Being appointed to a leadership role is more than just acquiring a new title. As exciting as it may seem, having the privilege to lead a team is a huge responsibility and involves meeting high expectations.
To become effective in this role, you need to have the right combination of team leader qualities and skills. A good team leader’s formula includes mastery in business processes, competence in psychology, adeptness in organizational communication, dexterity in a positive attitude, and a knack of patience and understanding towards subordinates.
Whether you are preparing for an upcoming role or training so you can achieve your career goals, we will go into detail on what makes a good team leader.
By knowing these essential qualities of a team leader, you can assess which ones you already have and which areas you’re lacking.
What Are the Qualities of a Team Leader?
Before we answer the question “What are the qualities of a good team leader?”, we first need to define a team leader.
Being a boss and team leader are two different things.
A team leader is someone who influences and inspires a group towards the attainment of a particular goal.
While a team leader’s responsibility is mainly to oversee all activities and guide the members to work towards a common goal, other roles include the following:
- Strategize on how to best approach a task and develop a concrete plan to accomplish project success.
- Disseminate information among team members and key stakeholders.
- Keep track of project progress and ensure all documents are organized.
- Set the goals and motivate team members in hitting targets and milestones.
You’ll find that the crucial team leadership characteristics center around playing these roles successfully as you read along.
One of the most crucial team leader qualities is self-confidence.
People tend to follow as they’re led. So if you are exuding with confidence, members will also be confident about the team and its ability to accomplish the project.
Self-confidence can be considered a critical foundation of strong leadership because team members will not willingly follow someone who doubts their competence.
People want to be led by someone who believes in himself and his ability to make sound decisions. Aside from inspiring trust, it is also important to show confidence in all your dealings with people, primarily if you’re representing the company outside of your workplace.
2. Decision-Making Skills
Whether you like it or not, being a leader means you will face many business-critical decisions. With this, one of the essential skills for a team leader is good decision-making.
What differentiates an effective leader from one that is just a leader by the title is the ability to choose the best course of action in any given circumstance. A good team leader isn’t afraid of choice because they are confident in their ability to deliberate their options and decide promptly.
You’ll know that you are an effective decision-maker when you do the following:
- You can assess which things have to be decided now and which ones can wait. Not deciding on something right away doesn’t mean you’re procrastinating. It may also mean that you are still gathering more information or waiting for further updates before arriving at a decision.
- You fully understand your options and the possible consequences or implications.
- You show confidence in your decision because it is not only solely based on your guts or intuition, but is based on facts and accurate data. Otherwise, some team members will second-guess your choice.
- You can communicate your reasons behind the decision and can justify it when necessary. Instances wherein people will question your decision is unavoidable, and that’s okay. Just make sure that you can explain why you made such a choice whenever someone wants to understand it.
Also, what makes a good team leader is the willingness to involve team members in the decision-making, significantly if it will affect the process or the way they work. This doesn’t mean that you should pass on the responsibility to them.
You involve them because you’re considering how individual decisions may affect them and are welcoming their inputs instead of just introducing the changes arbitrarily. In the end, it will still be you who gets the final say.
3. Clear Vision
Concerning decision-making, a good leader addresses the ‘why’ to tap the drive of employees. Answering the “Why?” means having a clear vision and imparting this vision with the team members.
Whenever a decision is made, most team leaders start with the ‘what’ and ‘how’ as these are what members ask right away. This includes discussing strategies, daily/weekly goals, and general duties and roles in a given project.
Over time, the “whats” and “hows” will sound vague and heavy in an unpassionate or bored employee’s ears. On the other hand, helping them gain a deeper understanding of the company vision answers why they are working for the company and why they are assigned to that position.
It creates a unique feeling that the members are part of the company’s bigger picture towards success and profitability.
While instilling a good sense of the project specifics, their responsibilities, and the processes is vital for effective project management and productivity, you should also ensure that your people have a good dose of the “Why”. This will prevent them from feeling that they are just mere paid workers for the company doing a ‘boring job’.
