What Makes a Good Leader in the Workplace? And How to Improve Your Leadership Skills

When you picture a leader, what image comes to mind? Perhaps you’re imagining someone sitting in a corner office… they’re at a giant desk with their name and senior title on the door.

Except here’s the thing… just because someone might look like a leader, doesn’t mean they are a leader. When you look at what makes a good leader in the workplace, it’s so much more than a nice suit, big desk and a senior title. 

I’ve seen employees turn to the head of the department, rather than the CEO. I’ve seen staff who are quiet and sometimes timid, lead their companies to do incredible things. And I’ve seen colleagues step up into leadership roles, without any senior title alongside their name.

Good leadership is complicated. But the good news is that leaders aren’t born, they’re made. And you can learn the right leadership skills along the way. 

Why is leadership important?

Leadership is the glue that holds your company together. It gives you and your employees a direction to follow. Rather than having hundreds of staff running in different directions, leadership gives them a purposeful path to pursue.

Leadership isn’t just about direction though. It’s about creating a culture, inspiring employees and motivating your team to do great things.

Here’s how to be a great leader.

How to be a good leader at work

If you want to be a good leader, you need to be aware of your environment. This means listening, learning and leveraging every opportunity that comes your way.

Too many corporate leaders fall into the trap of sticking with the status quo. They’ll brush off new ideas by responding with “but this is the way it is, this is how we’ve always done it”. And that’s dangerous.

A good leader is always growing. You need an open mind, ready to consider even the most unexpected of ideas. That’s what keeps your business head and shoulder above the rest.

Of course, you’ll need to balance stability with change. Your company needs stability to allow new ideas enough time to be tested. And change to evolve and grow with the times and trends.

The life coach’s tip:

Find your own style of leadership – don’t try to be a carbon copy of your predecessor. Know your values and lead in line with them.

What makes a good leader in the workplace?

Develop strong listening skills

When you think of leadership skills, you’ll likely think of someone speaking whilst other people listen. But a good leader needs to listen to their workplace.

You need to understand what’s going in your business, your department or your team if you’re going to be able to lead it. One of the best ways to develop your leadership skills? Practice active listening. Not only will you retain the information better for later, but your employees will also start to feel as though you’re truly taking their opinions and needs into account. 

Promote empathy

Your team needs to feel comfortable approaching you to share their thoughts, suggestions and concerns. At the same time, you need to retain your objectivity. You need to be able to tell someone when their performance isn’t up to scratch.

You need to be friendly, without being friends

A good way to bring empathy into your leadership skills is to use perceptual positioning. This communication technique enables you to see discussions from different points of view, helping you to gain empathy by understanding different perspectives. It’s a must-have for any leader’s toolbox.

Communicate clearly and with confidence

Being a good leader is not about being the loudest person in the room. A good leader doesn’t shout or doesn’t raise their voice, yet they’re always heard.

You need to be able to communicate clearly, so that your requests are always understood. You can be a quiet leader but you need to be a confident one too. 

Balance creative ideas with practical strategies

Creative. Strategic. Visionary. Those are all great leadership skills. And, ideally, you should have a dose of each of them if you want to lead your workplace successfully.

Your creativity allows you to think outside the box. Your vision enables you to imagine how things might be. And your strategy brings that vision to life, with practical goals and milestones to achieve along the way. In short, a good leader is able to bridge the gap between now and the future.

Be both trusting and trustworthy

Your team needs to trust that you’ll stand up for them. Your management needs to trust that you’ll get the job done. And you need to trust that your employees will complete their work to the best of their abilities.

There’s a lot of trust involved in being a good leader. The best way to develop your trust is to simply build up the evidence over time. Show your bosses that you can deliver, and allow your team to show you that they can do the same. 

Lead with your actions, not just your voice

How often do you practice what you preach? Saying that you’re going to do something, or that someone else should do something, is a lot easier than doing that thing yourself. 

Yet, a good leader will do exactly that. 

If you’re fostering a company culture of work-life balance, don’t email your staff at 6am. Leave your laptop switched off for the entire weekend instead.

If you want your team to develop better communication skills, join them in the training sessions. If your company requires that each employee volunteer one day per month, lead those volunteer days with pride.

You’ll earn a lot more respect if you lead with your actions, not just with your voice.

Be humble

Finally, take care to own up to your mistakes. This can often be one of the hardest skills for leaders to develop. But it’s an important part of being a good leader.

If you constantly brush your mistakes under the carpet, your employees will do the same. But if you own your mistakes, explore why they happened and then make the change to fix them? Your employees will follow suit.

Which team would you rather be a part of? I know which one I’d choose.

Get yourself ready for promotion. Now you can lead with confidence


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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.