Leadership qualities in the workplace

Leadership qualities in the workplace
SEEK content teamupdated on 11 April, 2024

Are you looking to develop your leadership skills? Whether you’re in charge of a team at work, volunteering for a cause, or taking charge in your professional life, understanding and developing leadership qualities can help you and those around you. 

What is a good leader? There are many components to being a strong leader, some being personal qualities and others being soft skills. In many cases, technical knowledge is also important for a leader. In this article, we explore the main qualities of leadership and how you can develop and improve them in yourself.

What are leadership qualities? 

Leadership qualities are a great skill set to have, as they pave the way for career progression. It’s easy to confuse the terms ‘leadership’ and ‘management’, however there are differences. While both involve overseeing people, good management is more about instilling smooth processes, getting tasks done, solving problems and maximising efficiency. 

But what is leadership? Being a leader is about much more than getting tasks done efficiently – it’s about persuading and encouraging people to achieve a common goal. A good leader is invested in building rapport and creating good relationships between team members. Great leaders stand out through their strong decision-making skills, clear vision for the future, and the ability to motivate and inspire others.

Qualities of a good leader 

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a great leader. The most important core qualities that great leaders have are a mix of organisational skills and emotional intelligence (or EQ) skills. The Four Quadrant Model of Emotional Intelligence, developed by Daniel Goleman, is a great tool to use if you’re wanting to develop your leadership qualities. It breaks EQ down into four clearly defined categories:

  1. Self awareness
  2. Self management
  3. Social awareness
  4. Relationship management

Many leadership qualities can be found within these categories, such as empathy, a positive outlook, communication skills, confidence and transparency. The below leadership qualities list outlines these in more detail.

1. Empathy

Number one on the list of effective leadership skills is empathy – the ability to place yourself in another person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. Seeing their point of view allows you to understand their motivations and why they behave or feel a certain way. This can help you build stronger social connections, foster trust and improve team cooperation.

Improvement tips: 

  • Work on being a good listener – practise active listening in your conversations
  • Put yourself in others’ shoes – imagine how you would feel in their situation
  • Try to openly express compassion and understanding

2. Integrity

Having integrity means consistently being honest and doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult. Abiding by moral and ethical principles is important because it helps build trust with your team members and set an example to follow. Showing integrity as a leader will help you form strong, positive relationships with your team and lead to a more successful and ethical work environment.

Improvement tips: 

  • Be consistent in your actions and decisions
  • Practice honesty and transparency in your dealings
  • Always do the right thing, even when no one is watching

3. Communication

When you communicate you exchange information, ideas and thoughts. Good communication is where these ideas are presented in a way that is clear, concise, and understood by the person you’re communicating with. Good communication is vital as it ensures everyone is on the same page, and reduces misunderstandings and the potential for conflict. It helps align your team towards common goals and fosters a positive work environment. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Practise clear, concise and open communication
  • Listen actively to others and ensure that your message is understood
  • Use simple and straightforward language, and be mindful of your body language and tone of voice

4. Active listening

Active listening means fully concentrating on what’s being said rather than just waiting your turn to respond. Giving your whole attention and focus to a conversations helps you to gain a deeper understanding of others’ perspectives. It shows respect for the other person’s opinions and assists in building trust and fostering positive relationships.

Improvement tips: 

  • Focus on the speaker and avoid distractions
  • Avoid interrupting and wait for the speaker to finish
  • Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding

5. Accountability

Accountability is a crucial characteristic as a leader. It means taking responsibility for your own actions and outcomes. Owning your mistakes without excuses or blame shows strength, confidence and integrity. Consistently showing accountability encourages your team to do the same, enhancing trust and ownership.

Improvement tips: 

  • Admit mistakes, own your actions and don’t try to make excuses or blame others
  • Learn from your mistakes by changing your behaviour
  • Set a good example to your team by holding yourself accountable

6. Positivity

It’s not always easy to radiate positivity, but it’s a worthwhile quality to develop. When you maintain a hopeful and optimistic attitude, even in the face of challenges, it uplifts and energises those around you. Positivity isn’t just about having a smile on your face, it’s about focusing on solutions and encouraging others to do the same. Positivity is important because it creates a more enjoyable work environment and can improve overall performance. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Focus on solutions rather than problems
  • Encourage and support team members
  • Practice gratitude and celebrate successes

7. Confidence

Confidence is having belief in your own abilities. It means proactively confronting challenges, being decisive when making tough choices and inspiring others to follow suit. Confident leaders deal directly with problems and conflicts, rather than ignoring them. They’re not afraid to fail, and they don’t feel threatened by others’ success. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Prepare thoroughly for tasks
  • Practice self-affirmation
  • Focus on your strengths rather than weaknesses

8. Innovation

Innovation is the ability to think creatively and bring new ideas to the table. Being open to trying new things, approaches and ways of working helps you evolve and grow as a leader and can drive the progress of your team or wider organisation. It also drives progress and helps you solve complex problems.