Everyone wants to be working with an organization that shares our own beliefs. While it is improbable that every person within the company perfectly aligns with its objectives and visions, it’s still essential for employees to know what you, as the team leader and the company, want to achieve in the long run.
4. Organization Skills
One of the most apparent skills for a team leader to be successful in the role is organization.
Being disorganized can be costly, as it may lead to lost sales, retention issues, and late completion of projects. Meanwhile, staying organized will help you keep everything on track.
Some of the practices and qualities of a team leader to be considered organized include the following:
- You have a streamlined system for keeping your physical and digital files and documents organized.
- You have a To-Do list with defined timelines.
- You are mindful of how you use your time and always ensure that everything that needs to get done does.
- You are flexible enough to adjust your schedule when something unplanned comes up.
- There’s no clutter in your computer or workstation.
Aside from keeping yourself organized, you should also help keep your team members organized by putting systems in place. As a team leader, the habit of being organized should start with you.
5. Facilitate Productive Discussions
When discussing the required skills to be a team leader, the role of being a facilitator of productive discussions within the team should be taken into account.
As a good team leader, it is satisfying to see your members participating in a dynamic discussion regarding your company’s service or product. Once this becomes a part of their regular conversations, it reflects your effectiveness.
The only part that becomes tricky is the discernment between meaningful debates or tension among your team members. Triggering your members to be active in discussions delivers innovative ideas for the company.
However, possible conflicts that may arise from such discussions are unavoidable.
Keeping these work-related debates, productive and professional can be challenging, but here are three useful tips:
a) Set Ground Rules and Standards
Setting standards and ground rules can help set the professional discussion stage and lead to good outcomes. Everyone who will participate in the debate should know the agenda, understand why it’s necessary, and how a beneficial conclusion can be met.
Once the meeting has ended and a final decision has been made, every single person involved must be aware that discussing conflicting views outside the allotted time will do no good for the company.
b) Remind Your Team Not to Make it Personal
Remind everyone that trying to win an argument based on mere speculations and false prepositions to look good wouldn’t result in a productive outcome. Ignoring common logic, knowledge, and evidence to win the debate defeats the activity’s whole purpose. Most importantly, taking heated discussions personally can keep the entire team from coming up with innovative solutions.
c) Encourage the Team to Put Facts Over Feelings
Although instincts or gut feelings can sometimes be right, data must always come before any conclusion or recommendation should be made. An avalanche of “perfect ideas” that team members “feel good about” cannot be useful if they don’t serve a practical purpose. So encourage your team to investigate further and support these with facts.
6. Time Management
Another critical item in the list of skills to be a team leader that gets things done is time management.
If you think this skill is useful to have as a regular employee, it’s even more critical when you’re a team leader. As the head of a team, you won’t just be managing your own time — you will be driving an entire group’s time and overseeing its efforts.
It is an upgrade in responsibility as this means you won’t just be thinking about how you can spend your own time efficiently. As a team leader, you will also be concerned with how your team members spend their time and must ensure that the right things get prioritized.
One of the most common characteristics of a team leader that you should adopt or hone is hardworking.
You can’t tell your team members to render overtime while you leave at the scheduled end of the shift to hang out with friends, play sports, or chill at restaurants or bars. You can’t be a good team leader by reprimanding an active employee on social media during work hours, yet here you are browsing through online shopping apps during the afternoon.
a. Being a Role Model
Once you take the leadership position, you are taking accountability for your team members. Leaders are the closest connection of employees to the company at large, so your people look up to you for motivation and guidance in their career.
You can’t be a good leader during work, yet exhibit bad habits outside the four corners of the office. Remember, team leaders are the ambassadors of the company’s mission and vision, so you should act as a role model and lead by example.
