The Top 10 Qualities of a Good Leader

Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader for the 21st century! Do you have them? Or would you benefit from leadership training and development? We believe you can teach many of these qualities at effective leadership development programs.

Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader

There is a wide range of opinions regarding the top qualities of a good leader. What is clear is that, among the many identifiable characteristics shared by leaders, some are more innate than others. Which means that there are certain basic traits individuals are born with and others you can help them develop via leadership training. For our list, we chose key characteristics for leaders of the 21st century to remain relevant.

Oprah Winfrey, inspirational leader | Discover the top 10 qualities of a good leader!

Oprah Winfrey, inspirational leader

The top 10 qualities of a good leader

10 Ability to Connect and Communicate– Leaders are master connectors and communicators, a skill that, despite being largely innate, can be taught. They must have the ability to: Connect with employees, clients, vendors, partners, the media, and others and connect their ideas with the needs of the market. And also the ability to communicate their ideas and their vision, the effectiveness of which depends on their communication styles. Go ahead and read Communication Styles That Won’t Carry You Up the Ladder and see if you may be making these mistakes!

9 Ability to inspire- One of the qualities of a good leader most often recognized in iconic figures such as Oprah or Steve Jobs is the ability to inspire others. Although some individuals’ inspire others with their natural charisma, it is possible to teach the mechanics of inspiration. A mark of a true 21st century leader is the ability to inspire others to be leaders themselves

8 Commitment- Only when a leader is committed to their organization’s goals, principles and values can they inspire others to be committed. That commitment needs to be felt in their willingness to work hard and to be measured by the same standards as everyone else. In other words, when employees see leaders making sacrifices, they are more willing to make them themselves. Commitment is a hard (if not impossible) to teach quality. Leadership training is not really effective here.

The top 10 qualities of a Good leader | Leadership development

The top 10 qualities of a good leader

7 Focus- A laser focus on the organization’s goals is necessary to move it forward. The most effective leaders are those able to keep their focus on the long-term mission even when dealing with short-term challenges. This is one of the qualities of a good leader for which leadership development can be effective.

6 Intelligence- It may go without saying that in order to lead an organization you need to have a certain amount of intelligence. You don’t need to have the highest IQ in the room as you could compensate with street smarts, preparation and choosing the right team, but you do need to be moderately smart.

5 Multicultural sensitivity- We live in an increasingly diverse world where the ability to connect with people from different backgrounds is critical to the success of any organization. Leaders who are conversant in cultural sensitivity have a big advantage over their peers who remain in the ivory tower. Leadership development focused on cultural diversity training can be useful here.

One of the good qualities of a leader is passion. - Albert Einstein talent quote

One of the good qualities of a leader is passion.

4 Passion- At the center of what characterizes a leader is their passion. Passion is the energy that makes things happen, that makes people attractive to others. This is a very hard quality to instill via leadership training in people who are not passionate about anything. You can try, however, to help individuals who are passionate about a variety of things to focus on something specific.

3 Positive Attitude- Leaders must always have a positive, can-do attitude. It’s the only way to face difficulties and overcome crises. Although you can teach how to see things in a positive light and keep up a positive attitude, we tend to think that, to a large extent, people are born with a tendency to see the glass half-full or half-empty. Leadership development may have a limited effect on this trait.

2 Vision- This is what distinguishes leaders from followers. It’s the dream. Their vision of what can be created that doesn’t yet exist, of how far the organization and its products or services can go, what dream can be achieved. Another one of the very intrinsic characteristics of a leader that is hard to teach.

And the number one quality of a good leader is!!!

1 Willingness to make mistakes- Every leader worth their salt is a risk taker and embraces mistakes as part of the journey. They know mistakes will happen along the way. But a true 21st Century leader also:

  • Encourages their team to make mistakes
  • Doesn’t punish people for making mistakes as a result of risk-taking
  • Uses mistakes as learning opportunities


Richard Branson, one of the top inspirational leaders | Leadership training

Leaders are dreamers focused on their vision!

Leadership training is it effective for leadership development?

It depends on the kind of leadership training. Some leadership training programs are particularly good at eliciting employees’ most important leadership skills. When you combine these programs with leadership development in the areas where the particular employee is weak (perhaps communications or focus) and you can easily see a leader emerge. There are other leadership training programs, however, that would have you believe that you could make a leader out of someone who lacks some of the very basic qualities of a good leader such as intelligence, passion and vision.

