What Makes a Good Leader?

One major takeaway from speaking with hundreds of leaders as a leadership educator and host of the Leadership Looks Like Podcast is that everyone has a different definition of leadership. Some leaders feel that traits like communication and trust are important while others might believe that being accountable and having the ability to inspire others are the key to good leadership. Because leadership means different things to different people, what makes a good leader?

Although leadership definitions may vary, there is some overlap that takes place when speaking with leaders about what helps with effectiveness. Leadership in practice has the potential to constantly evolve and grow. What makes a good leader is up to you to determine with the following considerations.


Knowing who you are and what you stand for is the foundation for building confidence as a leader. Personality tests, creating a vision board, or defining your passions are a few actions you can take as a leader. Outline who you are, define the things that are important to you, and take a moment to understand your ‘why’. Taking these steps help you define who you are, which forms a basis for being confident.

Which comes first: Vulnerability or Trust?

Two of the more common leadership traits that are listed as a higher priority for leaders is having the ability to be vulnerable and to also have trust. However, which one comes first? Must you have trust before you’re able to be vulnerable or should you be vulnerable before experiencing trust?

The truth is that in order to experience trust, vulnerability must come first. Being vulnerable is certainly a risk and can be challenging, however, studies show that the risk is worth the effort. When a leader is vulnerable, the result is a relationship built around trust.

Effective Communication

Communication is the key to sanity and being an effective communicator is something that most leaders are constantly working to improve. Without going into too much detail (because this is a far-reaching topic), it’s important to note that communication takes many forms. Leaders verbally communicate intent or direction, but don’t discount the notion that listening and body language are also forms of communication. Taking time to understanding the nuances of both verbal and non-verbal communication will strengthen your skills as a leader.

Practice Empathy

The act of leadership, whether overseeing a team or navigating any situation, can be highly stressful. When faced with adversity, take a moment to consider the source of the challenge. This can be done by asking questions or doing research. Practicing empathy takes patience in some situations, however, it’s always a good idea to understand where a person is coming from or why a certain decision was made before passing judgment or allowing frustration to take control.

Treat failure as an experiment

Failure is going to happen and it will probably happen often. When things don’t go the way they way you want them to, you have two options. The first is to throw your hands up in complete frustration or treat it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Rather than thinking of failure as an end, think of it as an experiment. Leadership isn’t black and white. Embrace the gray, constantly test your leadership skills and ability, and if it doesn’t work, re-frame to something that will.

Make personal development a priority

What makes a good leader is someone who makes personal growth and development a priority. Regardless of what your personal definition of leadership is, those who are life-long learners have a higher potential of achieving success as a leader. Find time to read, listen to podcast, attend courses, or simply pay attention to what others are doing.

Being a good leader is a journey and this is only the beginning.

What do you think makes a good leader? Let us know in the comments below.

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