Also, communicate how the team performs – including the target status, KPIs, challenges (risks), and achievements. You can use free PowerPoint templates here. Create leaders under you and allow them to demonstrate and present the success stories to others.
b. Failing to Lead by Example
Leading by example is an excellent way to gain the whole team’s trust and confidence naturally.
So what happens when you don’t practice what you preach?
The simple answer is that there is a good chance that team memes won’t be as cooperative and motivated towards achieving the goal. After all, how can they trust a leader who pushes them to do one thing, but does the opposite?
For this reason, one of the most crucial team leadership characteristics is the ability to encourage team members to move towards the vision with passion, enthusiasm, inspiration, and trust.
8. Analytical Thinker
The best way to achieve a larger goal is to break it down into parts to gain a better perspective, hypothesize, and test various ideas. To do this, you need to have one of the most critical traits of a team leader — being an analytical thinker.
The process of hypothesizing and testing has become forgotten. The problem with this is that if employees cannot contest the ideas and get critical with it, bad ideas can just be thrown in the building stage of the business process.
Successful leaders exhibit exceptional analytical thinking skills and guide team members to apply and improve this skill. Telling them exactly what to do won’t do any good for the company. They should learn to adopt this way of thinking to add greater value to the organization.
Another critical aspect of the formula of desirable qualities for a team leader is being an effective goal-setter. Because you are heading an entire team, you should know how to set reasonable goals for yourself and your team.
Below are some valuable goal-setting tips:
- Create goals that produce actual value and progress for the company.
- Establish goals that have clear, meaningful outcomes and not just for the sake of doing something.
- Keep your team on track and focused on a few high-priority goals. You don’t have to put too many objectives on your list just so your team will appear busy.
- Ensure that your goals are well thought out and not just a waste of time and resources.
10. Planning and Prioritization
In connection with being a goal-setter, a related item in the list of skills and traits of a team leader is planning and prioritizing correctly.
To achieve the best possible business outcomes, you should direct the team through a carefully mapped out plan. Before asking your team members to do anything, ensure that you have a strategic plan in place.
Planning also involves creating a timeline for each task that contributes to the completion of the objective. Once you have set milestones or smaller goals, you must decide how to prioritize them.
Keep in mind that without proper planning, your team will likely waste time and effort or generate mediocre results. As a team leader, this poor outcome will impact your credibility and reputation.
11. Coach Team Members
When analyzing a team leader’s characteristics, the ability to coach team members proves to be highly beneficial. Through effective coaching, your members will develop key skills, improve their performance, and adopt excellent work ethics.
As mentioned earlier, you are responsible for the entire team. With this, you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each member. Once you have this information, you will be able to delegate tasks appropriately and devise ways to help them become better in challenging areas.
12. Proper Delegation
You can’t do everything alone, and you shouldn’t.
You’ll be able to make efficient use of your time through accurate delegation. As mentioned in the previous item, one of the qualities of a team leader is identifying each member’s areas of strength and weakness.
By understanding what the task entails and matching these with your team members’ skills and expertise, you’ll be able to assign work to people who can do it well with greater ease.
Sometimes, team leaders confuse delegation and overseeing with micromanagement.
Micromanagement will only stress you out from the failures of your members in an unconstructive manner. If you want to be an effective team leader, you should let your team achieve positive results while giving them creative work freedom.
Here are some of the signs of micromanagement that you might be doing:
a. Mis-delegation and Obsessive Control
Delegating tasks among the members of a team or a department is a skill that needs to be practiced through time. When a task is delegated to the wrong person, not only will the member struggle to carry out the task, but it will also affect the whole team and the success of the project.
The mis-delegation may lead to obsessive control in the long run, as the leader attempts to prevent adverse impacts. The best cure for obsessive control is to know your member more than anyone else in the company to assign tasks that you’ll be confident the employee can handle.
b. Checking the Status Too Often
It’s okay to call for a huddle at the beginning and the end of the week or day. However, checking the project’s status too many times within the day can disrupt your team members’ momentum and can be downright annoying.
c. Dictating Exactly What to Do
By leaning over their shoulder and telling them exactly what to do, you are wasting your time and killing your employees’ growth.
