when necessary. Display honest and open leadership.

Express support and appreciation for team members: Leaders with an overinflated sense of pride and self-importance convey to team members that they only care about themselves—not the interests of their team. As a leader, it’s essential to recognize the contributions of others and praise them for their accomplishments.

4. Good Listening Skills

Great leaders actively listen. Intuitive listening is the foundation of strong communication and trustworthy relationships. Eighty-five percent of our knowledge is gained through listening, yet we listen only at a 25 percent comprehension level.

How to Develop This

Employees want to feel confident that their leaders are really listening to them. Here are some ways to develop your listening skills:

Maintain eye contact: Eliminate distractions during team conversations. Maintain eye contact to illustrate that you are invested in what the other person has to say.

Avoid interrupting: Listening means giving your team members the platform to express their ideas and concerns. Don’t interrupt their flow of thought and dialogue. Respect two-way communication.

Be mindful of non-verbal cues: Acknowledge your team member’s words by nodding your head, using the right facial expressions and posture, and taking note of their body language. Show them you are paying attention to the conversation.

Ask follow-up questions: To gain a comprehensive understanding of the other person’s situation, ask follow-up questions to deepen your knowledge base and probe for information and insight. This illustrates that you care about them and their journey and demonstrates your interest and willingness to help.

coworkers gathered around a table in a discussion

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence taps into how a person’s presence, mannerisms, and choices affect others. It’s an essential differentiator when assessing leadership potential. According to Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is what sets apart 90 percent of high performers from peers who have similar IQ and hard skills.

Emotionally intelligent leaders can promote a better work environment and culture. As Chris Underwood, Managing Director at Adastrum Consulting, explains, leaders with emotional intelligence

  • Value diversity and team balance.
  • Motivate, influence, and inspire team members and strategies.
  • Seek fresh perspectives in making critical decisions.

How to Develop This

Emotional intelligence requires understanding how to respond in the right way at the right time. It encompasses traits like the following:

Self-awareness: While 95 percent of individuals believe themselves to be self-aware, only 10 to 15 percent actually possess this trait. Conduct 360-degree feedback to gain more insight into how your behaviors, moods, and emotions affect those around you. How can you improve?

Self-regulation: Avoid reacting quickly; take time to pause, process, and reflect to ensure you respond appropriately. Maintaining composure promotes a safer and healthier team environment.

Social skills: Get to know your team members’ personalities and work styles. Encourage your team to share these with each other to build better communication and working relationships.

For more information, read How to Develop Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Tips and Strategies.

6. Kindness

Genuine kindness—represented by approachability and a desire to help their team members—is another important quality of a good team leader. Studies show kindness not only promotes gratitude but also empathy and compassion. It goes a long way in establishing authentic relationships with team members and preserving the overall wellbeing of your team.

How to Develop This

Demonstrating kindness involves focusing on how you react to and approach people:

Show appreciation: When someone accomplishes a goal or lends a hand, tell them you appreciate their time and effort.

Let go of grudges: Keep the best interests of your team members in mind and try to find common ground with those whom you might not see eye-to-eye. Holding a grudge only alienates you from people and decreases team engagement.

Practice empathy: Empathy is considered the most vital leadership skill and good leaders know its value. Instead of judging, empathetic leaders work to understand a team member’s perspective and use that deeper understanding to come up with a better solution.

Think of others: Good leaders practice kindness by acting with their team’s best interests in mind. They consistently pursue opportunities that enable their team to move forward.

Take time to build relationships: Get to know team members. The more you’re willing to connect with people, the more you can create an environment of trust, open dialogue, and transparency.

7. Proactivity

The actions you take as a leader are what ultimately define you and earn you respect. As industry executive Donald McGannon said, “Leadership is action, not a position.”

The key isn’t to simply respond when something happens, it’s to take proactive initiative in order to boost the likelihood of success. Working to take advance action can help you sustain the long-term viability of your team and business.

How to Develop This

Developing a proactive mindset involves the following:

Focusing on the future: You have probably experienced some recent roadblocks and revelations. What can you learn from them? How can you act on them to safeguard your team in the future? Think of ways to improve and share them with your team for further discussion.

Think big-picture: Keep team and organizational goals in mind when making day-to-day decisions. Will these decisions deter or drive these goals? Taking this perspective can help you become a more strategic leader.

Think through scenarios and have backup plans: When you’re working on a new initiative, think about multiple outcomes it could produce and have a plan in place for each one. This will help you prepare and put you a step ahead of the competition.

Solve one problem at a time: Desmond Tutu once said, “There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.” Prioritizing problems and solving them one at a time allows you to give each issue the focus it deserves.

No matter which of these seven leadership qualities you work on this year, remember that it’s all about setting an example. If you can be the best version of yourself, your team members will follow. To jumpstart your development, bookmark these 25 best leadership websites to gain a valuable group of virtual mentors today.

Hone the Right Leadership Qualities with CMOE

It’s important to have credible and renowned resources to guide your leadership journey. At CMOE, we thrive on helping individuals develop the qualities of a good team leader. We offer Leadership Development Workshops for leaders at all levels, and our learning solutions are offered in a variety of formats to meet the needs of the modern learner.

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About the Author

CMOE Team

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.