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What makes a good leader?

When we facilitate leadership training we often start with a period of reflection on what leadership means to individuals. We invite participants to think about a leader they admire. It could be someone who is well-known, it could be someone who has influenced them, or it might be someone who they work with. Participants usually have no trouble bringing someone to mind and thinking about traits that describe them. We instinctively know what a good leader looks like. In this article, we share some of the things that we hear in our training. Are you a leader? How do you measure up?

Before reading this article, you might like to bring to mind a leader you admire. What is it about them that made them someone to aspire to?


It is fair to say that most leaders are time-poor. Not only do you have to do the day job, but you also have to run a team, troubleshoot, and think strategically about the future. Plates are spinning everywhere. However, one of the things we often hear is that a good leader makes time for others. For their team, key stakeholders, and those who are more junior. They are there to listen to you and when they speak to you they make you feel like they have all the time in the world.


Closely tied to time, is another theme that comes up regularly. Good leaders know how to get the best out of people; they mentor and nurture those coming up. Whilst this takes time, it also is seen as a way to give time back to leaders. A team who are empowered and supported delivers for their leader and for the firm’s clients.


We often speak about trust and leaders have this in abundance. There is a sense that good leaders “have your back” and “can be trusted to do the right thing.” Can you learn to be trusted? Trustworthiness is a concept that can be broken down and understood. In order to get better at it we need to be honest with ourselves about how we can improve. You can read more about trust here.

Steer a steady course

A leader is someone we look to when things go wrong. They create a sense of peace and let us know that things will be ok. This is sometimes a hard burden to shoulder. When we coach leaders the feeling of responsibility that many have to absorb everyone else’s stress can be overwhelming. How do you react under pressure? Would those around you say that you create a feeling of calm?

What do you need to achieve these things?

Our leadership training starts with self-awareness. Self-awareness is the bedrock of Emotional Intelligence and it is key to building stronger relationships. You can get better at understanding others by understanding yourself.

Quick tip: We would encourage you to start to notice your reactions to others in your team. Maybe you feel positive about some people and frustrated by others. What is it about them that makes you feel that way? What do those things tell you about yourself as an individual? Starting to notice and unpick your emotions can help you understand why you react the way you do to those around you.

The next thing we do when we work with leaders is build up their superpowers: communication and empathy in particular. These things are essential if you want to become a better leader.

What’s the one thing you can do to get better at both of these things? Listen.

Quick tip: Actively listen. Are you a leader that likes to dominate conversations? How about you try a listening game that we recently came across? In your next meeting award yourself 5 tokens. When you speak you use up a token. Asking questions doesn’t count. What do you notice at the end of this exercise?

To find out more about how our masterclasses can build key leadership skills get in touch.


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