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Critical Attributes of a Good Leader
By Aaron D Smith

Reflection is an important component of effective leadership and efficient management. When was the last time you were able to think back on your own performance as a manager or leader? Sure, you may have your annual performance review when your supervisor explains the highs and lows of the past year. But when was the last time you took the opportunity to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, am I being the best leader or manager that I can? Perhaps you are, but there’s also a chance that you’re not. If you fall into the latter category, asking the question, “Why would anyone want to be led by me?” is a fantastic start to getting you on the right track. Let’s take a look at where you are.

Obviously you can reflect on tactical questions such as, “Have I been able to help my organization reach its goals in the past year?” Maybe you’ll ask, “Have I seen growth in the people who I’m consistently in contact with?” These questions are very good starting points to determine if you’re being the most effective leader or manager that you can be.

Remember, you play a vital role within your organization, as one who can shape lives and culture in your particular area. There are some common characteristics for those who are the best people builders. These characteristics are the reasons that people clamor to work in certain places or be associated with individuals. Do you have them?

Let’s take a look at four critical attributes of a good manager or leader.

  1. Do you inspire others? Do you make people want to do more than they’re currently doing? Do you make people want to be more than they currently are? If the answers to both of these questions are no then perhaps you could use a refresher on inspiration. You inspire those by both actions and your speech. Your actions can help make others want to do more or be more. What do you portray on a daily basis. Do you frequently avoid work when in front of those you lead or are you one of the first people to act when leadership is necessary? Are you one who frequently complains in front of those you manage or is your speech solution oriented? Do you know what inspires others? If not, think about what inspires you, that’s a great starting point. Effective managers inspire others to go beyond where they are.
  2. Are you trustworthy? Are you a person of your word? Do you consistently do what you say you’re going to do? If not, do you own it or do you frequently make excuses for not doing what you were supposed to? Good leaders can be trusted to do what they say they’re going to do. In fact, trustworthiness is one of the most important, common, factors in any relationship. If you can’t be trusted, your leadership or management efforts could be in jeopardy.

  3. Do you care about me as a person? Do you care about what I’m going through personally, which could be affecting my performance? Better yet, would you feel comfortable enough to ask? It’s been found that individuals who believe that their manager cares for them as a person will consistently exceed expectations. You do not have to be friends with those you manage or lead, but it does bode well to be friendly and caring.

  4. Are you committed to excellence? What type of work do you consistently show? What kinds of expectations do you expect? Do you follow-up on your expectations? Effective managers and leaders set the bar high. This consistent articulation of high standards can help motivate others to operate in the same manner. Many times, people want to do a good job, often they want to do their best and they want to exceed expectations. When you, as a leader or manager, show that you’re excited about setting the bar of excellence high and surpassing it, others get excited as well.

Bad leaders and managers can create bad followers. But, if you’ve read this far, it’s clear that you want to create the best organization that you can.

The attributes above won’t necessarily guarantee that others will want to follow you, but they certainly can help create an inviting environment in which to be followed. These critical attributes will more likely than not lead to a culture in which people don’t have to ask, “Why am I following them again?!?”

Aaron D. Smith is a doctoral candidate in the field of Leadership Studies at Lynchburg College in Virginia. He is a talented individual with passions for leadership, education and human resources. He is the author of the book, “So, I’m a Leader Now What?” published by Outskirts Press Inc. and the co-author of the article entitled “Countering the Narrative: A Layered Perspective on Supporting Black Males in Education” featured in the University of Pennsylvania’s online journal, Perspectives of Urban Education.

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