Lesson num 1

Leadership Qualities


What makes a good leader falls into two broad categories:

  • Some leadership qualities depend on the context. That is, different industries and disciplines value different types of leadership.
  • Other leadership qualities are generic - i.e. they are relevant to most contexts.


What makes a good leader?

What makes a good leader depends on the context. The leadership qualities that enable you to become a better leader are a complex interaction of:

  • The values, culture, and personalities of the industry, organization and team that you are leading.
  • Your leadership style and traits.

For example, the most widely appreciated leadership qualities are honesty, confidence, and knowledge. However, in times of war what makes a good leader is the ability to lie convincingly, e.g. to hide plans from the enemy. Winston Churchill illustrates this principle of context-dependence: he was in the political wilderness in the 1930s, but adopted as Britain's leader during World War Two.

Different styles

Participative and executive leadership are two of eight basic leadership styles. In theory, the ideal scenario is for a leader to have infinite flexibility. That means you are able to adapt your style according to the situation and/or the state of the team – e. g: to be an executive leader when a team's organization is poor, but to be a participative leader when there is a need to increase motivation and commitment.

However, the perfect, infinitely-flexible leader does not exist. Everyone has strengths and weakness, and there is a need to strike a balance between your preferred styles and meeting the needs of the situation in which you lead. The modern goal is to develop a 'good enough' approach to being a leader - one that accepts the inevitability of failure and plans for it.

Development of skills

This relationship (between contextual needs and individual preferences) reflects two interests that need to be served when developing leadership potential - organizational and individual. Organizations need leaders who will support the organizational culture and aims. Individuals need to develop their natural qualities. These interests lead to very different strategies for leadership development:




  • Identify the leadership characteristics and/or profiles of people who will enhance organizational performance.
  • Select/recruit individuals whose character, skills and potential closely match that profile.
  • Develop the skills/abilities within those individuals so they can fulfill their leadership potential within the organization.
  • Discover your natural style and qualities.
  • Develop those qualities into tangible skills.
  • Find a role or organization that values the type of leader that you are.