Trust in your team members’ knowledge, skills, and judgment. Let them work on the project resourcefully, discover their own mistakes during the process, and solve problems independently or with other team members.
d. Irritation from Autonomous Decision-making
A micromanager quickly gets irritated once an employee comes up with a decision without being consulted and approved first. When this is the case, employees will be restricted from performing at their best, hindering team productivity. Even though you are the team’s key decision-maker, give them some sort of freedom to decide, especially if they have proven experience and expertise in the field.
You can push people to do things with brute force or by instilling fear. However, an effective team leader influences and inspires their people.
By using a few tricks in human psychology, you’ll positively influence your team members. The result will be natural cooperativeness and willingness to contribute to the common goal.
The following are effective ways to show that you are approachable and open to influence them positively:
- Even if you’re leading a huge team, remember each team member’s name and use it.
- Show that you are genuinely interested in their work progress and how they feel about doing their tasks.
- Listen attentively so that when you have interactions in the future, you can reference these previous discussions. This will make them feel that you place importance on what they have to say.
Don’t make your team members feel less than you, as they will grow to hate you. Show humility by doing the following:
- Listen to the opinions and suggestions of your team members.
- Don’t be apologetic for being the team leader, but don’t lord it over them either.
- Recognize that some things can get out of control and ambiguous. Instead of getting mad for the lack of answers, help them work through it.
- Be mindful of your words and actions.
Acknowledging Mistakes or Failure as Normal
Looking out for a member’s failure in the process or nondisclosure of violations is the main reason why a company employs a team leader. As their head, you will be responsible for acknowledging that task failures are natural and part of the process.
Always remember that you’ve committed a couple of mistakes while you’re just a regular employee and even now. So recognize these failures and discuss with the team to ensure that no other employee will fall for the same mistake.
Being Ready to Admit Mistakes
Just because you’re now a team leader doesn’t mean you won’t make any more mistakes. When you mess something up, be humble enough to admit it so that your team members will feel that it’s okay to be open and transparent about committing errors.
Uphold a culture of no blaming so that they won’t consider hiding mistakes, potentially leading to more severe problems in the future.
15. Positive and Level-headed
No matter how difficult things can get, always try to maintain your composure and keep your cool. Become a good example to your team members by showing control over your emotions, body language, and mental state. Also, teach them how to handle work-related problems with a cool head.
Being a team leader with a positive attitude and mindset can be beneficial to your team. It maintains positive energy, improves productivity, and influences team members to maintain such positive attitudes.
Integrity is a crucial trait, especially more so if you’re a team leader.
Whether or not anyone is watching, be a role model in integrity by only showing acceptable and professional behavior in your workplace. Never engage in unethical business activities and actions. Also, try your best to avoid slippery slopes and be aware of common pitfalls that will taint your integrity. Remember that once you lose your integrity, your team members will no longer see you as an effective leader that they can look up to.
Another essential team leader quality that requires other traits to be achieved is trustworthiness.
As a trustworthy leader, you can naturally inspire your members to put in their best effort and commit to the team’s goal. By showing integrity and honesty, you’ll win the trust, confidence, and respect of your team and the whole organization.
Aside from integrity and honesty, other factors that come into play include perceived intent, competence, and expertise. When trust is cultivated within the team, there will be open and transparent communication.
This is beneficial as your members will be more comfortable to speak up during brainstorming sessions and won’t hesitate to come to you if there are any work-related issues.
This important team leader trait means you have a set of standards and guidelines applicable to everyone, regardless of your closeness with each of your team members. Also, upholding fairness in the implementation of policies means you need to walk the talk and abide by them.
