Effective Leadership: 4 key qualities of a good leader


Which are the qualities of an effective leadership? The effectiveness of a leader is proven by facts: by achieving valuable business goals and by the quality of relationships within and beyond the leader’s team. In this post we will talk about 4 key leadership qualities a leader can develop to achieve maximum leadership effectiveness.

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A good leader is one who achieves business results and keeps his/her people engaged; they are signals of effective leadership that manifests through actual results. The qualities of a great leader and leadership skills have been researched for decades from different scientific angles (such as Google’s research on team effectiveness and managerial qualities).

In essence, most of these researches come to similar conclusions: good leadership consists of the ability to define meaningful goals and focus on achieving them, inspire and maintain a team’s engagement to advance towards these goals, and know how to clear the way towards these business objectives.

In other words: in order to lead successfully and achieve the desired results, a leader needs to be savvy both about people and about processes. According to the leadership researchers Zenger y Folkman, 4 key leadership qualities make the difference to achieve effective leadership.

4 leadership qualities that drive effective leadership

These 4 qualities of a great leader are “building blocks” that develop and sustain each other to achieve effective, sustained and authentic leadership. The competences are:

  1. Mentoring & Development: A top manager seeks – through mentoring – the development of each team member and fosters relationships that lead to growth. Some typical behaviours are:
    • A strong leader in mentoring & development creates learning spaces in 1:1 sessions and doesn’t limit the meetings to operational task and project tracking
    • Spends time understanding the person and his/her next steps
    • Shares valuable knowledge that allows the other person to grow
    • Gives space for errors

  2. Personal Learner: One of the leadership qualities of a great leader is the practice of professional and personal self-development. Such a leader is self-conscious and has a strong tendency to learn and grow both in knowledge and awareness. Some typical behaviours are:
    • Frequently reads relevant literature such asbooks on effective leadership
    • Develops self-knowledge and is curious to learn
    • Asks questions to better understand

  3. Community Concern: A great leader builds honest, strong relationships among all team members and actively promotes collaboration. He/she takes the long term into account and seeks sustainability impacts. Some typical behaviours are:
    • Leads considering the whole team rather than parts of the team
    • Thinks more about the long term than the short term
    • Knows how to prioritise the organization’s benefits before his/her own goals

  4. Purposeful & Visionary: One of the characteristics of effective leaders is his or her ability to set a vision for the future that connects with personal motivations that really matter – to himself/herself and the people on the team. An authentic leader promotes change and connects the group with the outside world. Some typical behaviours are:
    • He or she knows how to connect objectives with personal motivations that make us want to achieve them
    • Understands and cares about the personal motivations of each person on the team
    • Looks beyond key performance indicators (KPIs) financial and short-term results

Being a great leader involves working on these 4 leadership qualities at the same time, not just one of them. The good news is that becoming good in one competence makes you indirectly better in the others.

A child with a superhero cape representing 4 leadership qualities of an effective leader
Effective leadership is something you can develop

How to develop and thrive on these 4 key qualities of effective leadership?

A first step is to evaluate how one currently is performing on each of these qualities. It is useful not only to evaluate oneself, but to ask people who see our leadership and its impact.

Based on this reflection, our recommendation is to choose one of the traits of an effective leader and focus the growth efforts on it. Identify small daily actions – simple, measurable and achievable today – and a 30 days goal to develop this quality.

And here goesa flag for highly self-demanding people: go step by step and choose one thing to focus on instead of doing too many things. We are human – and as such somewhat complex – and sustainable change is a step-by-step journey.

Good leadership consists of the ability to define meaningful objectives and focus on achieving them, inspire and maintain a team’s engagement to advance towards these goals, and know how to clear the way towards these objectives.


Great leadership begins with oneself

Effective leadership means, first and foremost, leading oneself. Perhaps the most complex task of any leader is to take control of his/her own actions and to be for himself/herself the great leader he/she wants to be for others.

From our experience, this does not happen overnight. It is a longer development process, where it is not only a question of developing certain qualities of a great leader, but also of developing self-knowledge and becoming aware of oneself. If you’re interested, we recommend you to read Peter Drucker’s Harvard Business Review article “Managing Oneself”.

If you’d like to get help on how to develop effective and authentic leadership in depth, just drop us a line. We’ve also prepared an infographic with the 4 key traits of a efficient leaders with some tips to develop them.

Infographic with the 4 key competencies of effective leadership
Click on the image to download a high resolution version

Keep shining!