“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.” – John Maxwell

Anyone can be an exceptional leader if they build the right skills, qualities and characteristics. Being a manager doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great leader while being good at your job has little to do with your leadership competency. However, we often confuse management with leadership – these two things aren’t synonymous, although ideally, they should be. In fact, 83% of organizations believe developing leaders at every level is important, but, only 5% have gone ahead to actually implement leadership training and development. The result of this lack of real leadership? Nearly a third of employees don’t trust their managers.

Too many companies create leaders out of people that are just good at their jobs. While it’s true these people may have a great understanding of the products, services, mission and processes of the organization – that isn’t what leadership is about. Real leaders are self-made, and their qualities have the ability to inspire and motivate people authentically.

In this B2B Tips article, we show you the 10 most important leadership qualities and skills that every manager should develop and how to do that.

Table of contents

  1. Honesty and integrity
  2. Inspiration
  3. Communication
  4. Decision-making
  5. Accountability
  6. Delegation
  7. Emotional intelligence
  8. Creativity/Innovation
  9. Collaboration
  10. Confidence/Charisma

1. Honesty and Integrity

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

We all grew up learning that ‘lying is bad’, yet even as adults we can’t seem to shake the habit of twisting the truth in an effort to avoid conflict—especially at work. Honesty and integrity are keys to building trust with your team, and with trust comes loyalty. The organization and your team become a reflection of your actions, so sticking to values, ethics and core beliefs is integral. That means doing what’s right, even when it might hurt the bottom line or involve tough conversations. In the most challenging situations, if you can adhere to your ethical principles, the team will see that and follow your lead—the same comes from the opposite behavior.

Tips to build this skill

  • Self-assess and reflect with this online integrity test
  • In moments you feel yourself padding the truth, take a step back, accept the consequences and be completely honest
  • If you aren’t happy with someone’s performance, instead of avoiding the conversation, write down areas of improvement and schedule a private meeting to discuss how they can implement your suggestions
  • Before making promises, think about whether you can 100% deliver—if not, don’t commit

2. Inspiration

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more then you’re a leader” – John Quincy Adams

Being inspiring may be the main skill that differentiates a great leader from a poor one (or a manager). Unlike persuasion or manipulation, inspiration comes from within one’s followers because they feel motivated by a leader’s actions. A leader sets a good example through their actions, even in the toughest of situations. However, becoming the source of motivation and inspiration doesn’t come easily and requires a manager to build genuine respect and trust from the team.

Some of the effects an uninspiring manager can have on a team include reduced engagement, lack of motivation, lower productivity, and higher turnover. An inspiring leader is one that people want to look up to, not because they have to. Fortunately, there are several ways every manager can become a positive inspiration for their team.

Tips to build this skill

  • Show dedication and passion at the office by giving everything your best shot and being a team player
  • Avoid undermining the organization publicly and instead support the direction that the company is going and believe in its mission
  • Share your experiences with both success and failure openly with your team
  • Help staff develop in areas they struggle in by sharing your skills and knowledge
  • Be part of the team, and appreciate the hard work of others with genuine words of encouragement
  • Be a positive force in the workplace and aim to have 5+ positive interactions each day (for instance: smiling and asking how your colleagues are doing)

3. Communication

“The art of communication is the language of leadership” – James Humes

Communication is the key to the success of any relationship, including between a leader and their followers. When communicated effectively, words have the ability to motivate people. As a manager, it’s obvious you need to organize your team, discipline them and ensure goals are being met, however, being a leader goes beyond that with the advent of communication.

When you can clearly explain your vision and the strategies you think are best for getting there with your team, better outcomes are likely. When everyone is clear about the role they play in an organization, they become more engaged, more productive and gain a sense of purpose. Listening is also a huge part of mastering communication as a leader. By listening to your team more, you can build trusted relationships, and better understand what boosts or hinders their productivity.

Tips to build this skill

  • Set clear goals, expectations, and roles for the team and have them write these down
  • Conduct monthly performance reviews with individuals where you spend time listening to how they think they did and the challenges they faced
  • Hold scheduled team debriefings and ask team members to discuss their comments, concerns, and solutions as a group
  • Pass on all relevant information to everyone on the team and keep people in the know
  • Have everyone discuss what they are working on – usually best done as a weekly Monday meeting

4. Decision-making

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision” – Peter F. Drucker

Every manager is tasked with ultimately making the final decisions for the team. However, a true leader is one that involves everyone in the process but also has the courage to make a tough decision quickly. Sometimes managers take inclusive decision making too far, and they end up wasting time on reaching an unattainable consensus.

Problems happen, and not every decision will make everyone happy – leaders know this and they’re ready to act fast. Being decisive doesn’t mean rushing the decision-making process. A great leader will take a reasonable amount of time to think critically about the options and consult the key stakeholders who will be directly affected by the choice. As a leader, you need to take charge of situations and that requires the ability to be decisive, even in tough situations.

Tips to build this skill

  • Adopt a future-focused mentality and take calculated risks
  • Find a happy medium in decision-making processes: ask others’ opinions, but don’t try to satisfy everyone
  • Physically map out the why (mission), how (strategy) and what (metrics) of the situation
  • Abandon perfection – there is no such thing as a perfect decision, just educated choices that you learn from
  • Don’t spend more than a day trying to make a decision and set a deadline for the final choice

5. Accountability

“A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable” – Henry Evans  

A great leader will lead by example, turning their promises and intentions into actual results and being honest when mistakes are made. An accountable leader doesn’t spend time blaming mistakes on other things but instead helps the team realize the shortcomings and understand the ways they can improve. When it comes to accountability, not only does a leader need to possess it, they need to spread it throughout the team. For a team to work harmoniously and efficiently, everyone needs to hold themselves responsible for their actions.