It is understandable to have your personal biases. However, the key to being fair is carefully evaluating your decisions for each situation and doing some introspection. Avoid choosing favorites, not only in team members but also in ideas or strategies.
Respect begets respect — show respect to your team members, and they will do the same towards you.
Everyone wants to have their life, identity, jobs, efforts, and interests to be treated with respect and dignity. By being respectful to everyone, you will become a respected team leader despite workplace diversity.
On the other hand, being disrespectful towards them leads to fear, resentment, and anger, affecting your team’s productivity and performance.
Respecting your people’s privacy and time is the most basic way to cultivate a culture of respect. Lengthy meetings held regularly can waste an employee’s time since it usually happens during the shift.
While meetings are an essential element in the work processes, ensure that you are using the allotted time efficiently for a productive outcome and to encourage improvements in an employee’s performance. Keeping these regular meetings brief instills attention and dedication.
20. Good Communication Skills
As a team leader, you will be responsible for communicating instructions, strategies, goals, and ideas.
To be considered a good communicator, you must know how to get your message across, facilitate meaningful discussions and exchange ideas, assign and explain tasks or responsibilities, and share the company’s visions and goals for a specific project.
Being a Good Listener
Being an effective communicator doesn’t mean you should be doing all the talking. On the contrary, good communication starts with attentive listening.
When your people are not happy and express their dissatisfaction, take this opportunity to listen instead of taking it as a challenge to your authority. Besides preventing explosive situations, listening will allow you to gear your messages towards addressing issues and the things that need to be clarified.
Giving Constructive Feedback
Another aspect of communication when you’re a leader in employee feedback.
Providing objective and constructive comments about your team member’s performance and work ethics is vital to keep them engaged and productive.
Here are three tips to come up with comprehensive and useful feedback:
Know and Understand What Each Team Member Is Doing
How will you offer feedback if you only have a vague idea of what they’re tasked to do?]
By understanding their responsibilities and duties, you will be able to gauge if they’re doing well. A streamlined status reporting system will help you keep track of what everyone’s working on and their progress.
Allocate Time for One-On-One Meetings
No matter how busy you are, take the time to schedule one-on-one meetings to layout your comments. This allows you to show your appreciation for your team member’s contributions and will enable you to point out areas of improvement.
Furthermore, one-on-one meetings will also give your employees a chance to communicate their side if there are work-related issues they’re involved in.
Don’t Just Focus on the Negatives
While pointing out poor performance on certain aspects can lead to improvements, you shouldn’t only focus on what your team members are doing poorly. Also, share your comments on the things they did excellently and let them know that they’re valued. Doing this can further improve performance more than you expect.
21. Creative Thinking and Problem-Solving
Applying creative thinking in the way you strategize to complete team projects can unlock meaningful results and make work more exciting for your team members.
As a team leader, you should know how to solve problems for your company and your clients. Creative thinking and problem-solving go hand in hand in a way that creative thinking is what allows you to come up with unique ideas to solve problems.
If you only rely on the same old solutions, your team will soon feel uninspired, stagnant, and bored for doing the same things over and over again. Furthermore, an effective leader also encourages creative thinking in your employees.
By being open to fresh, creative ideas from your team members instead of automatically turning down untested ideas, you will be able to spark innovation, which can potentially benefit the team and the company.
22. Ability to Keep Employees Engaged
Being engaged at work goes beyond the mere definition of ‘job satisfaction’. Employees who are engaged have a strong attachment to their jobs and desire to carry out their tasks in a better way than usual.
Three factors that drive engagement include the direct supervisor or manager’s relationship with each employee, faith, belief in the company’s leadership and management, and honor and disposition in working with the company.
How to Drive Employment Engagement
Driving employment engagement can be carried out easily by utilizing technology and communication methods. Here are some of the most effective ways:
i) Get Thru Your Employees via Technology
Asking questions like what makes it difficult for them to attain their daily quotas or goals can motivate them and improve their productivity. To know your team’s pulse and concerns, innovative technologies and tools can help you keep track of these conveniently.
