Qualities of Leadership

Female business leader explains charts displayed on an wall-mounted monitor to her colleagues.

Leaders are valued in every part of life. They are especially noted for their contributions in an organizational context, as management occupations remain in demand and have the highest wage of all major occupational groups, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

However, leaders in business are recognized across entry-level positions, as they assist and motivate their peers. Leaders are also seen in everyday life, as parents, teachers, coaches and others demonstrate universal qualities of leadership.

What Makes a Good Leader?

Entrepreneur and author Tony Robbins outlines six basic leadership qualities that everyone should hone.

  1. Be Confident: Confidence sets the right tone as a leader, because people pick up on non-verbal cues, which make up more than half of all human communication. Practice this by standing tall, making eye contact and controlling your fidgeting.
  2. Focus: Keep your eyes on the prize. This is what strong leaders do. They’re organized and they plan well ahead, while being able to handle unexpected challenges that may arise. Strong leaders can also think out their strategy and anticipate how his or her actions affect any given scenario.
  3. Be Honest: “Many people believe that successful business and political leaders are inherently dishonest, but the strongest leaders treat others just as they expect to be treated,” Robbins says. “The truth is that every single one of your followers looks to your own honesty and code of ethics to set his or her own bar.” Ensure they know what your culture and core expectations are, and demonstrate how much you value honesty in your everyday interactions.
  4. Positivity: Strong leaders have a positivity that energizes everyone around them. Focus on positive beliefs that drive success, not negative thoughts that will hold you back. Practicing positive thinking is a powerful habit that reassures and motivates others.
  5. Be Decisive: “The ability to be decisive can mean the difference between getting through tough times and folding under pressure,” Robbins writes. “Making these kinds of calls doesn’t always mean you will be well-loved, but when you use good judgment to make decisions, it will earn you the respect of others.”
  6. Inspire: A secret to success is honing your leadership vision and communicating it to others. But what happens when times are difficult? Inspiration helps people push through these moments, and it even helps when times are simple and undemanding. Look to your identity to help with inspiration. By refocusing your identity and considering how you define yourself, your business and/or your brand, you’ll be better able to inspire others.

What Makes a Good Business Leader?

Although there is some overlap between general leadership qualities and those in business, managers, executives and aspiring business leaders should be aware of certain characteristics that are stressed in business. Here are some strong business leadership qualities from the corporate training firm Dale Carnegie Training.

  • Leading by Example: Become an example for the people you lead. “Serious leaders understand that, both by design and default, they’re always leading by example,” according to an article from Harvard Business Review. Take the opportunity to be a good example for others.
  • Vision: Provide a sense of direction for others. Author Jon Gordon explains that creating and sharing a positive vision involves “continually point[ing] to this North Star [the vision] and remind[ing] everyone that this is where we are going,” he wrote in Medium. A metaphorical telescope and microscope are needed to keep an eye on the big picture and the short-term objectives needed to realize the vision. You can also keep the vision alive by having conversations about the vision and asking people what it means to them.
  • Strong Communication: Communication isn’t just about how well you speak. Ensure that you listen to others and take the time to consider what suggestions, questions and ideas they have. “The people I work with are in constant communication, probably to a fault,” Kim Kurlanchik Russen, partner at restaurant and nightlife company TAO Group, told Entrepreneur. “But communication is a balancing act. You might have a specific want or need, but it’s super important to treat work as a collaboration. We always want people to tell us their thoughts and ideas — that’s why we have all these very talented people working with us.”
  • Ethical: Having and demonstrating trustworthiness, character and a strong ethical foundation are critical to being a good business leader. This also comes into play when you make mistakes. “It’s a lot easier to assign blame than to hold yourself accountable,” Sandra Carreon-John, brand marketing and communications professional at Nike, told Entrepreneur. “But if you want to know how to do it right, learn from financial expert Larry Robbins. He wrote a genuinely humble letter to his investors about his bad judgment that caused their investments to falter. He then opened up a new fund without management and performance fees — unheard of in the hedge fund world. This is character. This is accountability. It’s not only taking responsibility; it’s taking the next step to make it right.”
  • Cool Under Pressure: Even if things go wrong, remaining calm and keeping your composure can reassure the people you lead. It can also inspire them. Slowing your breathing can help you remain calm and negate the fight-or-flight reaction that can undermine business situations, according to

Need for Business Leaders

Employment of management occupations is projected to grow 8 percent by 2026, according to the BLS. This includes two dozen titles that range from marketing and computers to construction and food service. The median annual wage for these occupations is $100,790, making it the highest wage of all the major occupational groups.

Leaders are needed across for-profit and nonprofit sectors to help organizations succeed. Here are a few examples of in-demand occupations within this occupational group.

  • Advertising, promotions and marketing managers plan programs to generate interest in products or services. They earn a median annual wage of $100,810, and employment is projected to grow 10 percent by 2026.
  • Public relations and fundraising managers raise donations or improve the public image of their clients. They earn a median annual wage of $107,320, and employment is projected to grow 10 percent by 2026.
  • Social and community service managers coordinate and supervise social service programs and community organizations. They earn a median annual wage of $64,680, and employment is projected to grow 18 percent by 2026.
  • Training and development managers oversee staff and are responsible for programs that enhance employees’ skills. They earn a median annual wage of $105,830, and employment is projected to grow 10 percent by 2026.

These positions require at least a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience. A master’s degree is preferred by some employers.

Pursuing a Leadership Career

Aurora University’s online bachelor’s in business administration and online MBA help students develop the knowledge and skills needed to pursue leadership roles. Graduates receive instruction in current business practices from faculty members who have real-world experience. Each program takes place in a fully online learning environment.