Management Matters

Characteristics of a Good Leader

Date Posted: 04/11/2016

Characteristics of a Good LeaderGood leaders inspire and motivate their teams. They achieve impressive results in competitive environments and enable their staff and their companies to fulfil their potential.

All good leaders activate, inspire and influence. They are proactive and responsible and deal honestly with challenging situations. Good leaders also understand how to handle and minimise difficulties and how to keep their team onside so that they can operate a successful business, satisfy their clients and meet production goals –without making excuses if things go pear-shaped.

Nobody meets every deadline and not every project will be a complete success, but taking responsibility means not making excuses for a poor performance, a missed deadline, a poor product or an unfulfilled order.

There may be good reasons for a project to falter or run behind schedule, but it is essential to be honest about them. Making excuses only diminishes a team leader in the eyes of their colleagues, or their customers.

Leaders who are inexperienced, insecure, or just plain weak, are more likely to make excuses when they face problems, feel out of their depth, or are simply unsure. This is not only bad for staff morale, leaving colleagues feeling fobbed off and undervalued, it is also bad for business, as clients who are handed excuses will quickly take their business elsewhere.

Excuses are a defensive mechanism used when we fear blame, or even shame, when we have exercised poor judgement or regret our actions. They are often an attempt to shift the blame or distract attention. Moreover, excuses usually sound hollow because they are often untrue.

If used persistently as a default position when things get tough, excuses can create confusion, contempt or even conflict. Worst of all, excuses can reveal that a person is simply not up to the job.

Successful leaders minimise their chance of failure by taking responsibility – for their organisation and their staff, and for promises made. They realise that leadership is not about power or status, but about honouring their commitments.

Taking responsibility involves demonstrating a number of positive leadership qualities. These can help to eradicate the need for excuses by building healthy and productive relationships in the workplace and fostering strategies which reduce the chance of failure.


If a project is not going well or a deadline looks impossible to meet, honesty is the best policy. Colleagues, customers or the CEO need to be informed if a delay is unavoidable. Explain why, move on and make a new schedule.

Alerting affected parties to a delay as soon as possible demonstrates respect for them and enables them to rearrange their own workloads to minimise any inconvenience.

Confidence and Dedication

Confidence is essential for good leadership and grows from experience. Leaders not only need confidence in their own abilities but they also need the confidence of their team in order to succeed.

A leader’s dedication will be visible through their commitment to their work and will set an example for their team. At times this can involve personal sacrifices, requiring long working hours at the expense of free time, social and family life.


The best leaders trust and respect their teams, know their strengths and delegate appropriately for maximum efficiency. They encourage leadership at all levels and do their best to improve the system. They don’t micro-manage, go it alone or use the carrot and stick approach.

Teamwork built on trust draws on the skills and experience of all parties in a relationship of mutual respect in pursuit of common goals.

A good leader is confident about consulting colleagues and not afraid to admit they don’t know everything. They are ready to receive feedback, modify their ideas and grow with their team.


It’s vital not to be distracted by other, less pressing tasks. Discipline, hard work and focus are required to manage and monitor any project to a deadline.

Thorough preparation is also essential for any project, presentation or meeting. Everyone can spot a colleague who is winging it and they will quickly acquire a reputation for doing so.


The ability to multi-task and respond to a shifting situation is essential, as most projects present unexpected challenges. Having a long range perspective includes building in a contingency to deal with unforeseen problems.

Flexibility and adaptability enable successful management of a number of simultaneous projects, without neglecting any of them and without the need to make excuses.

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