You can create 5-minute surveys with multiple-choice and open-ended questions, and have your team members answer them. Once done, you can generate charts, graphs, and other visual representations of the results to analyze and devise ways to drive engagement.
ii) Meaningful Exchange of Ideas
Promoting a culture where everyone can share their ideas freely is an effective way to drive engagement. Meaningful discussions and exchanging ideas during meetings lets you discover better insights and gather direct responses from your subordinates.
Aside from discovering fresh ideas, this will also give them a greater sense of value and make them feel that they have a say, and their thoughts are heard.
iii) Providing Perks
Psychologically speaking, creating a sound reward system can create a positive vibe within a team. Providing perks triggers their engagement on a whole new level and motivates them to improve continuously.
Although giving cash or gifts to reward employees may sound like an additional expense, using it as an investment for higher employee productivity will pay the business well in the long run.
Many companies use weekly and monthly incentives for deserving employees who reach a specific sales quota, achieve a milestone, exceed the number of positive customer engagements, and have perfect attendance during a fiscal period.
Employees who are not engaged will tend to procrastinate, and this adversely affects productivity and results. When this becomes a habit and a culture, your team will be destined to fail and become an underperforming group in the long run.
Thus, a team leader must understand what feeds the levels of procrastination of their employees.
i) Office Politics
Considered one of the best distractions in the workplace, office politics creates intolerable stress within employees’ minds. Minimizing this through nurturing open lines with the management and trust within the company’s relationships can be implemented easily by the team leader.
Socializing at moderate levels won’t do any harm to the business process. Yet, random long conversations create a dragging effect on the performance of each employee. Team leaders should be able to let their subordinates understand that there is less work done if continuous chatting is made within the members.
According to studies, office employees check their emails from 30 to 50 times in an hour. Responding to an email within the last 20 seconds should never be treated as a talent, but relatively pure insanity.
Opening multiple browsers or pulling up your tools on two screens or more is the new normal. In reality, achieving simple goals tends to create an illusion of good progress on a person.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, multitasking lowers down the IQ of a person by 10 to 15 points and kills the levels of productivity by more than 40%.
23. Relationship Building
In addition to driving employee engagement, a good leader also can forge strong relationships with team members and clients.
To do this, you need to be ready to invest time and effort. A team member who feels personally coached and trained by his leader will not hesitate to go the extra mile. Meanwhile, establishing a strong relationship with clients will lead to lasting engagement with them.
Taking the time to spend some time with your team to talk about even non-work-related matters is an easy way to build a good relationship with them. While joking around with them and using your sense of humor to make them comfortable around you is good, still, establish boundaries and avoid inappropriate jokes or remarks.
It is also recommended to reward exceptional team members and celebrate your team’s achievements with your staff.
24. Sensitive to Your Team’s Needs
As a team leader who is responsible for members, you must be perceptive of their needs. For instance, you must know if your team needs additional staff because of an increased workload or the lack of a resource with the right skills for new requirements.
You must understand what each person needs to accomplish their tasks successfully and with ease. Do they need special training? Do they need upgraded equipment?
A good leader will take the time to find these out for themselves or be thoughtful enough to ask the team members if they need anything.
Final Thoughts — What Makes a Good Team Leader?
Becoming a team leader can provide a sense of fulfillment, while at the same time, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Everyone wants to be an exceptional team leader that people look up to for inspiration and guidance. However, to achieve this status, you must possess specific characteristics.
In this article, we have answered the question: “What are the qualities of a good team leader?”, and have learned that leadership requires a wide range of skills and traits. The good news is that these team leader qualities can be learned.
You can unravel the formula for being a good team leader by analyzing what your position entails and doing your best to nurture a culture of success in the workplace. With the proper amount of passion for your craft, commitment to your company’s vision and goals, and a heart for other people, you are on the right track for greatness.