Tips to build this skill

  • Set clear expectations, and make sure the goal/task is doable and achievable before committing
  • Provide ongoing support to the team with regular check-ins for reviewing progress and consistently offering feedback
  • Walk the talk – display self-discipline and be honest when taking responsibility for mistakes

6. Delegation

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do” – Jessica Jackley

As mentioned earlier, many managers are appointed because they’re good at their job processes. This can sometimes cause them to think they are the only ones fit for the position, which can result in micromanagement. A leader knows they can’t do everything, and instead, they master the art of delegating tasks to their team and empowering them to get the job done.

To build trust and increase efficiency, leaders need to show that they are confident in the abilities of their team members by handing down responsibility. When employees are empowered, they feel appreciated and have better morale. You can’t do everything alone, so finding the right people for the job, and trusting them is an essential aspect of great leadership.

Tips to build this skill

  • Review and write down your main job functions – if a task doesn’t fall beneath one, delegate it
  • Get to know your team through team building exercises so you can figure out who is best for what tasks
  • Let people do their jobs – offer them all the materials they need for success then wait for them to come to you for help
  • Let your team go off-script and do their own thing

7. Emotional intelligence

“75% of careers are derailed for reasons related to emotional competencies, including inability to handle interpersonal problems; unsatisfactory team leadership during times of difficulty or conflict; or inability to adapt to change or elicit trust.” - Centre for Creative Leadership

The ability to understand people and empathize with what they are experiencing (aka emotional intelligence) has become a leadership skill that cannot be ignored by managers. As a leader, by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can create closer bonds with your team members and in turn, build trust. Emotionally intelligent leaders have control over how they express their emotions, for instance, being able to manage stress, and not take out frustrations on their team.

Some key characteristics of emotionally intelligent people include the ability to…

  • identify one’s own feelings
  • understand how one’s emotions could impact others
  • regulate one’s own emotions
  • manage other people’s emotions

Tips to build this skill

  • Practice self-awareness through daily journaling and requesting feedback on your management skills from your team
  • Focus on remaining calm and collected even when responding to challenging situations
  • Offer constructive solutions when problems arise and focus on moving forward

8. Creativity and innovation

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” – Steve Jobs

To get ahead in today’s fast-paced world, organizations need to focus on constantly innovating. A great leader must be able to exercise their creative muscles and encourage the team to think outside the box. Furthermore, it’s important for leaders to help the team actually make their ideas a reality. This reinforces their beliefs in management, and in turn, increases engagement. Innovation is not planned but rather fostered by leaders and the environment they create. When people are working in a culture that encourages progress and creativity, innovation is bound to happen.

Tips to build this skill

  • Conduct team brainstorm sessions to build on processes and find solutions to problems
  • Celebrate and encourage small wins along the way
  • Encourage team members to experiment with ideas and take up passion projects  
  • Integrate innovative practices into the organization’s core processes and agenda – make it more than an ad-hoc activity
  • Write down 5-10 small ideas to improve random processes daily – this exercises your creative muscles

9. Collaboration

“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime” – Babe Ruth

While an important part of management is choosing the right people for the job, an important part of leadership is choosing people you can work alongside. Even if you’ve got a team full of talent, if they can’t work alongside each other, nothing will come of it. A lack of collaboration can lead to problems like power-struggles and reduced productivity.

Avoid this by promoting an inclusive work environment where everyone works towards company goals together, while leveraging their strengths. Collaboration happens when not only the staff work together, but also when the manager works alongside them. Nothing is more motivating for your team than seeing you get your hands dirty to achieve results.

Tips to build this skill

  • Reorganize the office to have some collaborative, open workspaces ideal for groups
  • Get to know your team members, understand their aspirations and help them develop skills in those areas
  • Conduct collaborative goal setting to keep everyone on the same page
  • Keep everyone informed, and involve your team in decision-making
  • Get involved in activities, projects and events your staff are part of

10. Confidence and charisma

“Good leaders inspire people to have confidence in their leader. Great leaders inspire people to have confidence in themselves” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Confidence and charisma go hand in hand when discussing leadership. People are most likely to follow the lead of people they like, and those that appear sure of themselves and their decisions. If as a manager you can exude confidence in your own decisions even in the riskiest of times, then you can inspire people to follow your lead. Remembering that everyone in your team is a human being goes a long way to becoming more likable, which in turn boosts people’s trust in you.

Tips to build this skill

  • Promote an office culture that is both playful and productive by providing free snacks and coffee and hosting team activities
  • Make decisions you’re sure about – don’t overcommit
  • Make your enthusiasm for work contagious – always bring a smile and positive mindset to the office
  • Show sincere care for others
  • Be approachable and friendly
  • Try to relate to people at all levels of the organization

Conclusion

The road to becoming a great leader isn’t easy—it goes beyond being promoted, and involves long-term, consistent self-improvement, and awareness. However, it’s definitely worth it! Great leadership has the ability to boost staff morale, increase productivity, encourage innovation and help companies reach better results.