Leadership & Career Development 1.1: What Makes a Leader?

Leadership & Career Development 1.1: What Makes a Leader?


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Personal Leadership Characteristics


Leadership is a broad and diverse topic in its definition and characteristics. Leadership can basically be defined as having the ability to motivate others. The power to influence people into action is one of the primary objectives in the role of a leader. Just think about the people you consider to be leaders. They don’t have to be political figures dressed in suits and ties running for office, that’s just an example of leader people are most familiar with.

In this chapter, we will explore what makes a leader. There are key personal characteristics that professionals agree make a good leader. Before we learn leadership qualities, first the perspective of our approach to the study of leadership must be understood.

There are two main concepts for studying or explaining leadership:  a person can be made a leader by acquiring experience and wisdom throughout their life or become a leader by way of birthright, such as a king.

Think of self-made leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Napoleon. These men had to make their own way and learn to be leaders by following first. Leaders who were given their rank or position by way of their family’s historical power are believed to have been born with innate leadership qualities. Therefore, leadership can either be innate (genetic) or developed by an individual.

We will discuss the different characteristics of leaders according to professional standards, then learn some basic skills of good leaders. All that you’ve learned in the previous chapters of this course will contribute to your development and provide you the understanding you need in order to carry yourself and lead others in the workplace. Pay close attention to the bolded words and phrases. All of the following material can be better understood according to the meaning of the concepts introduced and how they build on each other.

Skills Good Leaders Need

Qualities Of An Effective Team Leader

Many skills  – each working with the others – are required to be an effective leader.  Let’s examine what these are.

  1. Communication
    • The ability to communicate well is the foundation of leadership.  If you are unable to convey the what, why, and how of what needs to be done, you won’t be able to persuade others about the need to do it.
    • Having and using an extensive vocabulary plays a large role in effective communication and in leadership. Knowing the words that will tell the person you wish to lead exactly what you mean will provide a sense of trust and understanding.
  2. Integrity:  Be Open, Honest, and Fair
    • People who lead with integrity earn the respect and trust of the people they lead.  Honest,  open leaders who show that they are willing to listen and will decide fairly, are trusted and respected because people learn that they can count on them to behave in a predictable way.  Being open-minded about things means that you are willing to try and learn new things. Honesty works to promote trust in your decisions and advice. Being Fair allows you to treat everybody the same, in order to promote harmony amongst your team members.
  3. Act Decisively
    • Good leaders always have the best interest in mind when they decide. Knowing how people feel about a matter that concerns them or the company etc. will help to have their interests accounted for in your final decision. Even though there are times where the selfishness of the group or of an individual’s beliefs can affect a leader’s decision, being able to understand and focus on what’s important for themselves without having to rely on help from others is the mark of a good leader. After consulting with and listening to others in the group or team, once a leader has learned all the facts that are required to make a decision they must be willing to decide and take responsibility for their decision.
  4. Act With Consistency
    • If a decision has been made and rules are set in place, everyone must act in accordance with that rule or law – without exceptions. A leader who goes back on their word, breaks their own rules, or applies rules differently to different people, will lose people’s trust and respect.
  5. Ensure People Have the Resources and Information they Need to do their Job
    • A job or project cannot be done well without paying attention to detail and knowing everything important in order to complete the task effectively. If the precise information or required tools are not given, the end product won’t be to the standard that is needed or expected.
  6. Set Goals and Emphasize Them
    • To meet deadlines and productivity targets, explicit goals must be set in place and emphasized so that people think about it constantly. Knowing what the end goal is will make team members tailor their work methods to that goal more effectively.
    • Establish realistic deadlines: do things one at a time and throw out unproductive methods or activities. A good time manager knows what things or situations can waste time. Once time wasters are identified, unproductive meetings, unnecessary errors, and putting things off can all be avoided.
  7. Keep Focused Through Follow-up
    • Checkups to ensure the correct application of information are important. Are you or your team members doing what was asked to be completed? Fewer mistakes even missing steps in the order of tasks to be done can be avoided by way of procedural thinking.
  8. Listen to Feedback and Ask Questions
    • Paying close attention to the verbal and non-verbal reactions of people while forming an understanding of the information they are trying to convey
  9. Show Loyalty to the Company and to Your Team
    • How can a leader expect to receive buy-in and cooperation from a person that does not receive mutual respect from you? Leadership is a 50/50 process: where one person leads, the other person has agreed to follow.  Leadership cannot work if both sides of the equation aren’t in place.  Without mutual respect, this reciprocal relationship cannot flourish.
  • Create an Atmosphere of Growth
    • Make sure your workers’ success and achievements are acknowledged in a manner that is fair to the awarded individual(s) and the rest of the team. One thing all leaders must avoid is overlooking the talents of other workers while praising the accomplishments of one person.
  • Demonstrate Assertiveness
    • If ever there is a situation that calls for immediate action, it is the duty of whoever is in charge to act. People rely on others to act fast and make quick decisions that are well thought out and precise.
  • Want and Know When to Take Charge
    • Good leaders know when to take charge of a situation, to show that they can handle and control whatever situation arises.


Leadership 1.1: What Makes A Leader

Start a document and save it as  “Leadership 1-1”  Once you have completed all learning activities, click on the “Assignment”  button and upload your work.

Write an essay on self-made leaders. You must include what qualities they hold and how these qualities compare to the 12 learned in this section.

Minimum Word Count: 800 words. 



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