Improvement tips: 

  • Embrace failure as part of the learning process
  • Foster a culture of curiosity and experimentation
  • Collaborate with others to generate diverse ideas and perspectives

9. Resilience

Being resilient means you’re someone who bounces back from failures or tough times and views challenges as opportunities rather than hurdles. Resilience as a leader means staying strong under pressure, adapting to changes and recovering quickly from setbacks. By modelling resilience, you show everyone else that it’s possible to keep moving forward, no matter what difficulties arise. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Build a support network of colleagues, friends and mentors
  • Accept that failure is a normal part of life
  • Maintain a positive outlook by focusing on solutions rather than problems
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation or hobbies to manage stress

10. Strategic thinking

Strategic thinking means planning for the future based on the patterns and trends of the past. It’s looking at the big picture, understanding what needs to be done and making smart decisions to reach your goals. In the workplace, this skill is important because it helps you spot new chances for success, manage risks and guide your teams towards success. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Take time to understand the goals and objectives of your work
  • Keep informed about industry trends and look for patterns to predict what might happen in the future
  • Practice scenario planning by considering different options and their potential outcomes before making decisions
  • Consult an industry mentor for advice

11. Transparency

Transparency in leadership is being open and honest with your team, sharing information freely, and encouraging open communication. It’s important because it helps build trust and ensures everyone is informed and aligned, helping to create a productive work environment. However, it’s important to balance transparency with confidentiality, to keep sensitive information private. 

Improvement tips: 

  • Share both good and bad news
  • Explain decisions and changes openly with your team
  • Encourage honest feedback and listen to your team’s concerns

12. Vision

Vision in leadership means you have a clear, long-term goal for your team or company. Your vision statement is your dream and direction – the way you see the way forward, reflecting your goals, values and aspirations. It’s important as it motivates and guides your team towards a common purpose.

Improvement tips: 

  • Develop a clear vision statement and communicate it effectively
  • Clearly define your goals and communicate them to your team
  • Continuously review and update your vision to ensure it remains relevant and inspiring

13. Creativity

Creativity in leadership means thinking unconventionally to come up with new ideas and solutions. It’s about taking novel approaches to problems, and not being constrained by the way things are usually done. Being creative as a leader means trusting and following your instincts, while balancing your intuition and ideas with logic and critical thinking. Being creative and sharing your ideas in a confident and constructive way is important as it encourages innovation and problem solving.

Improvement tips: 

  • Foster a culture of curiosity and experimentation
  • Balance intuition with logical solutions
  • Share your ideas confidently and constructively with your team

14. Problem solving

Workplace issues are inevitable, and it’s up to the leader to fix them. Problem solving is the ability to find solutions to difficult or complex issues, and even anticipate problems before they happen. Problem-solving skills are essential for overcoming obstacles, improving processes, and managing teams and workflows. The ability to quickly problem solve helps you to improve efficiency, predict and overcome challenges, enhance trust and manage risk.

Improvement tips: 

  • Use a systematic approach to identify and analyse problems
  • Break down complex issues into smaller, manageable parts
  • Consider multiple perspectives and potential solutions before making a decision

15. Responsibility

Showing responsibility as a leader means being reliable and accountable for roles and tasks. When you take responsibility as a leader, you’re setting an example for your team. By showing you’re willing to admit fault, you open up a more honest and transparent way of working. Responsibility is important to ensure tasks are completed and goals are met – it also creates a culture of open communication and trust, because your team knows they can depend on you.

Improvement tips: 

  • Prioritise tasks and follow through on commitments
  • Be accountable for your actions and decisions
  • Admit when you’re wrong and learn from your mistakes

16. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is the ability to analyse facts to form a sound judgement. Thinking critically helps you understand and solve problems in a pragmatic way. It involves thinking rationally and putting together logical connections, and it’s essential for making good decisions.

Improvement tips:

  • Question assumptions
  • Consider multiple perspectives
  • Evaluate information sources to ensure credibility

17. Decision-making

Leaders are decision-makers often having to choose a course of action from several alternatives, which may not all be clearly defined. To make well-informed decisions, they have to gather relevant information, analyse it objectively and consider multiple perspectives. Decision-making skills are crucial in any job, but especially for leaders, who are responsible for moving projects forward and resolving issues.

Improvement tips:

  • Gather adequate information and weigh the pros and cons
  • Seek feedback from others to gain different insights
  • Reflect on past decisions to learn from successes and failures

18. Decisiveness

This ability builds from the previous one, and means making your decisions quickly and confidently. It’s being assertive and demonstrating the ability to make clear-cut and timely choices based on relevant information. In the workplace, decisiveness is essential for executing plans to deadlines, maintaining momentum and achieving goals within budget.