Not everyone is a natural born leader and not everyone is even interested in being a leader. The challenge is to look beyond your own stereotypes to find diamonds in the rough and to offer them the right leadership development opportunities so they can flourish.

Developing Effective Leadership Traits with Training for Latinas

Teaching effective leadership traits at McDonald's Women Career Development training - Hilda Gonzalez McDonald's Facilitator

Teaching effective leadership traits at McDonald’s Women Career Development training

Take a peek into the McDonald’s Women Career Development program that teaches effective leadership skills to Latinas to help them move up the ladder!

It was arctic cold at the Hyatt Lodge in Oakbrook, IL, when a group of forty Latinas came together for a full day of leadership training organized for them exclusively by McDonald’s. The frigid temperature (single digits Fahrenheit!) continued outside, but inside it was all excitement and warm camaraderie.

Handpicked by their supervisors, these restaurant managers spent a day away from running multimillion-dollar businesses and identified effective leadership traits and skills that could help them continue to grow in their careers. With the help of a professional facilitator and five “Big Sisters” (senior women in the organization) they spent eight hours bonding with each other while discussing high impact topics.  You could ask why would people who are already so successful need to be made aware of effective leadership traits. Shouldn’t they already have those leadership traits in order to manage multimillion-dollar restaurants?

The truth is that these powerful Latinas are extremely talented managers who have proven to be invaluable to the organization and who posses many of the typical leadership traits you’d expect in people in their positions. But the corporation believes it would benefit even more if these leaders continued to climb the corporate ladder and to do so, they need to expand their skillset. So McDonald’s is set on helping them achieve their full potential and, in the process, continue to develop the pipeline of outstanding women leaders.

Appreciating specific and effective leadership traits

Through engaging small-group discussions followed by larger group sharing, participants discovered a host of leadership traits that they had in common as women and, particularly, as Latinas.  Among them:

Forty restaurant managers meet to identify effective leadership traits that can help them grow even further within the organization

Forty restaurant managers meet to identify effective leadership traits that can help them grow even further within the organization

"Big sisters", senior women within the organization collaborate with professional facilitator to carry out leadership development program

“Big sisters”, senior women within the organization collaborate with professional facilitator to carry out leadership development program

  • Ability to listen to their customers
  • Family orientation that extends to the way they treat employees
  • Ability to multitask and get things done
  • Strength while able to show emotion
  • A focus on getting their target goals accomplished
  • Supportive of other women’s career advancement
  • Focus on the bottom line
  • Excellent communication skills— Many of them are able to speak two or more languages
  • Courage —In many cases as part of their family’s immigrant history
  • Strong ability to work with teams
The Women Career Development program that McDonald's tailored to Latinas teaches them leadership traits needed to move up the ladder

The Women Career Development program that McDonald’s tailored to Latinas teaches them leadership traits needed to move up the ladder

Focusing on areas of opportunity

The setting of the day, a leadership training program exclusively created for Latinas, was a safe backdrop for a candid conversation where participants could openly admit to cultural elements often responsible for holding them back in their careers. These included:

  • Too much emphasis on overcoming weaknesses rather than on becoming better at one’s strengths
  • Fear of asking for feedback
  • Fear of disappointing one’s family by failing
  • Dealing with different family expectations of a woman’s role than participants’ own expectations for themselves (Families that expect women to be home and take care of their families, husbands who may resent their spouses for making more money than they do, etc.)
  • Lack of confidence in one’s leadership abilities even when the evidence points to strong leadership traits
  • Lack of strong written communication skills needed to move to next level
Discussing key concepts in small groups and reporting back to the group at large helps to build confidence in effective leadership traits

Discussing key concepts in small groups and reporting back to the group at large helps to build confidence in effective leadership traits

By admitting to these cultural characteristics (or baggage, as the group decided to call those Latino traits that may get in the way of career growth) and by learning ways to deal with these characteristics, participants felt a sense of relief and possibility. They also opened themselves to being mentored by more senior women in order to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them at their company.

The resounding success of the leadership-training day underscored how programs designed with a specific demographic in mind and delivered by a sensitive team can positively impact employees. McDonald’s made these Latinas feel valued by offering a space to share culturally relevant insights and by making them feel part of a larger network of women ready to support their career success.

[typography font=”Cantarell” size=”13″ size_format=”px” ]What is your company doing to engage Latinas in the workplace and to promote them up the ranks?[/typography]