Improvement tips:

  • Act promptly when necessary
  • Set clear deadlines for decision-making to avoid procrastination
  • Seek input from others but make the final decision based on your own judgement

19. Ability to build relationships

Building relationships means establishing and maintaining positive connections with others. As a leader, it’s important to develop rapport with different kinds of people, to create a strong, supportive team environment and to motivate others to collaborate and negotiate. Great leaders use these relationships to work with and influence others to achieve common goals.

Improvement tips:

  • Practice empathy to understand others’ perspectives
  • Be a good listener and encourage regular open communication
  • Show appreciation for others’ contributions and efforts

20. Delegation

Delegation is assigning tasks and responsibilities to others. It isn’t just about allocating tasks, but using your decision-making abilities to use your team effectively as possible and build individuals’ skill sets. Good delegation empowers team members and optimises the distribution of work so it gets done efficiently and to a high standard.

Improvement tips:

  • Clearly communicate expectations and provide necessary resources
  • Monitor progress and provide feedback to ensure success
  • Match tasks with team members’ skills and provide clear instructions

21. Flexibility

Flexibility is the ability to adapt well to change. It means changing or modifying your style or approach in response to different circumstances, to get the best result. Flexibility enables leaders to handle uncertainty and continuously adjust to evolving situations. 

Improvement tips:

  • Stay open to new ideas and be willing to alter plans as needed
  • Embrace feedback and be willing to adjust your approach
  • Learn from past experiences and apply those lessons to future challenges

22. Mentoring

Mentoring is guiding and supporting those who want to learn from you. It fast-tracks your team members’ knowledge and skills and allows you to reflect and improve your own self-awareness, emotional intelligence and decision-making abilities. Mentoring aids in the development of future leaders and strengthens the team.

Improvement tips: 

  • Share your knowledge and expertise openly
  • Provide constructive feedback and encouragement
  • Encourage questions and discussions to foster learning and growth

23. Reliability

Reliability involves being dependable and consistent in quality and performance. It’s always doing what you say and following through on promises. Reliability builds trust and ensures expectations are met. Great leaders are dependable, no matter the circumstances.

Improvement tips: 

  • Manage your time effectively to meet deadlines
  • Always follow through on promises
  • Communicate clearly about your commitments and limitations

24. Commitment

Commitment means having dedication to the job and the mission of the organisation. It involves showing devotion and continued effort to further the goals of the team and company. Commitment motivates others and drives personal and team success.

Improvement tips: 

  • Set personal goals that align with organisational objectives
  • Demonstrate your dedication through your actions and work ethic
  • Stay focused on the long-term vision and persevere through challenges

How to improve your leadership skills 

Now you know what are qualities of a good leader, you can focus on improving those skills and attributes. Here are some ways you can work towards becoming a great leader:

  • Continuous learning is essential, as it allows you to develop new skills and stay updated with industry trends. 
  • Seeking feedback from others can help build your self-awareness and identify opportunities for improvement. 
  • Personal development is also crucial, as it allows you to work on your strengths and weaknesses

By focusing on building these qualities, you can become an effective and inspiring leader, capable of guiding and motivating others both in the workplace and in your personal life.

Developing leadership skills is a journey of continuous learning and growth. Understanding the characteristics of a great leader, such as empathy, integrity and accountability, is the first step to honing your own leadership qualities. Remember: great leaders are not born overnight; they evolve through dedication, lifelong learning and a commitment to personal development.


What are the 5 qualities of a good leader?

Good leaders possess a variety of qualities, but some of the most important ones include: 

  1. Empathy
  2. Accountability
  3. Integrity
  4. Good communication skills
  5. Decisiveness

How can I develop my leadership qualities?

You can develop your leadership qualities by: 

  • Seeking feedback
  • Taking leadership training courses
  • Reading books on leadership
  • Practising self-reflection
  • Seeking opportunities to lead

Can leadership qualities be learned or are they innate?

Some people may have natural leadership abilities, however you can learn and develop leadership qualities through practice, experience, reflection and self-improvement efforts.

What role does emotional intelligence play in leadership?

Emotional intelligence plays an important role in leadership as it helps you understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. It enables you to see why people react the way they do in different situations. Having well-developed emotional intelligence as a leader will lead to better communication, decision-making and team dynamics. 

How do leadership styles impact team performance?

Leadership styles impact team performance significantly. How you lead your team directly impacts how motivated your team feels, their morale, productivity, teamwork, their communication with each other and with you, and the overall success of the team.

What is the difference between a leader and a manager?

The main difference between a leader and a manager is how you work with others. As a leader, you inspire and guide your team towards a shared goal, focusing on the big picture and helping others grow. The role of a manager is more about organising tasks, making sure things get done and solving problems. While both are important, managers focus on tasks and efficiency, whereas leaders focus on inspiration and motivation.

More from this category: Workplace advice

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